11 free SaaS apps & tools for your SaaS startup that you need day 1

Jul 24, 2015 4:30:33 PM

Startups are an amazing thing — it's never been easier to get to work in building & launching a SaaS (Software as a Service, cloud, whatever) product than it is today. Obviously, building a happy customer base and a sustainable business is something different altogether, but we won't cover that here.

In your startup, collaboration, speed, and efficiency are the keys for startups working to compete as a real, professional looking company out of the gate. Your competitive advantage is your ability to respond quickly, growth hack, and tweak your message at lightning fast pace based on your customer feedback.

And there's more technology than ever to help you collaborate, communicate, and streamline your operations to make yourself appear much, much bigger than you are and evolve and grow and an incredibly rapid pace.

Email + File Sharing: Google Apps (OK it's not free, but it's close enough to be worth it)

For getting email, file sharing, and document collaboration setup there is literally no one else in the game. It's so cheap to get an email address... but you also get the added bonus of the amazing collaboration tools of Google Docs and Google Drive. We relied very heavily on Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides in our earliest days because our content would change by the minute, and we needed to be able to keep things in sync.

Example: My first few weeks at PactSafe, I really wanted to get in and start updating our Investor Deck... and we started swapping PowerPoint decks back and forth. And after v4_FINAL_final version, we decided it was wise to start building and managing decks in Google Slides. Brilliant, awesome time saver.

Real-time Collaboration, Chat, and Business Integration: Slack

I can't imagine our business running smoothly without Slack. It works especially beautifully when you're working from home or working with a remote team. It's asychronous communication, meaning that you can check it when you want (and reply when you want). It's a group chat that's fun! We establish channels for the team based on specific working topics like #marketing, #educational, #product-updates, and more. It helps manage the conversation as we grow and organize how we find things.

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But what's incredible about Slack is integrations. Integrations are the absolute key to helping us understand what's going on with our business. Here's just some sample integrations that I love:

  • Any time someone submits a form on our website, we're notified in Slack so we can follow up immediately!
  • Any time a customer logs a support ticket (or updates it), we're notified in our #support channel!
  • You can automatically subscribe to blogs and it will post to Slack when a new post is published.
  • Any time we're mentioned in social media, it posts to our #social-media channel. Magic!
  • By typing /hangout, it automatically starts a Google Hangout for the entire team!

And you can customize it even further with a lot of integrations, customized web hooks, and more. It's a nerd's dream — but most importantly, it's a beautiful product that encourages great collaboration. My email inbox thanks you, Slack!

Task Management + Collaboration: Asana

Asana is seriously the best task management app out there. Not only is it super easy to use, it has the added value of shortcuts, collaboration, and project management baked in. I've setup a system I'm pretty proud of to always keep a backlog of my shifting priorities while also managing what I need to do today.

So here's how I manage my days...

  1. Log in to Asana.
  2. Check out my "Priorities" project.
  3. Move what I want to work on today to my "Today" project.
  4. Crush the day.

One thing I love about Asana is the ability to track status and completness of projects. Similar to an Agile Burndown chart, you can easily see how your progressing against your tasks. Here's what my "Today" project looks like:

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The collaboration in Asana is great, too. You can invite your team to add tasks, comments, files (integrated with Google Drive or Dropbox), and generally just eliminate the need for email. What's also great is the integration to Slack to notify your team in real-time of progress or interaction on specific projects (or all projects!).

Painless Integration: Zapier

Zapier makes it super easy to integrate all of these apps together. It's important to enable systems to talk to each other to keep things in sync and keep track of how all of these crazy apps talk to each other, right? It provides a slick interface to connect apps like MailChimp and Slack, for example, to notify you when you get a subscriber!

Here's some other awesome things you can do with it...

  • Automatically create Asana tasks from Gmail
  • Automatically save Twitter mentions to a Google Sheet
  • Connect a myriad of tools to Slack

It connects systems via APIs without writing a single line of code. Awesome! And useful!

Email list building: SumoMe

SumoMe is an awesome tool to drop onto your website and start doing things like collecting email addresses in a way that's proven to work. It's all proven through tons and tons of research to promote social sharing, email list building, and more. Some apps are paid, but you can get started and check it out for free! Here's an example of our website showing a SumoMe List Builder app:

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Awesome beginner's graphic design tool: Canva

Want to make awesome, professional looking graphics without learning Photoshop? Canva is a super easy to use tool that gives you templates, stock photos, and more to create great looking graphics in a few clicks. It even provides templates to get started for free!

Email marketing: MailChimp

If you don't know what MailChimp is, I don't know what to tell you other than to go check it out. Amazing email marketing utility to help you communicate with your customers & prospects!

Website & blog: WordPress

Wordpress has truly matured as a website content management system. We were able to get our entire website redesigned and launched in a matter of days using a couple of awesome plugins.

Here are the plugins we used (note: some are paid):

  • Advanced Custom Fields makes customization for the end user super easy.
  • Yoast SEO to analyze and ensure your pages are 100% optimized for SEO.
  • SumoMe (covered above) for email list building.

Payment processing: Stripe

Stripe is super easy to integrate to on your website to get payments. It's trusted, secure, and integrates to everything.

Customer support: FreshDesk

FreshDesk is a truly amazing custom support system that allows you to setup everything support-wise that you might need including a knowledgebase of published articles and widgets for enabling live chat directly on your website. It's a great way to start interacting with customers using your product!

This Awesome Growth Hack Microsite

Looking for creative ideas for growing your startup? This website has a ton of resources you can read, download, and more to help get customers, leads, and overall website traffic. We've stolen many of these great ideas to help us build our business!

I hope you found this list helpful. What tools would you use if starting over? What did I miss?

Eric Prugh

Written by Eric Prugh

PactSafe CPO & Co-Founder