28 Tools to Help You Launch Your Startup
It’s the catch-22 of the startup world: you want to launch something cool, but you need money to do it, but you won’t have money until you launch something cool.
Hey, we get it. While it’s harder to get your startup off the ground without much of a budget, we’re big believers in constraints; sometimes, the fewer resources you have at your disposable, the more clever and thrifty you get. Below, you’ll find 28 tools to help you bring your idea to life—everything from products that will help you build and design an app on the cheap, to plug-ins and services that will make it easier to market and promote your idea. We hope you find a few things in here that help make your launch a runaway success.
Where to get press coverage for your startup.
We’re just going to state the obvious: getting press coverage for your startup or product launch can be a huge pain in the donkey. Luckily, now you have Submit.co—a list of tech-related media sites — sortable by number of Twitter followers and Alexa rank — to help you find the media outlets that can best tell your story. This tool doesn’t do all the work for you (you still have to find specific journalist contacts, in most cases), but it sure makes it easier to come up with your initial outreach list.
Free searchable database finds journalists for your startup.
Hey Press is a searchable database of tech journalists. The site has crawled hundreds of thousands of articles written by thousands of writers to help you find the journalists who care about and cover startups like yours. Just enter a keyword (e.g. transportation, bitcoin, VR, etc.), and boom! Out comes a list of the more relevant writers, along with the articles they’ve written and their contact details (when available).
Get notified in Slack when your startup is mentioned online.
With this Slack integration, you can create alerts for anything you want to be notified about, like: when your startup or competitors are mentioned anywhere online, when a specific person is mentioned, or when something gets published about an event or topic you want to track. You can also select sources you want to read notifications from (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Blogs, Product Hunt, Medium, News Sites, etc.).
The best free stock photos in one place.
Finding stock photography for your startup’s website, product, and/or blog can be a huge pain — not to mention a time suck. Luckily, Pexels 2.0 slays with its enormous free stock photo collection. This high-quality, free alternative to paid (read: expensive) stock photo sites like Getty Images and Shutterstock is a gem. No more spending hours looking for the perfect image of someone writing on a whiteboard. And no more paying hundreds of dollars to use a photo, either.
Create gorgeous images for your app page in minutes.
App Screenshot Builder makes it easy to make well-designed, custom images for your App Store or Google Play page. This builder was created so that anyone can use it — even if they don’t have previous design experience. If you’re working on launching a product with little-to-no budget, this is an invaluable tool that will help you create a sharp looking page without spending a ton of money on screenshot images of your app.
Create product screenshots for free with just a few clicks.
Smartmockups is a ridiculously useful tool if you’re trying to make product screenshots that don’t look super cheesy. It can be time-consuming to go through countless mockups to try and find one that fits what you’re looking for. This site whittles it down by only highlighting high-quality images, which are all free (hooray!). You don’t even need to use Photoshop; just choose your favorite mockup, upload your design, and voila! You’ve got yourself a decent looking product mockup in minutes.
1000+ high-quality design freebies.
On Freebbble, you’ll find 1000+ design freebies made by Dribbble users. Whatever your startup needs, you can probably find it here, including: fonts, icon sets, mobile templates, and wallpapers. All of the designs are tagged with a license so you know when and how you can use something. As the note on the site says, “Dribbble users are nice. If the license is unknown, it is usually because they forgot to mention it explicitly; not because they were being stingy. Ask nicely and they will probably allow you to use it.” Aren’t they the best?
Design quick mocks, directly on your phone.
If you need to create a quick mockup on your phone, there’s no easier way to do it than by using Napkin. This tool gives you control over various layers so you can really make your design pop. Just a few of the things you can play around with: photos, shapes, fonts, icons, and colors. In a few minutes, you can convey a visual idea and remove any of the annoying guesswork that is often involved when a team is designing, well, anything. Doesn’t hurt to have this app on your phone if you frequently work on creative projects — whether for fun or for work.
The simplest graphic design tool you’ll ever use.
If you can’t yet afford to hire a graphic designer but don’t want your social media posts or documents to look like crap, Canva is the tool of your dreams. It is mostly free (yay!), and the templates will help you get started with whatever you need to create. This tool a simple (and honestly, addicting) way to make your visual content look decent. Some features cost a little more, but it’s definitely worth it. Canva may just be the simplest, best graphic design tool for non-designers on the market today.
Build a fully functional web app without any code.
The goal of Bubble is to make programming easy for those who don’t have experience with its visual programming tool that allows you to build web and mobile applications without any code. The intuitive drag and drop builder allows you to easily add page elements like: text, videos, maps, icons, images, buttons, and more. Everything is customizable, down to font colors, icons, and the visibility of various elements based on what’s going on in the app you design.
