There are never enough hours in the day for entrepreneurs, but there are lots of online resources for getting your business off the ground and keeping it going. Here are a few that will help you get funded and streamline your workflow, so you can focus on your core mission.
Formerly known as Angelsoft, Gust is a sort of matchmaking service for startups and investors. Just fill out a profile to start connecting with future funders; the wizard will help you tailor your profile for investors in your sector. Afterwards, you can browse funders by location or industry. To date, tens of thousands of investors have put up more than $1.8 billion through Gust to fund 400,000 startups.
In addition to the free platform, you can spring for Gust Launch, a set of legal and accounting tools for incorporating and forming a business. There's also Gust Equity Management, a platform for issuing stock and options, simulating fundraising scenarios, complying with all applicable taxes, and more.
Dozens of organizations have endorsed Gust, including the Angel Capital Association, the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds, and the World Business Angel Association.
Startup Pitch Decks
Feeling overwhelmed or uninspired when it comes to tackling your pitch deck? Try browsing real pitch decks from businesses you probably know. Think LinkedIn, Airbnb, YouTube, Buzzfeed, and similar companies. Collectively, the (former) startups on this site have raised more than $400 million.
The website shows the industry, funding round, and amount raised for each pitch deck. The detailed view even gives the name of the investor, so you can investigate who's funded similar initiatives.
If you're looking for a way to manage projects without having to learn a complicated system, give Trello a try. Trello is a simple but powerful project management tool that organizes cards on boards in a Solitaire-like arrangement. Just create a card for an idea or task, then drag it to another position or list to reflect its status as your team digs in. Trello is designed for collaboration; you can add due dates, checklists, comments, and files to cards, and assign specific team members to them.
Trello notifications will keep your team up to speed on project status. Once you've completed a task, simply archive it, and it will always be searchable in Trello.
Trello is admittedly no-frills; it doesn't have Gantt charts, time tracking, or reporting functionality. That may be deliberate, because the platform's simplicity make it incredibly quick and easy to use. Even if it doesn't have all the functionality you'd like, consider keeping it open in your browser permanently - it's the perfect way to capture and organize your ideas, fast.
ZonePDF is one of the newest and most sophisticated PDF processing sites. It offers tools for splitting PDF files apart and merging multiple PDFs together. You can use the site to convert JPG, PPT, Word, and Excel files to PDF, then combine them into a single document, for example. That means you can merge screenshots with spreadsheets of sales figures or A/B testing results.
The site generates high-quality files that preserve the original document's formatting, but its main advantage is its speed. While other PDF tools can take up to a few minutes to convert a large PDF to a JPG, ZonePDF can do it in just a few seconds.
You don't even need to register to use the site, but you'll only be able to process two files at a time as an anonymous visitor. Signing up for a free account will give you unlimited file conversions.
Mailchimp is the go-to service for email marketing - a critical strategy for growing a small business. The attraction of Mailchimp is its simplicity. There's no need to fidget with HTML formatting; just customize one of its templates in a familiar, easy to use interface.
If you're an e-commerce company, you can integrate Mailchimp with your store to send personalized messages, and notify customers when you restock a product. No matter how you use Mailchimp, it will generate robust analytics on your campaign.
Hootsuite is a popular choice for managing your social media presence. You can use it to review posts and submit them to Facebook, Twitter, and many other social media sites simultaneously.
Posting is only one side of the equation, though. Hootsuite also streamlines engagement with your audience by providing a dashboard of visual feeds, which you can filter by keyword, search, or social network. Wondering what your social media presence gets you? Hootsuite's metrics are designed to help you pinpoint your social ROI.
Hosting and Website Monitoring
If you don't have the staff, time, or know-how to run your own dedicated server, Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Solution) is a good alternative. An increasing number of companies are choosing to store files and even entire websites in the cloud through Amazon. Upload your files the old-fashioned way, or schedule an automatic backup service for your website, app, or operating system.
Amazon stores the files in "buckets," which are similar to folders. While the files are private by default, you can make them public to host a website. It stores buckets in 11 different regions around the world, which can be advantageous. If you have a Chinese version of your website, for example, storing the files in the location that's closest to the Chinese market can speed up content delivery to prospective customers. While the free version comes with 5GB of space, you can always upgrade your account as your business grows.
Cloudgence is a free, all-in-one website monitoring service for checking your site's status, getting live performance measurements, and taking screenshots. While there are other monitoring services out there, Cloudgence is accurate and remarkably speedy. Tools like Cloudgence are an essential part of every website owner's toolkit.
Office Tools and Communications
Slack is a popular group chat platform for both synchronous and asynchronous messages. Users set up various "channels" for group chats and private messages. They can use these channels to send messages, paste links, and transfer documents. Slack is designed to streamline your workflow, so it integrates fully with Dropbox and dozens of other third-party apps. Everything you send through Slack is searchable, including links and documents.
Slack helps teams collaborate faster and avoid an avalanche of emails. While it's ideal for startups that need to work fast - and often remotely - companies of all sizes and configurations use Slack to make team communications as efficient as possible.
It isn't just for text-based messages, though. Slack Free comes with the ability to instantly start a two-person voice or video call from any channel or direct message. There's no need to open up a separate Google Hangout, because calls fit within your existing communication workflow.
Subscribers can make group calls. Upgrading to a paid account will also get you more features, like a larger archive size and more third-party integrations. You can use Slack from anywhere through its Web, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux apps.
HipChat is similar to Slack, but offers additional features at a lower price. If you're concerned about security, for example, your IT team can deploy it on your very own server. High-profile customers like Expedia, Fitbit, and Squarespace have signed on with HipChat, quite possibly for the self-hosting option.
Unlike Slack, the free version doesn't come with any voice or video calls. When you upgrade to HipChat Plus, though, you'll get both video chat and screen sharing - the latter of which Slack currently doesn't support. With HipChat Plus, you can share your screen with up to 20 other people.
HipChat Plus is also considerably less expensive than both of Slack's paid plans. Slack Standard will cost you $6.67 per user per month, while HipChat Plus comes in at a mere $2 per user per month.
Starting a company is undeniably one of the most difficult things an entrepreneur will ever do. Fortunately, there are more tools than ever for cultivating business success. I hope you find the ones in this post helpful for funding, starting, and running your small business, so you can focus on growing it.
Anka Zielinska is a business consultant and online marketing expert. She works at ZonePDF - online platform offering PDF processing tools for merging, splitting, and converting PDF files. She loves learning all about technologies. In her spare time she is a dedicated triathlete and a board game geek.