The number of tools available to start and grow a venture is overwhelming.
Although roadtesting tools can be fun, it’s a time sink that takes people away from the main game: validating their business model.
I’ve written this post to help the MBA candidates I teach at AGSM @ UNSW to get started with their entrepreneurship project and I hope it’s useful to you too.
Here is a list of battle-tested tools to help you start. And stop wasting time looking for, well, tools. They will help you make the first versions of business models and many of them are free, except one which is paid (*).
The punchline: Run towards business model validation. Be in motion.
To Communicate (within and outside your team)
- Slack – Messaging for teams and a great alternative to email. Slack also has a built-in video calling service (like Skype). On the free plan, this is limited to person to person video calls. Team video calls are only available on the paid plan. Another advantage of Slack over other communication tools, like WhatsApp, is that you can organise conversations into channels while also uploading and sharing most file types you can think of. And did I mention it reduces email…
- Zoom – You could use Skype but the audio and video quality of Zoom for calls are excellent. Zoom’s recording feature is also very useful to create a record, with the permission of the person your calling, of product research and development conversations. I also use this to record my podcast.
- Google Docs + Google Sheets – Those who already use these services understand how potent they are when it comes to collaborating on a new document, building a model or analysing product usage. I still remember seeing five students in a lecture simultaneously adding their notes to the one Google Doc as a means to fast-track knowledge collection.
- Draw.io – Images and wireframes do a lot to convince people of a product’s future value. The underlying challenge for startup teams, however, is mapping out in detail how people will use their product. Draw.io is a great process mapping tool that helps teams to visualise each step in the user’s journey.
And although not mandatory, I recommend using Gmail. It ties in seamlessly and enables high-speed collaboration with the other Google tools I mention here.
To Plan, Track and Store
- Leanstack.com – This is easily one of the most important tools for entrepreneurs. After creating an account you will be asked to answer nine critical questions about the business model you want to build. Each answer should be in bullet point form and can be evolved as you learn.
- Trello – Getting organised and managing projects is a lot easier with Trello. And never underestimate the impact that moving cards from one list to another have on a team’s momentum (you’ll see what I mean).
- Google Drive – The alternative is DropBox and I use both but only because I came late to (Google) Drive. If you use Google Docs and Sheets, I recommend Drive to further accelerate collaboration.
To Design Version One
- Squarespace – This is the only paid tool on this list and for good reason. Squarespace offers unmatched quality when it comes to firing up a landing page or building a site. It integrates with platforms to capture email addresses, sell products and provide all the data you need to understand the who, when and where people are coming from to visit the site.
- AppCooker – If you’re designing an app for iPhone and iPad (+70% of Australians use iOS devices), this is the place to go. Design it, add interactions and send the file to people who can test it in real time.
To Market The Idea
- Canva – This platform makes it incredibly simple to create marketing material to help tell your business model’s story.
- UnSplash – ‘Beautiful, free photos. Gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers’. Their words, not mine. And they mean every word.
- Good Email Copy – Stop angsting over what to say to new users and potential customers. Unashamedly borrow from the best in the business.
- Yet Another Mail Merge – Connecting with and providing regular updates to early adopters is essential to creating a community and movement around your vision. YAAM integrates with Google Sheets and Gmail to make spinning up an email campaign super simple.
To Collect Feedback
- Calendly – Speaking with people who are roadtesting your product is the best way to solicit feedback. Calendly puts an end to trying to find the right time through back and forward emails.
- Typeform – While they shouldn’t be used exclusively to measure new user intent or progress, surveys have a place in collecting information. Typeform is the leader of the pack. Google Forms is a solid alternative.
It’s also important to be available to people who want to talk to you about your product. Add your cell number and email address to all your correspondence. And before you think ‘I’ll be inundated with calls and emails’, take a breath (to humble yourself) and remember you are there to serve people who want to buy what you’re selling.
My phone number and email have been on tens of thousands of emails. The number of unrequited calls I’ve received as a percentage of total useful calls is less than 0.0001%.
To Analyze Feedback
Google Analytics – Match people’s anecdotes from using your product with data. GA is easily added to most websites and apps and should be interrogated as part of understanding people’s behaviour.
To Pitch The Idea
Two last things …
First, introducing tools is one thing, knowing how to use them is quite another. If you want to accelerate your upskilling on how to develop a business from the ground up, there is one online, self-paced course that you need to start. It’s called Business Development For Startups and Tech Companies.
It contains 30 hours of important content (19 hours of video), available on mobile and at the time of publishing this post this course is 14.99 USD with a 30-day money back guarantee. I have no affiliation with Scott Britton, this course just made a big difference to me a few years ago.
Second, being in motion on an idea and building momentum to learn is the main game in a startup. Playing with fancy tools won’t get you there. Engaging with early adopters will. So use the tools that are proven to make that happen.