From A to Z: 200 Essential Resources for Entrepreneurs Building a Business
By John Rampton, June 2015
Being an entrepreneur can be difficult. Being an entrepreneur attempting to launch a startup is even more challenging. The good news? You don’t have to go it alone. There are a lot of tools and resources at your fingertips online to help you successfully plan, launch and run your business. And, here are 200 of those essential tools and resources.
A/B testing your website will be crucial to your continued success and improvements online. A startup should always be testing what's working and improving on it.
- Experimentation and Testing: A Primer - a great resource when beginning testing from Avinash Kaushik.
- Google Analytics - this comes with “Content Experiments” which permits users to split-test page variants within programs.
- Optimizely - cost-efficient A/B, multivariate, and mobile texting for starters.
- Crazy Egg - at $9 per month this tool provides heatmaps to understand user behavior.
- Vanity - “an Experiment Driven Development framework for Rails.”
There are some of the top companies that I've used to analyze every aspect of my business.
- Piwik – free, open source web analytics platform.
- Cyfe - “an all-in-one business dashboard app that helps you easily monitor all your business data.”
- WooRank - SEO, Social Media, Mobile Optimization, Usability reports.
- Buffer - free social media engagement stats.
- Google Analytics- free web analytics and optimizer.
With your startup you need to make sure it's built on a strong framework. Here are some of the strongest CMS systems that can help your startup scale online.
- WordPress - most popular and flexible content management system.
- Joomla - an advanced CMS similar to WordPress.
- Postach.io - converts Evernote notebook into a CMS.
- Wix - equipped with code-free website builder, a blogging platform, and website hosting.
- Medium - a collaborative blogging platform.
Business plans and canvas.
These are some of the best companies and informational sites to help you with that dreaded startup business plan. Though I hate putting together a business plan, it's necessary. You have to do it.
- Small Business Administration - How to Write a Startup Business Plan
- Bplans - free business plan samples.
- Palo Alto Software - write your own business plans from scratch.
- Launchpad - “offers end-to-end solutions to validate business hypotheses, testing for value and accelerating time to market.”
- Business Model Generation - provides a free business canvas.
Cloud/open source resources.
These are sources that I use on a daily basis to sync my life and keep all my files in the same location.
- Dropbox - free cloud storage that you can share.
- Github - the world’s largest open source community.
- Joyent - powerful public cloud and private cloud software solutions.
- Box - secure content sharing, management, and collaboration.
- AWS Free Tier - cloud solution from Amazon.
Competitive online Adword/PPC analysis.
I'm a competitive guy online and like knowing what my competition is doing online. These tools help my startup stay ahead of the game and help my business better know what to do.
- SEMRush - advanced SEO/PPC keyword research tool.
- Google AdWords - a free AdWords tool and Keyword Planner.
- Spyfu - spy on competitors ads and keywords.
- iSpionage - up-to-date competitive analysis.
- WordStream - Adwords grader and advisor.
Content and online marketing.
Content is King in the startup and online world. The more you know how to strategize your content, the better you'll rank online. The better you rank, the more customers you'll have. Here are some of the best sources that I've found online.
- Curata - Content Marketing Tools: The Ultimate List.
- Searchmetrics - the best solution for content writers to take their content planning to the next level.
- Buzzsumo - allows you to analyze the content that is working for your competition.
- Quill Engage - a weekly email which presents analytics in an easy-to-understand format.
- Content Marketing Institute - a great resource if you’re looking for the latest news and tips regarding content marketing.
Without cash, your startup will fail. Here are some of the best sources that I've found to getting crowdfunding for your startup, product or service.
- Kickstarter - a great option for creative projects seeking funding.
- DreamFunded - crowdsource funding for your startup.
- GoFundMe - features built-in connections to Facebook, Twitter and email for easy sharing.
- Indiegogo - popular site internationally because of its flexibility to fund almost anything.
- RocketHub - features FuelPad and LaunchPad programs for promotion.
Customer feedback and support.
If content is king, customers are queen. Supporting your customers and giving them everything they need will help your business grow fast. Happy customers equal long-term customers.
- Olark – a live customer chat and customer loyalty platform.
- Tender – customer support software that contains a knowledgebase tool. forums and notifications regarding your site.
- Desk – one of the best and easiest support softwares I've ever used.
