I’m sorry, but you can’t really build a start-up in $50, contrary what some people might claim. The reason is that startups are still powered by people, and people need to eat. Surprisingly, some of them even like to eat well.
What can be done, is getting great tools in and services to help get the work done. Some of which can be dirt cheap.
Here are some must have tools of the trade we tried,some with success and some with failures.
1. Email – Google Apps. Cost : $0.
We have been using branded Gmail for our corporate email and calendering.
Compared with an exchange based solution – there is no hardware, no administration, huge mailboxes, built in anti-spam and anti-virus.
I think all start-up should go this way. Actually I think all companies should go this way.
The calendering solution is much better than I got working for a the bug corporate.
Performance and reliability are much better than we would get from any internal solution.
Some use it with outlook (e.g. myself) and many just use the web based interface.
Only recently we moved to the professional version, to get some extra features and it is still very affordable ( $50 per user per year ).
The main downsides are that outlook integration is not perfect yet. the new tool should help, but we are still testing.
It seems that support is still not at the level corporate accounts expect.Other than – great.
2. Screen Capture – snagit. Cost : 49.5 per person.
I use it every day. Version 8 was slightly better than version 9, but it is still amazingly useful for product management,blogging, QA and marketing.
3. Configuration Management – SVN+Trac. Cost : $600 for a server, $0 for software.
I really love this solution. what a great combination. So much better than my $1,000,000 a year ClearCase+ClearQuest previous product.
It gives the manager a complete, integrated view, on the version and the query screens are blissfully easy.
The tickets and the change-sets are cross linked and easily referencable . Just the way it is supposed to be.
There are hosted versions as well, but I like my source code in house.
The embedded wiki is also used by the the developers for the more detailed technical documentation.
4. Development Environemnt – Visual Studio.Net 2008.
Can’t beat Microsoft with their own game. you can get away with the high price using various start-up specific bundles.
5. Knowledge management – Grouphub AKA Basecamp AKA 37signals. Cost 49.95$ per month.
Start-ups need knowledge management as well. Basecamp is great and once they get the search right it would be even better.
We use it to document almost everything we do in the company.It is effortless to administrator.
It is not “amazing” for full blown project management (we like TRAC for R&D), but can be a fair substitute for simple projects.
It is quite rewarding when working with contractors and freelancers. The guys that run it have a great sense of humor.
Here is an example from a recent basecamp customer survey:
6. Web Analytics – Clicky Google Analytics. $20 per month and 0$ per month.
Personally, I think Clicky is much cooler tool and easier to use. Google Analytics had some overhaul lately so now it is no longer the only-bad-application-from-google.
7. Recruiting – Linkedin and Facebook. Cost : $200 per posting. $0.5 per click.
We had great success with LinkedIn (recruited 4 people so far).
It seems to work better in US than in Israel and better for sales than developers.
Facebook is not working so far , we get tons of impressions, but no real quality candidates.
8. Productivity Suite – Microsoft Office + Google Docs.
It is still very hard to beat Microsoft here. Outlook, PowerPoint and Word are used everyday by everyone.
Office 2007 is much better than 2003. Get over the fact that they moved your icons :)
However, for simple worksheets we start using Google Docs more and more and the sharing capabilities are great.
There are nice integration points with the other Google apps.
I personally use google desktop to combine search across outlook, gmail and documents. Unfortunately it misses a lot of items for unknown reasons.
9. Voice and communication – PSTN,Skype, DimDIm, Asterisk.: $10 per person per month.
We didn’t find the silver bullet here yet. Probably the best thing would be good old fashion PSTN ( Or PSTN like VOIP service).
Skype is great, when it works, but sometimes it does not.
Asterisk does not work for us, as I wrote in another post.
DimDim is a great, free, conferencing service.
10. Feedback from customers : Kampyle, Zoomerang. Cost :20$ a month.
Kampyle is a very nice tool from an Israeli company that allows us to get feedback from user of our application.
We tried Zoomerang once for a customer survey and overall it was OK.