Lean Startup Free Toolkit 2019 – Proven Tools for every Start Up

We already did several projects based on “Lean Startup” methodology and now we would like to share our own experience with you. Especially we believe that on early stages start up should not spend a lot of money. That’s why we collected a list of free startup tools that you can use for the work (for your startup or even if you work in bigger company). Actually we tested most of these tools on our own projects.

lean startup free toolkit: tools for people

“Lean Startup” for entrepreneurs

To be honest we are big fans of the Lean Startup approach and we recommend you to read a book by Eric Ries (if you haven’t red it yet).

From the book you can learn some basics of the Lean Startup approach with examples.

Here are some notes related to the following list of free tools

NOTE #1: We assume that most of the startup owners are non-technical people, thus we will try to keep things clear for non-techies.

NOTE #2: Most of the tools from the list below are free. Most of free tools have a paid version, but it’s not necessary to buy a paid version on early stages of your startup. Some of the tools here are paid tools, but they are still listed since it’s not possible to find a free alternative (e.g. there no free alternative to Google Ads). Paid tools are marked accordingly.

NOTE #3: All tools described here are tested by us or our clients. Some of the links here are referral links, but we added them to the list not because we get bonus (but because of the value they provide). All money earned on these links will be used to support our Lean Startup free events (online webinars and offline meetups).

Free tools for Prototyping / MVP

Tools for prototyping and mvp in lean startup

  • Business model canvas (aka “Lean Canvas”): this is a great tool for all startups on the “I have an idea” stage. It helps to get all important information together. Also it is visual, so it helps to communicate the idea to other people.
  • Balsamiq: easy to use prototyping tool. You can easily sketch Web and Mobile interfaces. It has a 30 days trial.
  • Invision: design collaboration tool. You can easily 1) discuss design in the tool (just click on the element in the design and add a comment); 2) create a clickable prototype from design screens provided by designer (this clickable prototype you can then test with usability testing tool). Just ask your designer to upload his work to Invision (most probably he/she already knows about this tool).
  • Rapid User Tests (Userlutions): Usability testing tool. This is a paid service, but you will get 2 free test credits by clicking the link (this is equal to 2 tests of the website or 1 test of mobile application). Usually it is a good idea to test your product on real people and hear their honest feedback (versus just guessing). In this case you can spend your resources in much smarter way. Userlutions is a platform where you can do this kind of testing for your idea, design, website or mobile application.

Here you can check more info about:

  • MVP – a minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future product development.
  • Prototyping – a prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.
  • Design thinking refers to the cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts (proposals for new products, buildings, machines, etc.) are developed by designers and/or design teams.
  • Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct input on how real users use the system.

Free CRM

CRM tool for lean startup

  • Google Spreadsheet: If you are a startup and you’ve got less than 5 people in sales department, then most probably you don’t need any special CRM software (which is usually expensive). On several projects we found useful to implement CRM as one Google Spreadsheet and share it among the sales people. The biggest advantages of such approach: 1) Simple to use (anyone who worked with Google Spreadsheet or MS Excel can use it from day one); 2) You can easily share and manage access of such spreadsheet; 3) It’s pretty flexible: you can do calculations inside the spreadsheet automatically, use colors and different fonts for highlighting, use filtering, sorting, charts and other data tools.
  • Google forms: This is a very powerful and free add-on to your spreadsheet based CRM. You can collect any kind of information here (user data, orders, registrations, etc.). Advantages: 1) Easy to create new forms; 2) Easy to integrate with your website / blog; 3) Results can be saved to spreadsheet (e.g. your CRM); 4) There is automatic form validation checks (e.g. email field, URL field, number, etc.); 5) You can receive automatic emails each time anyone submits the form.

NOTE #1: Here you can find guidance and some templates for CRM Spreadsheet: Link1, Link2.

NOTE #2: In the same collaborative way you can use Spreadsheets for Project Planning, Project Management, Backlog Management, Budgeting and more.

Free Analytics and Tracking tools

Analytics tool for lean startup

  • Google Analytics: This is most probably the best analytics tool for Web and Mobile, and it’s free. The tool is very easy to integrate into your product. On the other hand we can’t say that it’s easy to start using for people without experience. At the same time there is a lot of free educational material online (e.g. one from Google). Besides that there are free offline courses from Google. If you are in Germany just check “Zukunftswerkstatt”, for other countries I would just check this link or google something similar. Google Analytics has also a paid version, but it is usually needed only by really-really big projects with a lot of traffic.
  • Hotjar: this is a web-analytics and user tracking platform. We use this tool together with Google Analytics. Features that we recommend: 1) Free mouse and scroll tracking (heatmaps); 2) Free user video recording (you can see what exactly users do on your website); 3) Free surveys, e.g. allow your users to give you feedback about your website. Project also has a paid version, but if you don’t have too much traffic, save a paid option for the future.

