A master list of free tools for lean startups


Any entrepreneur worth their salt will be excited at the thought of accessing free yet functional tools. Been there, done that, and having run from pillar to post seeking the most seductive tools on the web to build a venture from scratch, I am tempted to put down my compendious list for others.

I have picked up the most recommended option for each utility to ensure more productive usability of the list. Here we go:

1. Wireframing/Mockups: BALSAMIQ

Creating basic wireframing and user flows are essential to communicate the idea to the developer. After reviewing a few tools, I found Balsamiq full format and easy to use, even for a novice. The intuitive options almost gamify the entire stressful but essential exercise.

2. Social media management: HOOTSUITE

Hootsuite is one of the easiest and most popular social media dashboards out there to schedule posts, tweets, analyse and manage brand mentions. Startup biggies swear by this tool.

3. Social listening: GOOGLE ANALYTICS

With a one-minute setup, this tool allows you to put in keywords for your startup and 'hear' them closely on the web, so that you can to share the thunder or control the damage as soon as someone mentions your brand anywhere on the web. A great idea to install a personal keyword too!

4. Business modelling(BMC): LEANSTACK

Essentially a BMC tool, Leanstack is perfect for thinking aloud your business model. One single page of intense ideation, less than 20 minutes and a professional sounding plan is ready!

5. Startup financials: MINT

Mint is a rich suite tool for startup budgeting and money management. It facilitates expenditure plans, categorisation and analysis for focussed startups, so that tardy spreadsheets and reports don't clog your mental bandwidth.

6. Marketing research: SURVEYMONKEY

Every entrepreneur swears by the value of high quality primary data to validate the concept and market. Surveymonkey provides a reasonably nimble tool to design surveys from a template, distribute, collect data and draw meaningful insights in a cinch.

7. Presentations: EMAZE

For those VC pitches, cofounder hunting and mentor sourcing, we all need stunning presentations for our startups. Emaze is a wonderful tool that provides design templates, cloud integration and HTML compatibility.

8. Infographics: PIKTOCHART

Since I have discovered this tool it has been bookmarked for everyday usage. A completely plain sailing tool for creating eye-candy infographics for presentations, pitches and website pictorials, Piktochart is one of the bigger blessings for an entrepreneur.

9. Demo/launch videos: POWTOON

Demo videos are a great way to announce your startup. Powtoon helps you create one to embed on your pitch presentations and/or website. Way more congenial and popular than its competitors, it does not require any prior video-making experience and works on a seamless drag-and-drop UI.

10. Online scheduling and appointments: CALENDLY

Every entrepreneur, at the onset, is a CEO, salesperson, ideator, tech supervisor and coffee boy rolled into one; precisely why an uncomplicated online scheduler seems like a godsend. Calendly allows integration with Google calendar and iCal, allows you and others to schedule appointments, interviews and meetings on a facile interface and alerts you right in the nick!

11. Project Management: ASANA

Startups are often built in dorm rooms and unused attics. This brings in the classic jeopardy of remote management of teammates. This tool allows you to detangle your tasks and conversations without reiterative tags and emails.

12. Customer relationship management: ZOHO CRM

A must-have tool for tracking, closing and analysing sales activities, Zoho CRM gives you a holistic view of your entire sales cycle in a fairly idiot-proof format!

13. Email marketing: MAILCHIMP

Now, every entrepreneur loves mailchimp; it is the quintessential tool in every startup marketer's kitty. It allows you to manage subscriber profiles, send better emails and analyse email marketing campaigns.

14. Client visualisation: PERSONAPP

In the current times of highly customised marketing, here's a beautiful tool that lets you create quick light-weight personas for the audience, helping you visualise and cater to them more efficiently.

15. Launch pages: STRIKINGLY

Let’s face it: this is the first face of your startup, and the most emotional one too. Yet most startups are swarmed with umpteen number of tasks at the launch stage, and need a quick fix. We recommend Strikingly exactly for that spot situation. It helps create beautiful responsive landing pages in a jiffy.

Now, armed with a rich stash, get going... and always remember, the best startups are built with love and a whole lot of midnight coffee!

About the author

Kritika Parwal is an alumnus of the Indian School of Business and is currently engaged in nose wiping her two babies. The first is Tomato & Co., which specialises in crafting plantable paper solutions. The second is Thinkspace, an entrepreneurship deck in Jaipur where she consults startups, provides them incubation and fund-raising support. She is passionate about startups, handicrafts and zen-chasing.