People in tech often compliment each other on their ‘hustle.’ As I understand it, complimenting someone’s hustle is analogous to congratulating them for their tendency to get sh*t done. Apparently ‘hustle’ is what the kids are calling a ‘work ethic’ these days.
Whatever you want to call it, success in startups boils down to a bias towards action and a machine-like calibration for efficacy: only the fast and the smart survive.
This Darwinian law has created an insatiable appetite in the market for SaaS solutions designed to facilitate startup hustle. Founders must have polymathic expertise in both their market and their industry. The latter compels you to understand what tools exist to improve your effectiveness and your speed to market. Not enough startups treat the process with the intellectual rigour it demands…it’s no surprise then that most startups fail.
With Dublin Startup Weekend less than three weeks away, Gravity Centres, asked me to compile an overview of some of my favourite bootstrapping tools to help the teams get an early leg up on their competition.
Using tools to help you work faster and smarter at Startup Weekend is a very good idea, but trying them out for the first time at Startup Weekend? Notsomuch. Most of the tools mentioned below have free tiers and free trials, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the product in advance and add significant value to your startup weekend projects.
To add a narrative element to what would otherwise be just a list of products, I’ve included a brief case study of a micro-project that I undertook a few weeks ago. Using only online tools, a lowly non-techie like myself was able to land at #5 on the HackerNews homepage within 20 mins of launch, become the most popular story of the day on the Next Web, and get hunted to Product Hunt within 2 hours.
So, use your 3 weeks wisely teams, and we look forward to complimenting you on your hustle at the finish line!
Startup Tools Case Study
Plz Don’t Hunt Me Yet
I’m intrigued by the idea of building ‘faux’ products in aid of your real commercial effort. I’ve heard this marketing technique also referred to as “Come for X, Stay for Y”. This could be a book, a tool, or a toy — anything that through a related or unrelated product, draws attention to your main gig.
With this in mind, I decided to see if I could build something in fewer than 4 hours, and with less than 20 bucks, with the ultimate goal of eventually being listed on Product Hunt. From this experimental question, the Plz Don’t Hunt Me Yet Badges were born.
Do the badges look a bit hokey? For sure.
But, did they fulfil the brief and get my primary product thousands of hits and dozens of beta signups? You betcha.
Briefly, the tools I used for PDHMY were:
- Tumblr: Free website hosting.
- Microsoft Word: To design mockups of each of the badges.
- Fiverr: I took my MS Word mockups and paid a designer $5 on Fiverr to convert each into hi-res image files.
- Typeform: I added a customized, embeddable Typeform to collect submission information from each lead.
- Canva: Used to design all my marketing and social network visuals.
- Buffer: To drip tweets over a week at strategic times of day.
- Rapportive: to quickly evaluate each new lead in terms of value and influence.
TL;DR: I spent 3.5 hours and $16.50 on the PDHMY experiment. My primary product — Tapir — is still in pre-launch, so we haven’t done any marketing yet. Since our existing site traffic was so low, the PDHMY attention made a huge impact (see below). The project was also buckets of fun.
And now for the more complete list of tools…A quick heads up, that you can’t build a list like this without making some subjective value judgments. At the end of the day, I’m a Mac, not a PC; a Stripe, not a Braintree; a Buffer, not a Hootsuite…you get the idea. Other options exist and I encourage you to tweet us your faves.
Multi-Purpose & General Bootstrapping Tools
- Product Hunt (Free) — Product Hunt is a startup kingmaker. Being listed on the PH homepage guarantees fame, fortune, and success. Well, maybe not the last two, but it does promise unprecedented attention for small startups. Read the comments when other products launch to find useful and common critiques that should be addressed in your own products. Suss out the best pre-launch marketing tactics and be inspired by the ingenuity of other makers. And if you need a specific tool for a job, PH should be your first port of call. It’s become a useful compendium of SaaS products, often with exclusive discounts applied for Product Hunters. Hiten Shah has also compiled a particularly good collection of free tools for startups.
- GrowthHackers (Free) — regardless of the startup bravado we exude, none of us are pros. By definition, startups must operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty. How well do you understand your market? How aware are you of effective growth tactics, theories, and methodologies? Learn from your peers, eliminate some uncertainty, and get your butt to GrowthHackers.