The workflow-based programming enables you to define exactly what happens, action by action. You can define your own data structures, build your your logic (e.g. if the user click on X button while logged in, do Y; otherwise, do A), and allow your users to upload their own content. The tool is completely free to build; you only pay for it once your audience starts to grow.
Build professional dynamic websites without any code.
This is an incredible visual content management system (CMS) tool. All you have to do is tell Webflow what kind of content you want to build (e.g. blog posts, portfolio pieces, recipes, etc.) and start customizing the site structure accordingly. There are a bunch of pre-existing templates available, as well, do it’s easy to get started if you have no idea what you’re doing.
This is a great way to design hundreds of pages quickly — for example, you can create a single template for “blog posts,” and that design will automatically apply to every item you label as a blog post. You can also write and edit right on the live website and your content will update automatically, which is pretty sweet.
Curated collection of best free themes & website templates.
A curated collection of the best free website templates. Each one is evaluated based on: visual appeal, ease of customization, and functionality. You can search for what you’re looking for by category, keyword, and creator, which makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Bonus: There are also collections dedicated to specific design trends, like “material design” and “modern portfolio.”
Add a CTA button to your app, no coding required.
This is a must-try for startups that want to optimize user flow on a webpage or in an app. You can use URX Buttons to give visitors and customers to listen to music, buy a product, make a reservation, and more. This is a great tool to pair with your content marketing efforts, as well as upselling initiatives. This tool is so easy to use, it’s a no-brainer. No coding required.
Create beautiful HTML5 web content with no coding required.
If you’re looking to create HTML5 content without coding experience, then Hype 3.0 is just the tool you’re looking for. The keyframe-based animation system well help you bring your content to life. You can create animated banners, buttons, and other indicators. You can also build out web pages that need more interactivity, like portfolios. If you’re feeling really creative, use Hype to build things like animated eBooks, eCards, infographics, and presentations. You’ll want to try this one if you’re looking to give whatever you’re building a little bit more magic.
Onboarding teardowns of popular sites/services.
We’re big believers that when building something new, it’s best to learn from some of the most successful pre-existing sites and apps so you don’t have to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel. At User Onboarding, you can find dozens of in-depth UX teardowns to see how popular web apps handle their signup experiences. This is a great resource for borrowing already-proven UX strategies if you’re looking to optimize your app’s user conversion rate quickly (and who isn’t?).
Discover how your mobile users feel.
If you want to understand how your mobile users are interacting with your app before you continue throwing money into it and/or doing a hard launch, check out UXTesting. While users are testing your app, you can watch their facial expressions and track video of their behavior while using it. This is a great way to assess whether your desired user behavior is intuitive, and where you can optimize the site to better achieve your main business objectives. This testing tool will save you tons of time, and ultimately make your product better.
Workflows for designers driven by UX activities.
UX Assist is a useful app that provides workflows to designers. You’ll find 12 unique categories, including: client-based product, data-driven product, minimum viable product, optimum viable product, and more. The process is pretty simple: choose a product type based on your business and product requirements. Next, choose your medium (e.g. mobile, web, multi-platform), and get a pre-defined workflow with a list of various UX tasks that you can customize to fit your project. Set deadlines, and mark them complete as you go! Voila—UX made easy.
Create compelling UX documentation in no time.
We’re suckers for rapid prototyping. UX Map is a tool that helps you do just that. If you want to document your design ideas and map out potential user flows without spending tons of time on wireframing, you’ll want to use this. You can write functional specs directly on the wireframes to represent user journeys, rather than doing it in a separate document and disjointing your vision from the design. Whether you’re working with internal designers and developers, or a team of contractors, this tool will help you save time (and money) by allowing you to clearly articulate your vision from the beginning so there’s less back and forth once the development process begins.
Create a viral waiting list for your product in 60 seconds.
This is a super simple but highly effective tool built to help you create curiosity and anticipation during the launch of your latest product or service. You can create this widget, which is essentially a waiting list with a built-in referral system, in about a minute and embed it onto any webpage. Future customers are rewarded by moving further up the queue whenever they get their friends to sign up, too. This is definitely worth trying if you’re about to launch a new product, launch a book, organize an event, and more.
Email copy from great companies.
Even if it seems like such an overdone marketing channel, email remains one of the most effective ways to build and engage your customer base. And writing email copy remains one of the most tedious marketing tasks ever. If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel completely, check out Good Email Copy. Created by the Front app team, this is a collection of emails from great companies like Slack, Trello, Pinterest, Basecamp, Everlane, Eventbrite, Shopify, and more. You can sort by tag (e.g. welcome, thank you, new features, billing issue, invitation, upgrade, etc.), which makes it super easy to find sample copy related to the kind of email you’re looking to write.
