Photo: Dennis Crowley via Flickr
We keep hearing about how the cloud and open source have dramatically lowered the cost of launching a company. But we lose sight of just how easy it has become to start a company online, and sometimes we don’t know what the best tools are for the job.
Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman has a great post where he lists the tools he used to get his company off the ground. We’re using it with our own amendments and suggestions to give you the best tools to get your startup off the ground.
Google Apps gives you Gmail for your own domain, collaborative document editing and internal wikis. It's really easy to get started.
Github is an online code repository. Open source and other public projects are free, and you pay if you want a private repository. Geeks love Github, and they're right. It's very useful.
Price: Free (if you get into the beta).
Asana is a team task management app that looks very useful. It was founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. ' Our team loves using it and we predict great things for Asana as it rolls into launch,' Friedman writes.
Right now it's in semi-closed beta so you might not get it. As an alternative, we like 37signals' Basecamp, which starts at $49/month.
Price: a cut of fees.
Friedman uses a startup called Stripe to handle payments, but it's in beta too. He writes that they don't require a merchant account, which was a pain when your writer ran a startup and we looked for a payments system. Most developers and merchants hate PayPal and they're right, and we've heard great things about Amazon Payments.
Price: $15-30 for most themes.
Themeforest is a marketplace for great looking WordPress and site templates. While not as good as hiring an actual designer, they actually have beautiful designs that are a cut above what you can get in most out-of-the-box 'CMSs' like, say, Joomla.
Price: Free or $12/month.
Friedman uses IRC, the popular chat protocol, to give his distributed team a place to hang out online. That works. He says Campfire is too 'laggy' but we've heard great things about it. Starts at $12/month.
Yammer is the Facebook/Twitter for the enterprise and it works really well to keep your team up to date and to communicate asynchronously and efficiently. You might not need it on top of chat and collaboration, but for what a startup needs, it's free, so it's worth trying out.
Friedman recommends a service called UnlimitedConferencing for team conference calls, but we've never had a problem with Skype's conference calls -- and they're free.
Price: $69/support agent/month.
Friedman says: 'we've looked at TenderApp, ZenDesk, and Assistly. We settled on Assistly after a support tech who's worked with all three told us she prefers Assistly because it's faster and easier to use.' We've heard great things about ZenDesk and understand it's the leader in the space.
Price: Metered pricing.
Amazon Web Services is the leader in hosting your apps on the cloud. Heroku, which is based on AWS, specialises in hosting apps in Ruby on Rails, the hottest web development framework for young startups. Friedman suggests Linode and Rackspace for Linux and Windows servers respectively.
We've only heard great things about MIcrosoft's BizSpark, a Microsoft program that gives licenses to Microsoft software to young startups. The goal for Microsoft is obvious: it gets to market itself as friendly to startups, get innovators to try out its products and, perhaps, make money once startups have grown huge. Still, BizSpark has a great reputation and is very useful.
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