- Intercom (Free Plan & Free Trial) — Hometown heroes Intercom allow startups to send targeted email and in-app messages, triggered by time or behaviour. Once you become familiar with Intercom’s telltale question mark icon, you’ll notice their widget across the internet in the bottom righthand screen of your favourite startups. And for goodness sake, make sure that you’re following the Intercom blog.
- BetaList (Free) — How do you get beta users before you’ve even finished building your product? You join the likes of Pintrest, IFTTT, and Fab, by getting featured on BetaList before you launch. While you likely won’t have enough time during Startup Weekend to submit — expedited posting takes 72 hours — BetaList is an excellent resource for startups looking to design compelling landing pages. In fact, Marc (BetaList founder and one of the SW Dublin remote mentors) has compiled this handy document outlining How to Build a Successful Beta Landing Page.
- Typeform (Free Plan) — Boiled down, a lot of product development involves forms in one ‘form’ or another (pun verymuch intended).
From customer research, to onboarding, to payment and satisfaction surveys, forms are often the medium through which we connect with our audience.
So, why the heck did we ever settle for ugly, janky forms? Typeform is the form you need, when you need it, looking beautiful and asking awesomely.
Product Management & Communication
- Slack (Free Plan) — Slack may be the fastest growing enterprise app in history and it’s certainly one of the fastest startups to reach a billion dollar valuation. That last designation might be arbitrary as f*ck, but these superlatives arise from the product’s extreme utility as a team communication tool. I have a theory that a number of enterprises could forgo their silly corporate innovation programs, instead adopting Slack to achieve a better ROI. For oft-dispersed startup teams, operating across multiple time zones and functional areas, Slack is on a mission “to make your working life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.”
- Trello (Free Plan) — Self-described as “the free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone,” Trello is many things to many people. Personally, I use Trello as a bookmarking tool, to track and sort online sources I want to come back to later, and ideas I want to blog about. Professionally, my co-founder and I use Trello as a project management tool to track each stage and milestone of Tapir’s development. I’ve also been toying with the idea of creating a Trello board to track and sort all of our beta user feedback.
- Peek User Testing (Free) — Peek provides free five minute user experience videos with real people from the interwebs. The current wait time for a video review is 2–3 days, though they sometimes arrive in only a few hours. Peek is a fun way to get a fresh perspective on your product. Just remember to take it with a grain of salt — it’s only the opinion of one person.
- Canva (Free — 1$) — I just recently learned that Guy Kawasaki is the Chief Evangelist at Canva. Makes sense, given how brilliant Canva is. Engagement rates skyrocket when you combine visual elements with your social networking content. Canva has the tools and templates you need to make it look like a professional was involved. Their ‘design school’ blog is also a terrific resource for those of us with questionable design aesthetics.
- Keynote (Free) — Getting an idea out of your head and communicating it to others is a vital step in the early validation stages of an MVP. If you’re familiar with the Google Ventures 5-Day Design Sprint, you know that Day 4 is devoted to creating a super-realistic prototype in just eight hours. While apps like InVision exist for solely this purpose, bootstrappers may also be drawn to the unconventional use of Keynote. Check out the GV guide to using the “world’s best prototyping tool.”
- Stock Up (Free) — Sure, you need to work fast, but as David Cancel says, “Ship It, but don’t Ship Shit.” There’s no excuse for startups to use terrible stock photos (let’s leave that to the big corporates). StockUp aggregates and makes searchable hundreds of free stock photo assets…free to use as you see fit.
- Fiverr ($5+ but get a free gig using this referral link) — Let me preface this tool with the age-old adage, “You get what you pay for.” Fiverr has a pretty simple pitch: get things done for $5 (though some tasks cost more). Suffice to say, buyer beware, but for simple rote tasks lacking in creativity, I’m down with Fiverr (and eventually you get used to all of the designers calling you ‘dear’).
Payments, Sales & Marketing
- Stripe (Fee per charge) — Stripe is web and mobile payments. So simple, so smart, so sexy. How many other APIs can you say that about? Stripe is unapologetically a tool built by developers for developers, combining functionality with intellectualism in a heady digital mix that’s difficult not to find appealing. Stripe understands that it’s god — not the devil — in the details. (And sure, their Irish origins make them even more likeable.)
