We’re five months in since my joining Doubloon, which has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life. Particularly fun is the ability to work with a handful of rock stars who can pivot quickly, adjust product design, and build a game changer while having a great time doing it.
Having the right tools to support rapid change is important when you’re running a fast moving start up. I’ve spent a bunch of time trying to put together the right “toolbox” for our start up, and have shared it below in the hopes this will help all you would be starter uppers out there. In putting this together, we generally followed a few principles, so you might want to reality check to see if these apply to you. We like free better than paid for obvious reasons. Since we’re located in three geographic areas, web accessible is a must. We’re always on the go so we favor mobile access apps too. We strive to “underdo” the competition by focusing on easy to use, key benefits in our own product and favor products with the same simple design philosophy in mind.
That said, here’s the Doubloon toolbox:
Ud.com – Checks domain names and popular social networks for reserved name availability with one click. Nice.
Flowtown – Email marketing which ties in social media information to keep contacts up to date. Because who has time to keep those contacts updated when the social networks are in effect the most reliable CRM system out there? We’re just starting to use flowtown, but I’ve been quite impressed thus far.
Knowledge Management and Idea Vetting
Evernote – awesome app when we’re rambling off ideas and concepts and want to refer to them later on your laptop, home computer, or mobile device later. The best part is that the mobile and web interfaces sync via the web seamlessly – no weird syncing mobile to client app nonsense. I probably shouldn’t admit this on the web, but frankly it’s hard to believe Evernote is free.
Basecamp – We like basecamp for managing product development sprints and document templates for the same reason we hope our customers like us : powerful and simple.
Balsamiq.com – If you haven’t tried balsamiq for quick interface mockups, you don’t know what you’re missing. Bonus: XML based outputs allow for quick sharing via even instant messenger.
Development and QA
Litmusapp.com – Really slick cross browser testing – Litmus gives you screenshots of a url within one browser window.
Redmine – Solid, bread and butter functionality ticketing system which prioritizes simplicity over large feature set (see a pattern here?). Needs to be installed, but like everything else on this list, it’s a web app.
Linkedin – speaking of Linkedin, I’ll simply leave you with one thought: I see Linkedin as the world’s largest CRM system.
Highrise – The second of 37 signals’ products on our list, mostly since their design philosophy is pretty similar to our own. Deal management on Highrise is way simpler than other systems (even free ones), and the iPhone app is indispensable for quick look ups while traveling to conferences, client meetings, etc.
Quickbooks – You’d be surprised how many “large” companies use Quickbooks, and why not? For $150, it does the job and does it well. One thing worth noting: the $9.95 /month basic option is far, far less featured that the boxed product. The $34.95/month premium option is far better, but you’re paying about $400 a year versus a $150 boxed product which does the same thing. Accounting isn’t a group sport, so skip the online and pick up a CD.
WordPress – There’s a number of terrific options in the blogging space, but wordpress seems to us the best combination of open source, zero dollar pricetag, functionality, simplicity, and power. We host our own but a wordpress hosted site is a great option for very young startups.