Create outbound call campaigns in less than 5 minutes.
Making outbound calls are perhaps one of the most time-consuming marketing/sales efforts you could possibly engage in. With Upcall, now it doesn’t have to be (woot!). All you have to do is choose the list of people you want to reach, and add any custom scripts/questions. Then, select from thousands of “Upcallers,” who are matched to suit the exact needs of your call campaign using factors like: language, geography, expertise, and more.
You can collaborate with and coach your callers directly, as well as analyze the results of your campaign in real-time. This is a highly scalable solution if outbound calls are part of your growth plan; you can call 100 or 1,000,000 people in just a few hours on a pay-per-use plan.
Track backlinks for any website.
If you want to improve your website’s SEO, backlinks matter — but they are often difficult to keep track of. This product makes it so much easier. After a quick setup, you’ll get access to a dashboard when you can monitor newbacklinks, SEO progress, and organic traffic driven by search engines as a result. You’ll also have insight into your keyword rankings, links with social interaction, Nofollow vs. Dofollow links, and more. This is a great way to strengthen SEO and keep tabs on your competitors. A great tool for marketers and anyone else who nerds about about website growth.
All-in-one conversion pop-ups for your website.
Lead Flows, created by the team at HubSpot, is an all-in-one conversion pop-up. You can easily turn visitors into leads with the pop-up widget, which is highly customizable. It essentially puts your CTA, form, and deliverable all in one little pop-up widget.
There are a number of cool things you can do with this tool, like target visitors with the right content at the right moment by designing pages and triggers that work best for your company and product. One of our favorite things about this tool? It makes it easier to measure and manage your leads. Once someone converts, you can track their page view and form submissions history, learn about their interests, and more. Such a useful tool for your marketing and sales efforts.
Add a welcome banner bar to your site in seconds.
Bounce Bar is a script that allows you to publish eye-catching banner bars on your site without any code. You can target these CTA bars to users based on what site they came from and whether they’re blocking your ads. You can also set up different bars for different web pages, which is really useful if you want to highly tailor your CTAs throughout your site. This is such a simple tool, but it has the potential to greatly impact your conversion rates — no matter what you want your visitors to do. Definitely worth giving this a try.
Generate surveys in seconds.
Let’s be honest: surveys suck. It’s a pain to create them, and a pain to try and get users to complete them. Typeform makes the process not just easier but actually enjoyable (both for your team and the users you want feedback from). The form builder is simple to use, and allows you to create visually appealing and engaging questionnaires quickly and painlessly. If you need to get user feedback and want high completion rates, this tool will help you accomplish just that.
Communicate personally with every single customer.
Intercom.io describes itself as “a fundamentally new way to communicate with customers.” And they weren’t lying. Broadly, this suite of integrated products allows multiple teams — marketing, product, sales, support — to effectively target and communicate with the company’s customers. In turn, this makes the relationship with a customer more seamless and personal. You can observe what your customers do for free, but if you want to start conversations, you’ll need to pay some cash money. Starting at only $49 per package, we think this suite of tools is a steal! Try it today, and watch your customers start to love you.
Learn how your visitors are really using your site.
This tool is kind of exactly what every marketer is looking for. Hotjar is essentially a conversion rate optimization solution, helping businesses truly understand how web and mobile visitors are using a site. You can look at heatmaps (to see where visitors are clicking and scrolling), funnels (to understand the points at which people are leaving your site), forms (to gain insight on and optimize completion rates), and a lot more. Seriously, this is an invaluable tool for tracking and optimizing how your marketing efforts convert. There’s a free version, but you can also upgrade to “pro” or “business” if you want something more robust.
And one more, for good luck…
Articles you need to read before launching a startup.
The amount of content out there about starting and scaling a business can be quite overwhelming. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find a Twitter feed orPocket list of articles offering up advice on everything from fundraising to designing a product to building a customer base. Enter Startup Launch List.
While it’s not possible to capture every great read on the web, you can count on Startup Launch List to help you whittle things down to the essentials you need to read You’ll find a collection of the best articles on: coming up with an idea, becoming a successful founder, building a team, creating a product, making money, and more. You’ll find some of the best content from Chris Dixon, Hiten Shah, Paul Graham, Mark Cuban, Jason Fried, Fred Wilson,Mark Suster, Tim Ferriss, and other investors and entrepreneurs in the tech industry. Happy reading :-)
Growing a startup is hard, but we hope at least a handful of the tools above will help you make a splash with your launch—even if you’re working with a minimal budget. If you’re looking for even more leap startup tools, you can find them in this collection on Product Hunt: