Founding your own high-tech startup business is like becoming a parent to a newborn baby. For the first few years, your life is an emotional rollercoaster of hair-pulling chaos, mind-blowing epiphanies—and lots of small-win celebrations.
And if you want to see your startup succeed, you’re going to need these three things the most:
- a team of really smart, driven people
- a product that actually solves business problems
- a plan that includes forecasts, deliverables, and how to scale operationally in order to open up opportunities to acquire capital to deliver on the plan
If you can’t keep up with one of these areas, you will likely end up becoming part of the 90% of startups that fade into obscurity1.
One factor that has a huge impact on all of these three aspects is the types of tools you choose to manage your growing business. (Note we’re talking about managing the business here, so this list won’t include engineering and development tools. You and your Dev team are the experts here, and we’ll leave that to you.)
Choosing the “best” startup tool is tricky because it poses the classic chicken-and-egg problem: getting the best tools for high-tech startups means you can keep your team productive, understand your customers better, and keep your costs low.
But you also have to maintain access to capital and be efficient in order to afford the startup software tools.
Additionally, the tools you initially choose should be able to support your future growth and scale as the company grows. This will be crucial in order to keep the company operationally efficient when growth goes into hyper-drive.
Thankfully, like many of the world’s greatest riddles—this dilemma also has an easy solution.
🤝 Is your tech startup’s team collaborating as effectively as it could be? What should you look out for before you start scaling in earnest?
How to choose the best tools for managing your startup
We live in the golden age of entrepreneurship. The cost of technology, infrastructure, and software has gone down significantly in the last decade2.
It’s easier than ever before to remotely hire the best (and affordable) talent from across the world and collaborate with them without any issue—a trend towards our largely-remote future of work.
You don’t have to settle for one-trick pony startup management tools anymore. There are plenty of great tools that offer you more value for your money and a solid leg up in your entrepreneurial journey.
Think of it this way: when you’re hiring for your startup, you probably prefer expert-generalists over specialists because the former tend to be more flexible and wear multiple hats3.
The same is true with buying high-tech startup tools—you should invest in the ones that offer you more for less.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in this post. We’ve curated a list of our favorite startup tools that’ll help you streamline your business processes across all functions ranging from sales to marketing to finance and HR to customer support.
But here’s the thing—we’re not going to regurgitate the same information that you might easily find in all those software comparison websites. Instead, we’ll show the best-in-class tools across each business category that are multifunctional and flexible enough for a young startup.
These tools are our favorite, not just because we think they’re great, but also because we’ve seen scores of other startups benefit from them too.
As a company that’s designed a multifunctional and collaborative tool that’s perfect for startups, we’ve developed a knack for identifying other tools that give the most bang for your buck.
We’ll cover all the major tools a startup will need, plus a few more nice-to-have types of tools that can make your life easier (but aren’t a make-or-break deal).
But before we get to the tools, let’s answer a critical question.
What determines the “best” startup tool for your business?
“Best” is rarely an objective standard. The best tools for a fintech company that’s on the edge of disrupting the cryptocurrency might look drastically different than the tools that a biotech startup might need.
But no matter what domain your high-tech startup operates in, your business always has three pillars of growth that are crucial to your survival: product, distribution, and retention.
Product is what you sell or what services you offer. Distribution is marketing and sales—that tells the world about your product. And retention is the set of activities that makes your business sustainable, such as customer support and community building.
RingCentral is a PCMag’s Editors’ Choice Award winner because of its reliable service and easy-to-use app (among other reasons)!
And what ensures the strength of your business’s foundation? Three things:
- Effective employee management
- Global team collaboration
- Timely communication with customers
It doesn’t matter if you’re running a small local business or a company that plans to IPO in a few years, you’d still need to bank on the above factors to build a successful company.
With that in mind, we’ve categorized the list of best startup software tools by their business functions:
The first three are all about collaboration—either within your internal teams or to close gaps with customers. The rest of the tools are for effective employee management and keeping your business operations tight.
Some categories have just one tool recommendation while others might include two or three recommendations.
If you want the most basic, simple definition of marketing, it’s a bullhorn for your business—a way for you to tell the world about your product.
As a business function, marketing needs tools that help you cross-collaborate within your internal teams regularly and understand your prospects. Here are two essential types of marketing software for startups.
No matter what kind of tool you’re buying for your high-tech startup, you should always ask if it’s unified, scalable, and multifunctional—and gives you a good return on investment (ROI).
Although RingCentral has earned its stripes as a great collaboration platform and communication tool for customer support teams all across the globe, it actually doubles as a great tool for your marketing and sales team all at once.
RingCentral really is a startup’s best friend because of its Swiss knife utility. The highly scalable platform offers multifunctional products and features that cater to the needs of all kinds of companies—from right out-of-the-gate cash-strapped startups to heavily funded companies that have scaled to become profitable unicorns and decacorns.
