Tools for startups

Don't waste time picking tools to run your startup, just get these.

When you're starting a startup or project, it's easy to fall into the trap of taking ages over unimportant details, while putting off the really important, but awkward, things - like talking to customers.

One of these traps is choosing just the right set of tools to manage the project.

(This post is about non-technical tools - but tech founders often do exactly the same thing when identifying the "stack" to use too. Some day I'll write a post about that.)

When starting CTX, I made a conscious decision to do the opposite, and to pick - quickly! - a set of simple apps that I knew would work for 90% of situations and give me enough flexibility to cover the other 10% of needs.

The areas I knew I needed to cover were

  • Email
  • Document management
  • Task management
  • Bug tracking
  • Domain & hosting
  • Blog
  • Chat and collaboration

Here's what I used, and why.

Email

First up - I needed an email address for the company. I've been a Gmail user for 10 years now and I saw no reason to change. It still has the most intuitive interface of the "big" competitors - I find Outlook, in particular, is awful.

It's $5/m a user for G Suite, which includes your office suite, document management with Drive and basically everything you need. Don't spend hours choosing anything else, it's not worth it, just spend $5/m.

Document management

See above. Google Suite (Docs) is perfectly good enough for everything you need, 99% of the time.

G Suite

For the additional 1%, get a download installation of Microsoft Office for a one time fee and install it on one person's computer.

Don't buy into Office365 for everything unless you have a horrible software legacy like Active Directory or something you need to deal with (which is unlikely, as a startup) - Outlook is horrible for email, and the mix of SharePoint and OneDrive for storage makes for a horrible UI - you'll lose things.

Task management

I use Trello for tracking almost everything - I've used it for product development, bug tracking, planning out talks, planning holidays and all sorts of other things.

Trello

It's very flexible, super easy to use and the mobile apps work very well.

Unless you need advanced team management features, it's also 100% free.

As you scale up you can easily collaborate, build teams and orgs, and integrate with other tools (like CTX!)

Bug tracking

Starting out, there's no reason to use anything other than Trello. You'll have it anyway for task management; a bug is just another task.

Trello's ability to add attachments, pictures, links, Google Docs and all sorts of other things on tickets makes it simple to add evidence to your bugs.

As you grow, people will start to market all kinds of other bug tracking software to you.

Just get Atlassian JIRA. It's ugly (though the UI is nicer than it used to be) and it's complicated to configure, but it is absolutely the industry standard now.

JIRA

Any other tool may offer marginal benefits but will immediately impose a cost of training on any developer - where most of them will already be used to JIRA from a previous life.
It's also very inexpensive for a startup - $10/m for up to 10 employees.

(Atlassian recently bought Trello, too, and the integration between the tools is improving.)

Domain and hosting

If you have an Amazon AWS account, use Route53 to register domains and manage DNS.
It's cheap, incredibly reliable and super flexible, and if you're building out on AWS it'll integrate with the rest of your tech toolset.

If you're just starting out, or putting up an initial marketing site, then go for Wix or SquareSpace, it's a few dollars a month and removes all the hassle.

If you need an independent registrar, then I've tried loads and the best by far has been GANDI.

Blog

Hosting it yourself because you have some tech skills or people? Use Ghost (I did).

Need a hosted solution? Either Ghost, if you plan to move to self-host later, or Wordpress.com.

(Don't plan to self-host WordPress, you'll spend far too much time managing and securing it, then patching security holes forever).

Chat and collaboration

Once you have more than one person in the team, and especially if you're not in the same physical space, chat software can be the glue that bonds your business together.

Many tools exist.
None of them are as good as Slack.

Slack

It has a nicer UI, the pricing model makes sense, almost everyone has used it, the app directory has loads of very useful extensions... it's the only chat tool I've ever seen that non-tech people are happy to use.

Summary

These are the tools I used (and still use). If you're really familiar with something else - use that. Don't learn something new because of this blog post (that's kind of the point).

Just pick some stuff, pay for it, and go do something more important, like building your product.

One more thing

Once you've got a few people in your team using a few tools, you might find that it's tricky to remember where particular pieces of data are; you know you read something about Widgets, but was it an email? A Trello ticket? A document? Maybe it was in a GitHub readme.

if you have this problem, why not try out CTX? It lets you search all these tools and more from one UI.