Startup’s Little Helpers: 18 Tools To Improve Your New Business This Year

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From communication to design and funding - we'll show you 18 tools that will help make your new business a success!

If you’re part of a startup, the odds are stacked against you from the start. We recently reported that 50% of UK startups fail after five years, and Entrepreneur reports similar statistics for the U.S. at slightly over 50% (if you’re looking at a ten-year timeline, 70%). And these are just averages; the actual rates can get even worse depending on your industry. So what does that mean for today’s hopeful entrepreneurs?

It means we need all the help we can get.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of tools to help startups survive those first telltale years. In fact, quite the opposite: there are so many entrepreneurial tools, it’s hard to tell which ones are worth investing in and which aren’t.

In that spirit, we wanted to help with our list of recommendations for startup tools. Browse our list below by the categories relevant to you to save you time researching and choosing your young company’s little helpers.


#1 Slack

Don’t underestimate the importance of inter-company communication. A delayed response or missed message can cost you a sale or customer in the early stages of a business when each one matters. While everyone has their own favorite communication platform, we recommend Slack. Aside from standard options like instant messaging, group chats, and a mobile app, Slack goes above and beyond with the option to organize conversations by topic. The robust freemium version also fits the budgets of most startups.


For the times that require a more personal and face-to-face conversation, messaging apps like Slack won’t cut it. You need something like (think Skype but tailor for business). allows for easy video conferencing with multiple attendees, a perfect solution for the rise of remote workers. Additionally, the screen sharing features are ideal for presentations and aiding communication, and the intuitive interface makes it easy to use.

Project Management

#3 Trello

The rule of thumb for project management apps is, the simpler the better. After all, that’s the nature of organizational apps, to simplify otherwise confusing schedules. Trello changed the game with their column-based system with drag-and-drop usability: you can assign and prioritize tasks with just a click or two, or keep future projects within reach until they’re ready. Their freemium model is perfect for startups, and as an extra bonus, it even integrates with Slack.

#4 Asana

Asana is the Pepsi to Trello’s Coke. Both are great tools with viable freemium options. The difference is Asana is more advanced at the cost of simplicity. Asana has more advanced features that benefit richer, more involved projects, but it’s harder to use than Trello with a steeper learning curve. It all depends on the level of depth you require; Asana is better for bigger teams and more complex projects.

Social Media

#5 Buffer

Can’t yet afford a social media manager and have to do it yourself? Buffer is a lot like a social media intern and costs about the same if you use the freemium version. Buffer allows you to write out all your social media posts in one sitting and schedule their posting times. It’s all about time management efficiency: you’ll save a lot of time and stress if you spend an afternoon writing out the bulk of your social media posts for the month. Aside from making your life easier, you also don’t risk forgetting to post during peak times.

#6 Hootsuite

Hootsuite does everything Buffer does, and more. For example, Hootsuite offers an analytics features for monitoring your social media performance and ROI, as well as options for assigning tasks if you’re working with a team. Like the Asana vs. Trello debate, it all comes down to how depth you require. Buffer is best for simplicity and small groups, Hootsuite for more complex strategies and bigger teams.


#7 Foundersuite

Touted as an “Investor CRM,” Foundersuite offers an array of features to help you grow and manage your list of investor leads. Their customized search tool allows you to search for investors that meet your criteria, plus generate reports in 15 minute or less. In addition to organizing your investors, Foundersuite also offers extra resources for startups, including Idea Validation for feedback on your concepts, and more than 80 templates for pitch decks, financial models, term sheets, and more.

#8 Gust

Gust is more like an assistant for startups starting up, with features and services to help organize the early stages of a business. For a flat fee, you get access to services like legal consultation, incorporation advice, and banking guidance. Moreover, their equity management program assists with tax compliance and stock options. They also have features for tracking and managing investors, similar to Foundersuite (but not as involved).