Need to make a phone call (without giving away your personal number)? You can do that in RingCentral’s app. Which, by the way, also acts as your video conferencing software and your team messaging platform. Here’s a quick look at how it works:
Whether you want to have an online brainstorming session, host a call with investors, or share files with your team, you can do it all—all in one app:
Best for: 100% remote, tech-driven startups that would rather pay for one tool that can do it all rather than pay for multiple tools every month that can do only one thing each. It’s also great for businesses that want simple pricing and easy integrations with other tools they use.
🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:
💰 You can also use this calculator to see roughly how much your business could save by using RingCentral to support your team’s communication with each other—and clients.
Mailchimp started out as one of the biggest names for running powerful email marketing campaigns. It still is—but with a ton of other features added to its repertoire.
For instance, Mailchimp offers a marketing CRM, audience segmentation, email templates, campaign personalization, website builder, and many other useful features that are suitable for growing small companies.
Bonus point—you can integrate Mailchimp with RingCentral app which allows you to get updates on your Mailchimp email campaigns directly in your RingCentral app.
For instance, anytime a customer subscribes to your email newsletter, Mailchimp will notify everyone in your marketing team right in your group channel:
Best for: Startups that are growing at a rapid pace and rely heavily on email promotions, whether they’re monthly newsletters or campaigns. If you’re big on email, Mailchimp can help you amplify your customer acquisition and engagement goals.
Once you’ve put yourself in a position to bring your product to market, your startup’s future growth is directly proportional to the enablement and efficacy of your sales team. It’s the function that maintains the operation, creates capital that’s accessible immediately to reinvest into the business, and attracts opportunities to position your high-tech startup to receive early-to-late stage funding (if that’s your plan).
Whether your product represents a brand new technology in an untapped market or you’re coming into an already established market and offering a differing experience, the sales process can be pretty hard to crack, given that you need to fine-tune your workflow between efficient automation and personalized human touch. Here’s one type of tool that can help you do that.
As a young company, you want to generate and qualify as many leads as possible to ramp up your profits.
Investing in a multi-purpose platform like noCRM.io helps you manage your end-to-end sales cycle and keep a tab on all sales activities like lead nurturing, prospecting, and pipeline management.
There are hundreds of CRMs (many of them very good) out there, and we chose noCRM because, as its name suggests, the idea behind this tool is that you’ll feel like you’re not using a CRM at all. Most CRMs, especially the older ones, are prone to bloat—overloaded with features that you might not even use, slowing down your system, and just being unwieldy in general.
Startups need something that’s more agile and flexible, and noCRM fits the bill.
You can link noCRM to your website’s contact form and start the lead nurturing process from the moment they opt in. You can organize the lead data, assign an activity for a lead, and label the leads in an order of priority to make your sales prospecting efficient.
And like Mailchimp, noCRM integrates with RingCentral to help you further streamline your lead management process. You can use this integration to create leads in seconds from any source (like phone calls, business cards, and, email)—and even dial up a prospect through RingCentral, right inside the noCRM dashboard:
Best for: Startups that need to generate a high number of leads within a short span of time. noCRM is a great fit for startups that have a heavy focus on outbound sales and low team bandwidth.
Learn more about how tech startups are using RingCentral to collaborate more effectively with distributed teams and keep customers happy.
Customers are the life-blood of startups and you have to take care of them so they remain customers—and maybe help you in attracting new ones as well. Your customer support is your last line of defense against things that might have gone badly for your customers.
You need customer support tools that can help you build empathy with your customers and offer fast, easy, and effective responses to their problems. The right tools will also help your startup identify trends that uncover opportunities to improve your products and services.
The market for customer support apps is pretty oversaturated, so it’s important you choose the ones that are low-cost and low-maintenance. Here are a few options:
RingCentral Contact Center™
Before you think that we’re just tooting our own horn, look at the list of features RingCentral offers for customer support:
- Omnichannel customer service
- CRM software integrations
- Agent management
- Real-time analytics and reporting
- Customer surveys
It’s a relatively low-cost option for startups that need to improve real-time customer support and increase customer retention.
For instance, you can use RingCentral Engage Digital to aggregate messages from all your online channels—chat, social, email, or review forums—and improve the customer experience, boost agent productivity, and get more returning customers.
Then there’s Engage Voice. With its interactive voice response (IVR) feature, it gives your customers the flexibility to find answers to their questions through a personalized self-service channel—and has automated dialers and other outbound features to help you do more with a small team.
Best for: Startups that want to manage their customer support virtually and at low cost. If your company gets a lot of inbound calls or if you want to set better expectations for your customers (e.g., holidays or offline business hours), RingCentral Contact Center lets you put your feet up and support your customers—from wherever you are.
Zoho Desk is another option that helps you log, track, and close customer service tickets coming through all your customer support channels.
Need to analyze and improve the performance of your customer support team? Zoho Desk is a flexible, cloud-based help desk support software with contextual AI that not only gives you powerful helpdesk capabilities, but also allows you to build a rich knowledge base to enhance self-service customer support and create workflows for more effective customer service teamwork.
