Startup Technology Stack
This post is mostly for my own reference, but it might be handy to other people who want to get a business off the ground. Every time I start a business I spend a certain amount of time evaluating solutions to get things going. I’m nerdy enough to enjoy it, but it is also time that could be better spent generating revenue. One thing to recognize is that as soon as I post this, it will be outdated but it’s still a good starting point.
You have to have a phone and there is some great technology out there now to help you manage this. I would start with a Google Voice account. You can always move into a virtual PBX service like Jive (http://www.getjive.com). We use Jive at Franchise Foundry and its great. But I would start with a Google Voice account pointed to your cell phone. It’s simple and cheap.
It used to be that websites were hard. Now they are easy and you should have one that doesn’t look like garbage. I would use GoDaddy.com to purchase your domain because they can also host the domain for you and they have one-click installations of WordPress. I currently host most of my sites at DreamHost (http://www.dreamhost.com) and I love it. They also support one-click installations of WordPress and I like their control panel. But if you aren’t sure of what you are doing, I think GoDaddy is the perfect solution. You can have a domain purchase and a basic site template up and running in under an hour.
Email, Calendar, File Sharing
I think the only real solution for a small business is Google Apps. Once you have your domain setup, you can create a Google Apps account (http://www.google.com/a) and verify that you own the domain. This give you a corporate email account, shared calendars, the ability to share files and to chat with your co-workers. You can have all of this setup inside of an hour, including the account creation.
Every team member should also have a Dropbox account (http://www.dropbox.com). It’s free for up to 2Gig and you can get more space by inviting others to join. Dropbox lets me easily access my files from anywhere. I like that I can share files, but the thing I like best is that I know I have a recent backup of everything I do (I have a Time Capsule backup as well, but there’s something nice about the simplicity of just storing my files in the cloud from the beginning).
Project Management, CRM
I’m a huge 37 Signals fan and I think every small business should have a Basecamp account for project management (http://www.basecamp.com). It’s dead simple project management. Make sure you create this after you have created your Google Apps account so you can setup your project teams with your corporate email accounts.
While you are at it, if you need to track a sales funnel, you should sign up for Highrise — a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool from the team at 37 Signals (http://www.highrisehq.com). It’s very slick. I had the chance to evaluate a new CRM called Stride (http://www.strideapp.com). Stride is probably the simplest CRM tool you will ever find and if you can support your sales process with Stride’s bare bones approach you absolutely should. I found it was lacking some key features that I have come to depend on in a good CRM, but that might be because I’m stuck in my ways. If simple works, do it.
Bonus Tech: Email Campaign Management
Not every business needs an email campaign management tool, but if you do I really love MailChimp (http://www.mailchimp.com). It’s easy to create and manage email lists and campaigns and the reports are useful. You can also use MailChimp to create a list by adding a list signup form to your site. MailChimp walks you through the entire process, making it easy for non-technical business owners.
Things have changed a lot since I put together the technology infrastructure for my first startup. It used to be that you had to purchase a server and buy licenses from Microsoft. You can get started with almost everything I listed above for free. Most of it will cost you a monthly fee once you get up and running, but you can scale into it. And you can stop paying for it when you stop using it.
If you have anything you would add (or remove) from this list, let me know. I’d like to keep this updated with additional information so that it can become a one-stop shop for getting the technology infrastructure for your business up and running so you can focus on generating revenue.