Sunday, January 17, 2010

Free Software for Managing a Lean Startup

I recently met with a former student, Sunil Nagaraj, founder and CEO of Triangulate, a Silicon Valley-based startup that's just launched its first product, Wings, a Facebook dating application. Sunil, who has embraced lean startup management practices, showed me a set of free software tools his team is using to build and manage its product. Here's Sunil's list along with his thoughts about how he uses the software. Please extend the list in your comments to this post.
  • Google Apps (standard edition) - Free email and calendaring on your own domain name
  • PivotalTracker - Free project management tool perfectly suited for managing development features for a small team 
  • Dropbox - Free "fileserver" for sharing any files across team. All team members get a "My Dropbox" folder in "My Documents" which is always up-to-date
  • SliceHost - Incredibly cheap server-space -- lower-priced plans than Amazon for getting started -- $20/month with no setup cost for server that should handle most consumer internet sites until user traffic really takes off
  • Viral Marketing Calculator - Amazing calculator for determining user growth 
  • Twitter - Every entrepreneur must be on Twitter to stay "plugged in" and to market his/her product
  • VNCPutty, Filezilla - Free tools for screen-sharing, SSH/telnet, and FTP respectively
Addendum: This post from Peldi Guilizzoni on the Balsamiq Company blog significantly extends the list above and provides very useful commentary. It's a must read for startup teams. Thanks to Jeremy Levine for pointing it out!


  1. This is a good start! I'd add a few more that I've used at the startups I've been involved with:

    - Traditional project management: you can use the free version of Basecamp (in small text):
    - CRM: you can use the free version of BatchBook:
    - Billing: you can use the free version of Freshbooks:
    - Group chat/collaboration: you can use the free version of Campfire:

  2. anything for inventory management? sales tracking?

    1. Hi J, feel free to use our cloud ERP for dead simple inventory management and sales tracking

  3. This is a fantastic post of the tools Balsamiq uses to run their company:

    We @ are using:
    Yammer, Google Apps (Lots of Docs, a little Wave), Dropbox, Prefinery to manage our beta and Get Satisfaction for customer feedback

  4. Jeremy: The Balsamiq post is really helpful - their list is much longer and the commentary on each app is rich. I've added an addendum to the post to make sure that people see it. Thanks!!

  5. FogBugz has a free versions for a 2-person team - I much prefer it to Pivotal Tracker for managing development.

    Screencast (TechSmith) and Skitch are great for quickly sharing screenshots with comments.

    Last year was free for students at HBS - it's been helpful for broadcasting presentations and demos.

    Drupal is an open source CMS we use for our website.

    Bazaar is an open source version control tool

  6. Also have a look at Psoda Lite ( for free personal timesheets.

  7. Success of any project is dependent upon how the manager is leading the project. Employing web based project management tools are a way to assist you end-to-end with your project. Plenty of tools are there that enables punctuality of activities with effectiveness like search time widgets, account user number tools, and search groups.

  8. There’s enough to do (for most project managers) just keeping existing projects on track and moving, the additional burden of ongoing process improvement is more often than not pushed to the side since many consider it a nice-to-have/low-priority effort.

  9. Just came across this from Quora -
    Great post and useful for start-up folks.


    Thanks for a great resource.

  10. I love dropbox, though the free version only allows 2GB, it's a great app for business. I'm a photographer and I love using it for sharing pictures.

  11. Good post but Slicehost isn't exactly free, and is expensive compared to Linode (, who offer the same thing for about half the price. I used to use Slicehost but moved to Linode about a year ago, and so far I'm very happy.

  12. Great post, thanks! I wrote a similar one a while back, and mentioned Freshbooks for invoicing, Outright for taxes, Billmonk for sharing expenses if you're on a smaller team, and the 37signals tools, all of which have free plans.

  13. for Ruby/Rack application hosting. Free until you get traffic or more than 5 MBytes of data. Cheap and on-demand after that.

    Skype for voice, video conferencing and screen sharing. for code hosting. Not free but cheap. for shared online white board. Works best if you also have a pen device (e.g. Bamboo). for payments and automatic activation of software after a payment clears.

  14. Thanks for sharing this interesting post. Online Project Management tools are a way to assist you end-to-end with your project. Plenty of tools are there that enables punctuality of activities with effectiveness.

  15. In any business administration free tools are no doubt best option to work out with, but at times the tools has to get changed to paid one on the growing demand of the business specifically. The tool as such which keeps importance in terms of my business management is a paid one but the end result which I get, price seems to be reasonable. The tool basically comes with task management software, expense reporting software, time management tools and many more.

  16. To stop making avoidable mistakes in project management one can also try attending good at PMP classes conducted by any of the PMI registered REP's for gaining expertise best processes of project management. Any good at PMP prep course will provide students with lots of actionable insights in project management along with preparing them for PMP certification.