Zoho Desk comes with a wide variety of integrations including its own suite of Zoho software and also with RingCentral. This lets customer service teams make and receive calls (with click-to-dial!) right in the Zoho Desk dashboard:
Best for: Small companies that see seasonal spikes in customer support during holidays and special occasions. You can use Zoho Desk to add or reduce tasks, exchange private messages within the team, automate support responses, and organize tickets effectively.
Rapidly growing product companies are often understaffed and overworked. Their processes are still being solidified, tasks are half-done, and teammates stare daggers at each other for missing important deadlines.
If you’re an early-stage startup that’s in the “pre-product” stage, you know how critical engineering and software development is for your business growth.
We at RingCentral ❤️Asana. It’s what helps us keep our ducks in a row and keeps us sane on our busiest days. And while we’re not a startup, its benefits definitely translate.
Asana is like yoga for managing day-to-day development projects—it’s as flexible as it gets, adapting right inside our agile processes and allowing us to assign tasks, set reminders, and track progress.
It also has a clean, clutter-free UI that makes the tool even more intuitive and distraction-free:
Hiring is perhaps one of the toughest parts of starting a company. While your first 10 hires set the culture and standard for your startup, finding the right candidate for the right role will for the most part remain an uphill task.
And the problem with most HR tools out there is that most of them are stuck in the ‘90s. Most software in the HR space are clunky, expensive, and very limited in their capabilities.
But there are a few tools that are breaking the mold.
Breezy HR is an applicant tracking software that offers you an all-in-one solution to most of your HR problems like job advertisement, candidate management, and collaborative hiring.
Breezy HR has one of the best UIs we have seen in any HR tools, which makes using the platform—you guessed it—a breezy experience. It’s the reason why using Breezy HR is not just limited to the HR team; the tool is simple for anyone in your company to be involved in hiring.
Breezy HR also widens your scope of finding the right talent for your business because of its automatic distribution network across all major job boards online, like Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Stackoverflow, and We Work Remotely.
Best for: Companies that are still in the process of building great teams. If you’re facing problems working with a headhunter agency that takes forever to find the right candidates and takes a hefty cut out of every new hire, Breezy HR is your antidote.
From managing payroll to accounts receivables and from following up on invoices to payment collections, a young startup usually has a lot of bills to take care of.
And it’s an area that impacts all aspects of your business—salaries, revenue, vendor relationship, and all other operational costs you can imagine.
That means the slightest human errors can cost you precious time and a pretty penny. And finance is the backbone for every business—when a company’s finances begin to spiral, your morale will go down too.
Investing in a good accounting software will not only automate a lot of your finance-related hassles, but it will also help you manage your expenditure, minimize tax-related blunders, and keep your costs low.
FreshBooks is one of the rare software that’s a favorite among the majority of freelancers, small startups, and mid-size businesses.
That’s because FreshBooks has been able to simplify the complex processes of accounting and finances into a delightful experience for all—not just the people who were traditionally qualified to take care of the financial side of running a business.
Over the years, FreshBooks has gone through multiple iterations to constantly evolve as a one-stop solution that’s great for startups that need to take care of all their online invoicing, accounting, payment tracking, time tracking, and financial reporting requirements.
FreshBooks’ simple user interface and end-to-end features offering makes it a killer combo for every startup to streamline their accounting and keep a tab on everything that involves money.
Best for: FreshBooks is right up there with Asana—it’s for everyone! And especially if you’re a five-member startup with, say, two founders and three techies—you definitely need FreshBooks to keep your financials at bay.
A few more nice-to-have tools for startups
Here are a few more tools and websites that can add an extra dimension to your team’s productivity and efficiency.
Coming up with aesthetically pleasing design assets used to be either costly or difficult—but Canva has changed that.
Canva can bring out the artist in you. It has thousands of templates for every business occasion that you can choose from or you can use it as a clean slate to come up with great new designs even if you don’t have prior experience in design:
Of course, this article will be incomplete without mentioning ProductHunt because it’s the #1 source on the internet for startups for finding cutting-edge tools to run their business smoothly.
Most of the products on the platform are free because they just launched—so you have an added advantage of discovering great new tools at no cost.
AngelList acquired ProductHunt in 2016 mostly because the goals of both platforms were fundamentally the same—to help startups find the right tools to succeed.
The major difference is that while AngelList helps your startup discover the right person for a role, ProductHunt helps you find the best tech tools for your startup.
ProductHunt is also great for your startup if you want to market your minimal viable product (MVP) to the world or launch a cool new feature that the world needs to know:
The best startup tools can amp up your business
The good thing about finding the right tools for your startup is that they make your job easier, faster, and less costly. It’s a hallmark of a great tool to be user-friendly, reasonably priced, and low-maintenance.
And that’s what the above tools do. Once you plug them into your business processes, they get out of your way to help you solve a particular problem.
Most of them offer ample integration options for you to make them talk to each other. The data from one tool flows seamlessly to another, and you can retrieve it easily at any time to make sure you are offering great customer experience.
We hope that you find these recommendations useful and you will use these tools to break new grounds in growing your startup.
Originally published Aug 11, 2020, updated Jul 22, 2021