NOTE: If you use any kind of analytics on your Website and your customers are from EU, then you need to add an appropriate note in your “Data Protection” legal copy. For more information just google “DSGVO” or better consult with your lawyer (we are not allowed to give you any legal advise).

Free Hosting & Cloud solutions

free hosting cloud solutions

  • AWS: Most probably the most famous and biggest cloud as a service solution from Amazon. AWS proposes a one year free trial (according to Amazon: “12 Months, $0 Cost to You & 40+ Products. Sign Up & Use AWS for Free“). This free trial version has limitation on usage of the resources (e.g. computational power and disk space), but usually smaller startups that need to host only couple of websites or web services will not be able to use all the proposed free resources. Everything that will be used out of the free plan should be paid by you, please check the pricing before starting.
  • Azure: Is a competitor to AWS from Microsoft. Microsoft proposes a free trial program (12 months of popular free services, to learn which services check the link). For startups Microsoft also offers a Bizspark program. BTW: Microsoft had an advanced version of the program which is called Microsoft Bizspark Plus with value of $60k in Azure services (but it looks like they already canceled it).
  • Microsoft AI: If your startup has such components as AI, Machine Learning, Big Data based decision making, then I would recommend to look at it. Also they have very nice set of free tools for Cognitive Services (human like, e.g. image or speech recognition). As it stated on the MS website: “Infuse your apps, websites and bots with intelligent algorithms to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret your user needs through natural methods of communication. Transform your business with AI today.

Website building (free domain, website, blog)

  • Domain names: Yes, there are free third level domain names (e.g. see below: WordPress “my-company.WordPress.com” or Blogger “my-company.blogspot.com”) but if you want a nice business domain name, e.g. my-company.com or my-company.de you will have to pay for it. Two more disadvantages of that free domain name: 1) Sometimes you will get ugly ads on your website and you are not able to controll that on free plan (e.g. on WordPress.com); 2) You will not be able to set up a nice company email address (e.g. [email protected]). Different domain name providers have different prices, so I would recommend to check several providers before the purchase (just google for “domain name” and see the offers). We like NameCheap.com since very often (but not always) we were able to find the cheapest prices there.
  • WordPress.com: It looks like this is the most easy to use and most famous CMS (Content Management System) and blogging platform. With this platform you will be able to host your website for free (see the comments about domain names). Unfortunately with a free version you will also get ads on your website, but sometimes this is better then no Website at all.
  • Blogger.com: this is a blogging platform from Google and it’s similar to WordPress.
  • Google My Business: Another way to get a free Website is to register your business on “Google My Business” and create a custom website there. Here there is a
  • Free WordPress themes: If you decided to host your website with WordPress, you can check some free themes. There are free themes with really nice designe. Check Link1, Link2. I would not spend too much time checking tones of websites with free themes, since the themes there repeat.
  • Free stock photos/images: Images will not only make you website more interesting and nice looking, but they also can improve your SEO (e.g. position in google search results). See these websites with free images/photos: Link1, Link2. There are even more websites, but sometimes free photos from one resource are copied to another and you see the same photos on several websites.

… to be continued …

This is a not finished article. Soon we will add also sections of free tools for: Marketing, Tasks Tracking / Agile Project management, Source Code ownership and work together, SEO, Company Email, Website fail safe, Communication, Outsourcing and Getting things done, Work / Live / Travel.

We always are looking for ways to improve our content and we need your feedback for that. Please send us email to leanstartup{at}software-it-outsourcing.com, tell us: 1) What tools you can recommend; 2) What can we improve in this article; 3) What are the next lean startup topics or knowledge areas you would be interested in.

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Additional resources (startup toolkit):

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Lean Startup Free Toolkit 2019 - Proven Tools for every Startup
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Lean Startup Free Toolkit 2019 - Proven Tools for every Startup
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Up-to-date list of free Lean Startup tools for Prototyping & MVP, Analytics, SEO, Marketing, CRM, Hosting and Cloud, Website building, Communication and Outsourcing. Designed for Non-Techies.
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SITO: Software & IT Outsourcing
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