- SlideBean (Free Plan) — Creating your Startup Weekend pitch deck is finicky and time-consuming. Why not give some thought to outsourcing the design elements to SlideBean. In addition to the option to start with a blank canvas, SlideBean offers pre-designed templates including the “3 Minute Startup Pitch” and a “10 Slide Investor Deck.” For inspiration, you can take a look at 10 SlideBean pitch decks from the most recent 500 Startups Demo Day.
- HARO (Free) — HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, is a mailing list that connects journalists looking for expertise with credible news sources. Email comes 3 times a day with time-sensitive requests for sources from diverse media outlets including Forbes, Fast Company, USA Today, and theNew York Times. Startups can use HARO to potentially garner international exposure by offering their domain expertise in topics like business, HR, travel, and lifestyle.
- Buffer (Free Plan) — Buffer is awesome (literally). As a startup, content is important, but devoting unnecessary hours to the administration of your social presence before your product is even built? Get a life. Buffer allows you to load up your tweets in advance and have them fired out atthe most strategic times throughout the week. I also, highly recommend the Buffer Chrome extension, allowing you to add content to your buffer queue directly from your browser.
- Rapportive (Free) — Rapportive shows you details about your contacts, right inside your Gmail inbox. I use Reportive to quickly evaluate beta list signups, to identify who is worth responding to immediately or tagging as a VIP. As an added bonus, it also helps you to discern when seemingly personal emails, might actually be part of a larger marketing campaign.
We’re delighted to announce the very first Startup Weekend Remote Mentorship program using Slack for team communication.
This is a complete experiment. We’re so excited to see how the teams make use of both their physical mentors and their remote mentors. We’ll be learning from the program this year and if everyone finds value in the experience, it could be added as a permanent feature to future Startup Weekends in Ireland.
Teams will be able to reach out to remote mentors via DM or public Slack channels. Remote mentors will do their best to respond promptly given their availability and time zone constraints.
**Please note, the organizers are fully committed to diversity. We are working towards making the slack mentors as diverse a group as possible. We will get there, but there remains room for improvement. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions.**
Andre Plaut, Product Lead, Immersives General Assembly
Over the last seven years Andre Plaut has been designing & delivering learning experiences for Apple, Obama for America, and General Assembly. As a training coordinator at Apple, Andre created and delivered internal training materials to retail employees all over the world. During the 2012 Obama campaign, Andre worked with campaign staff to redesign, organize, and implement training initiatives and materials to better prepare new volunteers for the field. Now, at General Assembly, Andre leads the product team responsible for designing, implementing, and scaling full-time courses around Web Development, User Experience Design, and Product Management. Andre has also published articles and spoken at conferences about the intersection of design and education.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Design 2. Growth, Marketing, Sales, Social, PR 3. Product Management 3. Education.
Dylan La Com, Product Manager at GrowthHackers.com
Dylan is Product Manager at GrowthHackers, the definitive community for growth-focused marketers. Dylan has an eye for design and a head for startup growth, and was previously Growth Product Manager at Qualaroo. Dylan has formerly cofounded Bosscaster, a podcast publishing platform and Wellen, a surfwear company.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Growth, Marketing, Sales, Social, PR 2. Product Management 3. Startup/Bootstrapping Tools
Eoin Hennessy, Manager of Engineering, Intercom
Originally from Crosshaven, Cork, Eoin is a manager of engineering at Intercom. Since joining Intercom, Eoin has played an important role in key product features including the In-App Messenger and Intercom’s latest release, real-time messaging. His side project is Tapir, a clever customer referral tool for crazy clever startups. Theoretically, if he had spare time he’d spend it surfing or sailing.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Front End Development 2. Back End Development 3. Mobile 4. Startup/Bootstrapping Tools 5. B2B
Everette Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer, StickerMule
Everette Taylor is Chief Marketing Officer of Sticker Mule and founder of MilliSense. He is the former Head of Growth of GrowthHackers.com and has previously done marketing for author Neil Strauss, United Way, Qualaroo and others.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Growth, Marketing, Sales, Social, PR 2. Product Management 3. Startup/Bootstrapping Tools 4. B2B 5. B2C
Jeff Bajayo, Marketing & Growth, InVisionApp
Starting out working for publications like The Next Web, Beta List, and various smaller operations, Jeff has worked with hundreds of startups all over the globe. For the past three years, he’s worked on marketing and growth at InVisionApp, a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Design 2. Growth, Marketing, Sales, Social, PR 3. Product Management 4. Startup/Bootstrapping Tools 5. B2B 6. B2C
“1 of 5 Women Changing the World of VC/Entrepreneurship” — Forbes | “25 Smartest Women On Twitter” — Fast Company | “100 Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter” — Business Insider | “100 NYC Tech Influencers You Need To Know” — AlleyWatch
Kelly Hoey is a speaker, strategist and investor. Recognized for her social influence, Kelly’s expertise is in leveraging networks, building engaged communities and developing strategies for rising above the networking noise, both online and off.
