If you’re reading this, you’re probably either an entrepreneur or interested in becoming one. Either way, being “scrappy” is definitely a good thing. What we mean is getting more done with less (GyShiDo, if you will). Using yourself and your team in the best possible way. Saving time. All that kind of stuff.
For all of this, there is no better time than today to start and no better time in history than now to be alive. There is so much available for the aspiring scrappy-doo in you that if you do search for more, the variety on the interwebs will melt your warm entrepreneurial heart—really.
That said, let’s get straight to the point and show you 10 of the best tools that make our lives a little bit better, every day.
Slack is winning the race in the marathon of team chat apps—and they only started a few years ago. They’ve built such an amazingly easy-to-use product that people have actually written blog posts explaining why they had to give it up. Beyond the obvious use case of chatting with your team in groups or individually, it’s also super extensible with integrations, bots, and custom APIs. One fun app I built around Slack was a /speak command that would say any phrase you typed over a speaker in the office.
Set up a separate free Slack team for events to keep attendees more connected to each other and build a community. Tweet This Quote
PROTIP: Set up a separate free Slack team for events to keep attendees more connected to each other and build a community that lasts beyond the event. Unreasonable has been doing this with success during its programs like Project Literacy Lab.
Zoom is simple video conferencing. It’s free for teams of 50 with a limit of 40 minutes per call (which is actually a nice feature to keep from getting sidetracked). The free version is pretty powerful. You can schedule recurring events, which allows us to have a daily 15 minute stand-up with the Zoom details in each of our calendars. You can also dial-in if you’re having issues with bandwidth, and they of course have mobile apps that let you call in as well.
PROTIP: When placing call details in calendar invites you can format the numbers as “+1(555) 555-5555,,12345678” (including the commas) so mobile phones can click-to-dial. The phone will translate the commas as pauses and automatically connect you.
Making sure your social profiles are active and pushing relevant content usually isn’t something startup founders spend a lot of their time on. Buffer does one thing and does it damn well: publish content to your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. You simply fill it with links and content, and it pushes it out on your behalf at scheduled intervals throughout the day.
I’m usually catching up on my reading either super late or super early in the morning, so Buffer makes it possible to push out tweets at a time when they’re more likely to be seen. They have a somewhat limiting free option, but it’s definitely worth using. You’ll need to look at the $10/month option if you want to mix company and personal profiles in one convenient account (which we’re now doing).
Bonus: The Buffer blog has some great content around being a tech entrepreneur.
As a busy entrepreneur, Buffer helps to make sure your social profiles are active and to push relevant content. Tweet This Quote
This helps track the conversations happening around Unreasonable and the different programs we run. It does a great job pulling in any “mention” of certain keywords we set. We have it set up to track keywords like “Unreasonable,” “#ProjectLiteracyLab,” and our founder’s name, “Daniel Epstein.” Just these few keywords are plenty noisy for us to keep track of, and they’re fed directly into our “#pulse-marketing” Slack channel. It pulls in content not only from Twitter and Facebook, but also the greater web—which is something I haven’t seen other keyword tracking tools pick up.
5. Google Apps
You might be wondering why this is in a list of other free tools for your business, because as of December 6, 2012, you can no longer create a free account on Google Apps. I’ve always thought this was pretty anti-entrepreneur, despite their big push this year of Google for Entrepreneurs. Even with the now $5 per month per user charge, I still have to keep it on the list. It’s so crucial to our startup for email and cloud storage.
There’s no better time in history than now to be alive as a scrappy entrepreneur with so many tools available. Tweet This Quote
This “profile enrichment” Gmail add-on has been around since 2010, and despite it not being updated very often, it’s one of my most used browser extensions. LinkedIn acquired them in 2012 and thankfully let them stay running for all this time. They made a small tweak a few years ago that allows it to do a reverse lookup on emails and pull back matches against the 400+ million user LinkedIn database.
PROTIP: Use it as an email validation by guessing an address and seeing if it pulls back any matches. The screenshots are a bit outdated, but the concept is explained in full detail here.
This is not really an app, but rather a Google Group called DevCreative. It is super helpful to get the power of the social entrepreneur community collective. It is a hive mind of entrepreneurs who help you with anything. Have a job posting you want to share to a (self) curated audience of like-minded entrepreneurs? Video to shoot for your campaign at short notice and need volunteers? Advice on your term sheet? Some new friends and a friendly coffee in a strange city? This is your tool. This is also a closed group, so you may get a message to join to access the content.
Note: Applications to this closed group are processed fairly quickly by the admins. If you really are an entrepreneur or want to be one, fearlessly apply to the group to become a member. The group is free to use. The gate is just to stop spammers.
The Dev Creative Google Group aggregates the power of the social entrepreneur community collective. Tweet This Quote
At $12 per user per month, it’s on the lower-end cost of CRM systems, but it’s still feature-rich and easy-to-use. You can use it for multiple purposes—typical sales flow, tracking partnerships and investors, or even just as a shared inbox for a small team. One of my favorite features about this app is its integration with Gmail/Google Apps. It will sync your email automatically (read: no more BCC’ing), so any team member working a deal has unfettered insights into every conversation that happened along the way.
This is expenses and reimbursements done easy. It is easy to set up, easy to onboard employees, easy to create and submit reports, and easy to approve and reimburse. No more painful manual form filling in the office or painful Excel sheet filings to the finance team. Just take a picture of your receipt from the mobile app, and it populates all of the information for you. Receipts can be uploaded and added to reports in three different ways, and the only (small) negative is that the mobile upload function is a bit slow.
As it says on the top: “Amazingly simple graphic design software.” Its wide resource of templates for every type of visual communication—Facebook posts, postcards, printed flyers and more—is a time saver and easy on the eye. Its chief evangelist is Guy Kawasaki. Need we say more?
Are there any tools missing from this list you would recommend? Please share in the comments.
This post was co-written with Myshkin Ingawale.