Content & Marketing

#9 Sumo

It’s hard to pin down just one thing Sumo does; rather, it’s a grab bag of helpful marketing tools with a variety of services. To sum it up, Sumo allows you to add marketing tools — pop-up windows, social share buttons, CTA buttons, video backgrounds, etc. — to your site to increase traffic, engagement, and email signups. All the while, it collects performance data so you can properly fine-tune your marketing strategy as you go. It’s also worth mentioning that it integrates with other marketing software, including Mailchimp.

#10 Buzzsumo

Another marketing tool named sumo? While Sumo is more of a general marketing tool, Buzzsumo focuses on content marketing and influencer marketing only. Buzzsumo applies sports-like stats to content marketing so you know, in no uncertain terms, how certain articles, topics, and influencers perform on different channels. Buzzsumo is equally effective at deciding which topics to post about on Facebook as it is at finding the best Twitter influencer broken down by industry.


#11 99designs

The bigger the web grows, the more effective crowdsourcing becomes. No one understands this better than 99designs, a crowdsourcing platform that connects entrepreneurs with their ideal designer. When dealing with an abstract field like design, one of the biggest problems is that you’re never sure what you’re going to get when you partner with a designer. 99designs circumvents that problem — their designers compete for your project, and you’re able to see before you buy. A perfect companion for entrepreneurs, since they handle everything from logos, to web design, to product packaging.

#12 Crazy Egg

Strictly for web design optimization, Crazy Egg offers a suite of usability tests that reveal what works about your site, and what doesn’t. While other usability test sites specialize in one or two types of test, Crazy Egg has a variety, including A/B tests, heatmaps, and click testing. Additionally, you can record actual user sessions to see how real people interact with your site.


#13 MailChimp

It wouldn’t be a list of business tools without mentioning MailChimp — and for good reason. The email campaign manager earned its popularity through its genuinely effective marketing automation. Emails have proven themselves a powerful marketing tool, but sending individual emails to all your customers and leads would be far too time-consuming. MailChimp handles it for you, with a user-friendly email builder for professional looking emails, analytics reports, and an integration for e-commerce needs.

#14 Boomerang for Gmail

While not nearly as heavy as MailChimp, Boomerang for Gmail provides a lot of quick-and-easy email workarounds, namely scheduling email send times and automating follow-ups for one less thing to worry about. On top of that, Boomerang has a nice feature that actually helps you write your email, ranking areas such as readability, length, and politeness and calculating how likely it is to receive a response.


#15 Skillshare

With all these great new startup tools at your disposal, how are you going to learn how to use them all. Skillshare gives you inexpensive online classes for any number of fields from filmmaking to illustration, not to mention business. Aside from teaching you a new craft, you also get the support of the community, other students, plus some hands-on work as each class has you complete a project.

#16 General Assembly

General Assembly is another site for online classes but is more centered around business skills. Here you’ll find more classes for fields like coding, UX design, and data interpretation. General Assembly acts a lot like traditional schools, even offering some in-person classes, and a network of alumni to help with job placement and partnerships.

Shop & Ecommerce

#17 Shopify

Simply put, Shopify is like a lite version of an e-commerce platform. That’s not to say it’s inferior — actually, a lot of people consider it the best. What we mean is that it’s a simplified, more user-friendly platform for getting your feet wet in e-commerce. While it lacks the features of more intricate platforms, Shopify’s usability is top notch, and even first-timers can create beautiful, professional looking stores in under a day.

#18 One Tool to Rule Them All

To wrap things up, we’d like to recommend one final resource that encompasses many of the demands of starting a digital business. It’s the Business Starter Kit 2.0, a collection of guides, how-to articles, and best practices for startups, written by experts who have been through it all already. Curated by 99designs, this collection covers advice for every aspect of a business, including:

  • Giving presentations
  • Branding
  • Website and landing page design
  • Email marketing
  • Making your business compliant
  • Launching a Kickstarter campaign
  • Writing a business plan

The Business Starter Kit 2.0 has advice for everyone, even the experienced entrepreneurs. Take a look now to answer all your startup questions.

What startup tool have you found most helpful? Are you looking for recommendations in an area we haven’t covered? We want to hear your thoughts, so leave a message below in the comments section!



Disclaimer: This post was created in collaboration with 99designs.

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