Handy apps for startups: ten top picks
When launching or growing a new startup, you’re likely to face a whole raft of additional challenges across areas that many people who work in established company offices take for granted.
Indeed, there may be no physical office location at all, or the team might be small enough that everybody is expected to chip in across a broad range of duties, rather than allocating individual staff members to handle each discrete aspect of getting a business off the ground.
Whatever the unique setup behind your particular enterprise, it’s fairly likely that you’ll find yourself having to cover a number of different duties and roles at once, at least in the early days. Using well-chosen mobile applications and cloud services to streamline launch operations can offer new startups a genuinely helpful boost when time, budgets or physical space are especially limited.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the most potentially helpful downloadables for startup businesses fall under the ever-growing ‘tracker app’ category – but with literally hundreds to choose from, all promising interactive monitoring of almost every facet of working life, where do you start?
Below, in no particular order, we’ve picked out a small handful of reputable, well-used and positively reviewed tracker apps (ones that won’t constantly hound users, or consume more hours in upkeep than they save) that could give startup owners and their employees a quick leg-up in navigating the first months of a new small business launch.
1. Rescue Time
Both enlightening and practical in equal measure, this free app (with an optional paid upgrade for improved functionality) for Apple, Android and desktop highlights precisely where and how the countless hours we all spend on those devices are being eaten up. Essentially a time management app with a twist, it doesn’t set out to actively modify your activities or working patterns for you – rather, it sheds valuable light on the patterns we all fall into over the course of a day/week/month at work. You can set alarms and alerts to help limit time spent in specific areas if you wish, but either way the result could well be a far clearer understanding and fuller control of how specific tasks and programs claim varying proportions of your time.
For startups looking to sell directly to buyers, Vend may offer a pleasingly neat solution: it’s basically an iPad-optimized point of sale app that enables users to process third party transactions on the go. This can of course come in very handy indeed for the startup business owner who needs to spend time in the early days pitching and trading directly to clients out in the real world, rather than being stuck behind a fixed desk or counter and having to lure them to you. It’s speedy and simple to accept incoming funds in any location via a range of mobile payment options from many of the most globally recognisable merchant providers, and Vend also allows you to track products, prices, customer data and employee performance as you go.
With a well-established reputation and a wide user base on both Apple and Android platforms, Expensify comes highly recommended as one of the most perennially popular expenses-tracking apps. A reasonably rich suite of features is built around its core expense claim logging and processing functions, giving users the ability to scan and upload receipts on the fly without having to hold on to hard copy proof of purchases for the duration of a trip. Adjustable settings for automatic verification, duplicate detection and quick reimbursement take much of the admin legwork out at the office end, too – and there are even options to incentivise thriftiness among employees out in the field. The company using the app holds a subscription-based account, and then it’s free for individual staff members to create their own personal accounts through which they send their claims back to base.
Often the simplest ideas can be the most effective, and this app for Apple and Android is certainly based on an obvious one: in short, it’s an always up-to-date address book. It gives your contacts the ability to amend their details on your device remotely, and instantly updates the information you have on record when they do. Users can also set varying privacy and privilege levels by group or individual, and then email or text new phone numbers, addresses and more to all those who need it with a single tap. Address books aren’t stored on Addapt’s servers, which is good to know from a security perspective, and the built-in group messaging/reminder function (including photo messages) is extremely handy for pinging quick alerts to a specific team of friends or colleagues. The app also remembers how you last communicated with a given contact, automatically prioritising email, text, phone call or instant message the next time you look them up.
Especially during the initial launch and growth phases of a new startup, knowing a little more about how your communications are being received can be incredibly helpful in helping you settle on tailored, more effective outreach strategies. Bananatag tracks and reports back some basic, unobtrusive but potentially very useful information on how your outgoing emails are landing – specifically if and when they’re being opened, and which links in them are subsequently being clicked through. It integrates with your existing mail client, including Gmail, Outlook and a range of other common platforms, and while a subscription account really opens things up, you can send up to five tracked emails a day with the free version.
Another app that works on both Apple and Android devices, Flare is one for all the budding business visionaries out there who don’t want to go down the rather wallet-unfriendly route of a private consultation for gathering feedback on new concepts. It is, in the words of the seasoned investor-based management team at parent company GoDaddy, a mobile app that ‘lets you get quick feedback on ideas from fellow entrepreneurs, experts, potential customers and investors’. It’s free to post an idea (up to one per day) as a quick concept overview to the app’s community forums, and if it gains enough traction – specifically, interest from ten other community users – you can then pose a series of further yes/no follow-up questions, polling responses to help tailor the pitch until you ideally hit on a consensus. Those responding also have the option of pledging custom or support for ideas they especially love, which also makes it fertile ground for investors and in theory should help to retain a knowledgeable and constructive user base.