- Zendesk – web help software that features customer support, self-service and engagement tools.
- Groove – provides a simple online Help Desk, as well as customer support metrics.
Getting a nice design, logo, look and feel for your website will help you stand out in the eyes of your competition. Here are some amazing places you can find good design and photos.
- Withoomph - “Beautiful logos designed instantly.”
- Canva - create stunning photos for very startup prices.
- Infographics - simple to use Infographics creation currently in beta.
- 99 Designs - marketplace of 984,000+ designers.
- Wells Riley - Startups, This is How Design Works - great tutorial on design.
Getting your product out to the world is one thing. These tools will help you to validate, discover and push your product online.
- KISSmetrics - “Track, analyze and optimize your digital marketing performance. We show you what's working and what's not across all campaigns.”
- Google Trends - provides the most popular online searches.
- Product Hunt - discover the hottest new products.
- Erli Bird - “Validate your product, beta test, get feedback, and improve.”
- TrackMaven - a powerful competitive intelligence tool.
These are some of the best resources that I've found in the PR world to get your startup product out there without spending a lot money.
- HARO (Help A Reporter Out) - share your expertise with a reporter.
- PRWeb - the highest-rated press release service.
- ProfNet - connects experts and journalists.
- Boost Your Posts on Facebook - promote posts on Facebook.
- Market Wired - provides news distribution and social communications solutions.
Email is one of those things I neglected as a business in the beginning. Not now. I've seen an almost 30 percent lift in my business since I started to double down and focus on email.
- MailChimp - used to gain subscriber profiles and send out personalized and automated emails.
- Hello Bar - free tool used to collect more email subscribers.
- Intercom - a great chat and help widget, that also has automated email triggers.
- YesWare - know when someone opens your email. Best stalking known to man.
- Boomerang - Gmail tool used to schedule emails and follow-up reminders.
Selling online is the lifeblood of most startups. Here are some of the top ecommerce companies out there to help you.
- Shopify - sell your product on this popular online store.
- WooCommerce - a popular WordPress ecommerce plugin. Note: Mainly for smaller under 1000 sku sites.
- Magento - ecommerce software tailor fit to your needs. Note: Mainly for larger 1000+ sku sites.
- Prestashop - free software to set up your online shop.
- Symphony Commerce - “The most advanced commerce applications as a service to power your online store, fulfillment, and marketing.”
Hiring full time employees is very expensive. Here are some good locations to find good freelancers at startup rates. Special note: make sure to evaluate your startup freelancer before giving them everything!
- Freelancer – great place to find outsourcing for small businesses.
- upWork – allows you to hire low-cost freelance talent.
- Loot – on demand social freelancers.
- Elance – you can browse profiles before hiring freelance help.
- TaskRabbit – you’re busy, so why not outsource errands and skilled tasks to others?
Find a co-founder.
Here are some of the top places that I've used to find co-founders and other crucial team members.
- CoFoundersLab - helps you locate a co-founder by city or industry.
- FounderDating – a premiere site for connecting founders and co-founders.
- Founder2be - helps you find a co-founder for your startup.
- YouNoodle – founder matching through competitions.
- FounderSoup - connecting you to “a network of Entrepreneurial Stanford engineers, designer, doctors, marketers, salespeople, etc.
Here are some good websites for entrepreneurs looking to be better founders, meet other startups like theirs and, overall, become bigger online.
- f6s - contains a list of all the accelerator programs, as well as a social network for startups and angels.
- Startup Stash - an excellent curated list for all your startup needs.
- Angellist - connect with investors and raise funds online.
- The Funded - a community of CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs that discuss fundraising, as well rate and review angel investors and venture capitalists.
- Kaufman Founders School - an online educational resource for entrepreneurs.
Growing your business is important. Here are some top places for information on growth hacking.
- Colibri.io - allows you to tap into social networks and digital media to gain visibility.
- Nimble - gather the contacts of you and your team to construct an Intelligent Relationship Platform.
- Pay With A Tweet - create social buzz by rewarding people to mention your content or product.
- MixRank - creates a highly targeted list for your business.
- GrowthHackers - online community that helps marketers learn and share effective marketing techniques.
Participating in a startup organization/networking event will help your business to grow faster than ever before. Here are some of the top startup organizations in the world.
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization - the most influential entrepreneur community in the world.
- Young Entrepreneur Council - “America’s most elite entrepreneur organization.”
- Startup Grind - These are the top startup events in the World. They have monthly events in 150+ cities each month.
- FoundersCard - hosts networking events and provides premier benefits.
- Young Presidents’ Organization - a network of successful chief executives and business leaders who are under the age of 46.
Getting your business setup is step one to making your business real in the eyes of the government where you're living. Here are some great places for both legal advice and getting your startup setup.
- Startup Documents - “generates and stores legal documents for early stage companies”
- Orick’s Legal Documents for Startups - contains contracts and other legal documents that have been curated by an online community.
- Legal Zoom - legal solutions for starting and running a business.
- Nolo - share legal forms and connects you to a lawyer if needed.
- PandaDoc - eSign your important docs. Know exactly when and what they are looking at.
Here are some of the best loyalty programs that I've found online for startups.
- Technology Advice - connects you to the best loyalty programs for your industry.
- RewardStream – a loyalty and customer referral designed specifically for your business.
- Perka - a loyalty program that encourages repeat visitors.
- RewardLoop - a powerful mobile loyalty program.
- BigDoor - a loyalty and rewards program that allows you to reward customers even when they aren’t making purchases.
Researching what's going on in the startup world is tough. Here are a few amazing resources to help you along the way.
- Business Data and Statistics - “a collection of resources providing free access to business and economic statistics collected by the U.S. Government.”
- The U.S. Census Bureau - demographic and population data.
- SizeUp - data that shows how you’re stacking up against the competition.
- Conducting Market Research - tutorial on how to conduct market research,
- BizStats - free business statistics.
These are the must read resources for entrepreneurs to learn and grow. Here are the best resources that I go to daily.
- Entrepreneur.com - news and advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
- ForEntrepreneurs.com - advice and resources for entrepreneurs and startups.
- EpicLaunch.com - tips for young entrepreneurs.
- AllBusiness.com - provides online resources for small businesses.
- TechCrunch - my go to resource in Silicon Valley for startup news. I also like to see what others are doing.
Looking for a name for your startup? Here are a few great resources to get you going.
- Domainr: a free domain name search.
- Knowem – search tool for domains and trademarks.
- Naminum: helps you discover the perfect company name.
- Impossibility: “The best domain name generator ever.”
- Wordoid: suggests creative names for your product, domain, or product.
Payment - billing and invoicing.
Here are some of the best online billing services that I know. Note: I'm the founder of Due, so I know all the competition very well.
- Yardbook - amazine invoicing tool for online professionals.
- Stripe – APIs and tools to accept and manage online payments.
- Aria – an active monetization platform.
- Due – online invoicing and time tracking platform.
- Quickbooks - Great way to keep track of your books.
Here are a few amazing resources for when you're launching a product and need a little extra help.
- Unbounce - build, publish and test landing pages for your product.
- LaunchSquad - creates a press release, content and videos for your product launch.
- LaunchRock - “a site builder dedicated to early customer acquisition.”
- How to Effectively Launch Your New Product or Service.
- Prefinery- software for launching private beta.
Here are some of the best tools that I've used to keep track of my projects with a large (or small) team. Collaboration will help your team to build an even more amazing product. Here are some of the best out there.
- BaseCamp - popular project management; free for up to two months.
- Trello - organize and monitor projects visually.
- Campfire – team collaboration that features a real-time chat.
- Podio - cloud-based collaboration service.
- Wrike- delivers full discretion over your tasks and allows you to collaborate with your whole team.
Question and answer/networking.
You don't know everything, that's why there are the following resources. They will help you with questions you may have along the way.
- Quora - ask or answer questions related to your industry.
- LinkedIn - the world’s largest professional network.
- StackExchange – expert answers to your questions in 137 different communities.
- Reddit - large community who network by sharing relevant content.
- Onstartups - the discussions on this hub are great for information and networking.
Here are some great resources to help you with remote workers.
- Asana - converse and assign tasks with team members without email.
- Skype - call or message anyone from anywhere in the world.
- StartMeeting - free audio conferencing.
- Yammer – a private social network designed just for companies.
- Hipchat – private group chat, instant messaging and file sharing.
Social media/social monitoring.
Monitoring social media can be a pain. These are some of the top tools that I've used to monitor and respond to customers on social media. They'll give you a good idea of what's going on.