Kelly appears regularly as an investor panelist on CNBC’s Power Pitch. Kelly is sought out for her unique perspective into networking and community building, addressing members of the European Commission and audiences at SXSW, IEEE Women in Leadership, 2014 PGA Championship, The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Women In The Boardroom, Bank of America, Disruptors (Dublin), MoDev, MINC (Malmo), Philly Women in Tech Summit, amongst others.
Kelly’s motto is “invest in the change you want to see in the world.” She is an acknowledged leader in the startup community for actively investing in women. In 2011, Kelly co-founded the first startup accelerator focused exclusively on fast-tracking the growth of early-stage mobile technology ventures with gender-diverse founding teams. Kelly continues to advise emerging technology companies and actively mentors startups through selected accelerator programs in New York City. She is the Chief Technology Ambassador for the YWCA of NYC’s Geek Girls Club and mentors on millennial career platform, Levo.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Growth, Marketing, Sales, Social, PR
Kilian McMahon, Designer, Kickstarter
Kilian is a designer by day — making things for the web and the physical world — and a musician by night. Here in Ireland, you probably recognize Kilian’s creative talents from his involvement with Tito, and Úll. More recently, he has adventured across the ocean, battling wicked winters and the L-train, applying design to help creators stay independent. He works at a little place you might have heard of called Kickstarter.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Front End Development 2. Mobile 3. Design
Marc Köhlbrugge, Founder, BetaList
Marc Köhlbrugge (26, the Netherlands) is the founder of BetaList, a platform that helps early adopters discover the latest internet startups. At the same time BetaList helps entrepreneurs validate there’s demand for their products and get crucial feedback from early users. Marc bootstrapped BetaList four years ago and since then it’s grown into one of the most popular startup resources not just for early adopters, but also tech journalists and investors looking for the next big thing. So far over 4,000 startups have been published and every month 150 startups are added.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Back End Development 2. Design 3. Startup/Bootstrapping Tools 4. Ideating MVP
Paul Betts, Software Engineer, Slack
Hi, I’m Paul. I work on everything mobile and desktop-related; I used to work at GitHub, and now I work at Slack working on their desktop app, and have done a lot of stuff around startups in general (frontend website stuff, etc. etc.).
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Front End Development 2. Mobile 3. B2B
Simon Vallee, Senior Product Manager, Slack
Simon Vallee is a product-minded entrepreneur and general detail enthusiast. His latest startup, Spaces, sought to re-invent online documents and was acquired by Slack, where Simon now works as a Senior Product Manager. Before that, he co-founded OpenCal, acquired by Groupon in 2011, and Sitemasher, acquired by Salesforce in 2010.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Front End Development 2. Design 3. Product Management 4. Startup/Bootstrapping Tools
Tiffany Zhong, Business Development + Marketing, ProductHunt
Tiffany loves growth and product. She works at Product Hunt and previously built higherlyfe.com.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Growth, Marketing, Sales, Social, PR 2. Product Management
Victor Bjelkholm, Developer Evangelist, Typeform
Victor is a hacker originating from Sweden, that now resides in Barcelona and enjoys the beautiful weather and making Typeform an even more awesome platform for all your form needs. He is currently working on building an API for creating forms and advocating the engineering culture at Typeform. He has been doing full stack development for 4 years, mostly focused on cutting edge frontend technologies.
Mentorship Expertise: 1. Front End Development 2. Back End Development 3. Startup/Bootstrapping Tools 4. Software Theory and General Development (not just frontend/backend)