21 tools we use to build our SaaS startup
Stack sharing for entrepreneurs
Three months ago I joined an early-stage tech startup called Forest. Everyone in the team does his best to make operations more efficient. Like many people, we hate reinventing the wheel.
Here is the list of tools we use on a daily basis. You may be familiar with most of them. Yet I hope you can still make some interesting discoveries.
I like to keep this list up-to-date and assess the value we get from each tool. Let’s get started:
Project management & Productivity
Trello helps us organize and act on todo lists as team. Business and development teams use it to work together on weekly sprints or the long-term roadmap. We like the UI, designed to make users feel as if they were directly writing on post-it notes and moving them around a board.
Calendly is a nice tool that we use to schedule meetings or calls with customers or leads. Every team member can setup his availabilities and share his own Calendly link to another person. This person will then be able to pick her most convenient time directly in our calendar. This saves us a few minutes of back-and-forth exchanges to find a convenient time slot. And we no longer need to think about time zones issues.
We use Google Calendar to schedule meetings or calls with users and all our business partners. A typical use case for us is scheduling a customer support call or a product demo via email and Calendly. Once the meeting is in scheduled, we can rely on notifications to be sure we never miss a call.
Google Drive is where we store, share and edit documents. We use it to collaborate on documents, keep history of all modifications and avoid losing documents.
Google Docs are great for many reasons. We don’t have to install softwares on our laptops and we don’t need to worry about different versions on different machines. And it’s natively integrated in Google Drive.
Github is a platform for code version control and collaboration. Our development team uses it on a daily basis to save edits to our code or make code reviews. Having our code on Github makes it possible for other people to contribute to our open-source projects by suggesting additions or fixes. Being on Github gives us the possibility to interact with the open-source community, while staying in the same place for our private repositories.
Forest is a modern admin interface that can be plugged into any app. It saves time for developers and allows teams to interact with application data in an efficient way. We’re building Forest while using it as our own admin interface. Among other things, we use Forest to get informations about our new and existing users, track and display the activity on our platform (KPIs) on our live dashboard or manage payments via the Stripe integration.
Communication (real time)
Slack is our #1 way to communicate within the team. We use it extensively to quickly share informations about things we’re currently working on, ask questions to other team members or simply chat together. We also use it for customer support (in combination with Drift) or ordering our lunch thanks to the many integrations to third-party services made possible with Slack’s API.
Drift is a tool that provides any website with a live chat. This is very useful for customer support and increasing engagement. We set up an integration with Slack so that we get notified every time a visitor is looking for help, and we can answer him directly via Slack. Visitors can also give more informations about them directly via Drift to make the support even more efficient.
Screenhero is a nice tool to share your screen with someone else. While you can do this with other tools such as Skype, Screenhero adds the possibility to let several people performing actions real-time on one computer. This is especially helpful for debugging sessions among developers working together remotely.
Skype is our #1 way to call people outside the team. We use it to touch base with customers or demo our product. The convenient aspect of Skype is that almost everyone has a Skype account. It also allows us to create a list of useful contacts that we can join any time.
Gmail is our email client. We use it for all communications that do not require an instant response. We integrated it with many other tools, such as Prospect.io, Close.io or Calendly.
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Lead generation / Sales
There are many tricks to find someone’s email or verifying that an email does exists. Hunter is one of them and comes as a Chrome extension. When visiting a website or a user profile on LinkedIn, this extension can automatically find the email of people mentioned on the page. It gives us the option to save emails in different lists that can be exported later. Obviously this does not work every time (Hunter provides you with a confidence percentage), but it often saves a lot of time.
An efficient strategy to generate leads in B2B businesses is cold emailing. Prospect.io is a tool that allows you to schedule mail campaigns. It will automatically send emails to your lists of prospects. You can schedule a series of emails that will be sent until a prospect answer you. Be sure to select relevant prospects and be careful not to end up spamming people!
One missing feature that we would love to see is thread emails: the possibility to send follow-up emails that stack into the same mail thread. This would make the follow-up less intrusive and more human.
Close.io is a CRM with clean UI and minimum features to get sales operations done in an efficient way. We use it to keep track of everything we’re doing when communicating with leads or customers. We customized the tool to match our own sales strategy. For example, we designed a set of status to follow how each lead is moving in our sales pipe, from potential user to paying customer or dead opportunity.
Payments & Expenses
Stripe is a convenient tool that provides our app with a payment system. It enables our customers to subscribe to our service for a monthly fee. This means we don’t need to code the complex parts of an hand-made payment system and can instead focus on building more interesting features for our product.
Spendesk makes it easy for us to make payments as a company, without having to provide an Amex to each team member or spend time managing expenses. It generates a corporate e-card for our payments and has a convenient built-in approval workflow.
We use Segment as unique tool to collect data from our users. Data is then streamed to other marketing integrations, such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel or Drift. This allows us to take advantage of those other tools without worrying about integrating multiple ways to gather data.
We use Mixpanel to get information about events triggered by our visitors and better understand the way we convert visitors into active users and paying customers.
Google Analytics is a convenient solution to get data about websites traffic. We use it to get information such as where our users come from before landing on our site or how many users visited our website on a given day.
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Thanks for reading — I’m Timothée Astier, a French entrepreneur passionate about startups, tech, Chinese culture, chess and rock-climbing. Making mistakes is how I learn new things. Feel free to share your ideas or suggest modifications. Wish you pleasure and success in your projects!