- Hootsuite - “Manage social networks, schedule messages, engage your audiences, and measure ROI right from the dashboard.”
- HubSpot – one of the best online marketing and web analytics systems.
- Buffer – simple social media marketing software.
- Tweetdeck – “the most powerful Twitter tool for real-time tracking, organizing, and engagement.”
- Adstage – manage all of your Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Ads in one place.
Surveys and polls.
Collecting surveys can help your business get unbiased information. Here are some great resources for startups to collect feedback online.
- Google Consumer Surveys - fast, accurate market research from Google.
- SurveyMonkey - free online survey software.
- Typeform - create online surveys and forms.
- Qualtrics - little higher end but one of the best platforms for surveys out there.
- Tally - create polls...in no time.
Time management/distraction prevention.
Time management is something you need for your startup. You'll never get back time so make the most of it with these tools.
- Self-Control –a Mac application that blocks out distracting websites for a specific amount of time.
- Concentrate - helps keep you focused by shutting down non-essential apps and websites.
- RescueTime - helps you understand daily habits so you learn to become more productive.
- Time Tracking - time tracking software to help you discover how much time you’ve spent on a project. Note: I'm owner of this company!
- FocusBooster - a digital pomodoro timer.
These are great apps that you can use to keep track of to do's.
- Evernote - organize your daily projects in one workspace.
- Pocket - save important articles or videos to view later.
- Remember The Milk - to-do-lists and reminders.
- Wunderlist - lists that you can share with family or team members.
- Todoist - powerful to-do-list tool that comes with a task manager.
I'm always traveling. As a startup founder, you should get used to traveling. Here are some great apps to help me travel better.
- Trip-it - gives you a master itinerary of your travel plans.
- Shoeboxed - use to scan and organize receipts during travel.
- Where Nomads at - connects you with digital nomads all over the world.
- Time Trade - appointment scheduling software.
- Airbnb - great resource when you need last-minute or affordable lodging.
Having video for your product will help you to explain your product in a way that only certain people will understand. It also helps you to show, not just tell. Here are some great resources for video beyond YouTube.
- Wistia - professional video hosting equipped with analytics and marketing tools.
- Powtoon - create awesome animated and video presentations.
- Tracker – video analysis and marketing tool.
- Stupeflix - create free, unlimited videos.
- Wideo - another tool to create animated videos.
Websites and hosting.
Here are some of the top and cheapest resources to host your website as well as have a nice looking website online.
- Ananova - Guide to Choosing the Best Hosting Package for Startups.
- HostWinds VPS - web hosting at only $2.95 per month.
- Siteground - secure and tailored web hosting.
- Strikingly.com - create mobile friendly websites in minutes.
- Host - 100 percent free Web Hosting (I'm affiliated with this company).
- DigitalOcean - cloud hosting specifically for developers.
Wireframing and mockups.
Here are a few great resources to quickly wireframe your startup and mockup quick templates. Here are a few great resources.
- Gliffy - allows you to “ create professional-quality flowcharts, Org charts, UML diagrams, Network diagrams, Wireframes, Technical drawings”.
- Wirefy - intuitive wireframes for web development.
- Frame Box - easy, sharable frame sharing.
- Pencil Project - a free and open-source GUI prototyping tool
- MockFlow - easy wireframing tool that you can collaborate with others.
X, Y and Z…
Here are 12 more very useful tools and resources that deserve mention.
- Bookkeeping 101: Debits and Credits.
- Ultimate Guide to Invoicing for Freelancers.
- Accounting Basics.
- Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.
- Content Marketing Guide - my personal guide to everything content marketing.
- How to Hire Your First Employee.
- Resumator- performance recruiting software.
- Desktime - find or share spaces for coworking.
- LiquidSpace - find daily or hourly office and meeting rentals.
- Alibaba - purchase whatever you need directly from the manufacturer.
- Shapeways - a 3D printing service and marketplace.
- Google My Business - “connects you directly with customers, whether they're looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+.”
- Paul Graham’s Essays
Finally, here are five links that have additional tools and resources for startups and entrepreneurs.
- Steve Blank - Startup Tools.
- Startup Grind - Top Startup Events Worldwide.
- Kissmetrics: 101 Resources for First Time Entrepreneurs.
- Startup Weekend Resource List.
Here's to building the best startup in the world!