So.... you have decided to launch your venture but have no idea where to start...
As the queen of automation, these are my top 10 favourite hacks that I share with all my portfolio companies. It is a blatant promotion of the products that I have found useful. Of course these are not the only tools in the market, but they are the ones that have made a difference to my portfolio companies. Don't hesitate to share your own preferences in the chat below.
1. Automated CRM, Inbound Marketing, Accounting + outsourced CFO
- Accounting + Outsourced CFO: XERO + Power BI by Microsoft - integrates to bank, accountant and bookkeeper - fully automated. The Power BI CFO tool tells you what you need to understand and what you need to focus on to drive efficiencies / improved ROE and cashflows.
- Bookkeeping: Integrate your virtual bookkeeper who I've always found easy to source from upwork.com and integrate them remotely into your Xero Platform. ReceiptBankprovides automated expense management and data entry. Just send off that box of receipts when its full and a week later reconcile the transactions that have fed straight into Xero. A beautiful scanned image of the receipt matches the link.
- Inbound Marketing + CRM : Hubspot is my all time favourite. It integrates with gmail and auto inserts each lead from your website and creates action items and you can either selectively integrate specific emails or simply integrate them all. Kiss goodbye all those hours spent on data entry to ensure team transparency of lead / client engagement, and most importantly progress on your revenue pipeline.
- Service Management - I'm a MASSIVE fan ofZendesk. With the simple Hubspot integration, we love Zendesk for its real time chat feature and autoticketing function. Ideal if backing off any support into third party vendors.
2. Website + Domain Management + eCommerce
- Strikingly.com delivers templated customizable fully GDPR compliant and SEO optimised websites.
They are Mobile first / ipad compliant and Web compliant.
Just drag and drop. Build a personal website automatically. Build a corporate website or shop in less than an hour.
4. International PR
- Want to communicate like you have the power and distribution of a big corporate agency? Send your release via iNewswire.com and watch your international media coverage roll out without deploying another second. Simply respond to incoming media enquiries - or start pitching as follow up! It also plugs into massive discounts from PR Newswire if you want to spend money and expand the reach and language connectivity to international markets. iNewswire has US coverage on tap. PR Newswire truly takes you into global markets.
- Have no idea how to pitch your story to journalists? Take your story to where the need exists - HARO - or Help a Reporter Out provides a daily round up of the stories journalists are writing. Now proactively pitch for the media opportunities that are fit for your skills and your markets. Help A Reporter Out provides you with direct access to journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories + daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage.
- Need to accelerate your market access and punch above your weight? Prezly's PR distribution platform and media room is a stakeholder engagement tool that helps you manage your key opinion leaders, influencers and influencers of influencers all in one place. Their comprehensive multilingual, multimedia, SEO media rooms, provides you with the real time analytics of who has opened what, when, where and helps you track your stakeholder advocacy. I love them so much that they are one of my portfolio companies - that's how much I believe in its prowess!
5. Telephony and Compute
- Virtual US PABX - Dialpad.com / Grasshopper.com
- Virtual Global Numbers: Skype.com
- Teleconferencing - Zoom.com or Uberconference.com
- FREE Compute - Amazon Web Services startup credits program gives you 15K+ perk access - then a further 85K in compute credits once you get flying. Microsoft has also been through a few iterations and recently relaunched their own Startup credit program.
6. Branding and Design Work
- Creative needed? - Anything that requires human creativity I give to Fiverr - I typically give 5 pitches at $10-20 per pop (depending on the project) and evaluate the best response.
- Know where you are headed? - You have a general design idea and want to plug it into templates - I love TailorBrands for a corporate identity, branded merchandise and custom content
There are 5 ways to value a startup.
- Checklist method
- Scorecard Method
- Venture Capital Method - Comparables
- DCF with Terminal Growth Model (when you have revenues)
- DCF with exit multiple (when you have revenues)
I am in love with Equidam.com - It delivers an automated investor-worthy valuation doc to validate these 5 methods with an automated beautiful print out. Don't waste your time with designers building beautiful investor materials. Equidam does it for you.
Access investors directly by listing your venture on Hatcher+, Gust, Crunchbase and Angel.co to connect to investor syndicates, talent and more. Gust will give you an evaluation of your venture from a VC perspective and provides pointers on how to strengthen your story. Publish your venture so that the VC community can gain access to your deal.
Strategize and build your value chain using the lean canvas tool on Canvanizer.com.
It provides the template to your lean canvas that you can codevelop with your collaborators and give access to your team.
Protect your IP and ideas using Digify.com to ensure security of important documents tht you don't want shared beyond the reader. Identify documents that you want to self destruct by a certain date. An ideal place to store your investor materials and analytically track who is consuming them and how.
Liveplan.com delivers you the best collaborative business planning and marketing planning tools. Formerly BusinessPlanPRO and MarketingPlanPRO. It gives you a template that you fill in with your team and it automates a beautifully formatted version of your business plan. It also provides drop in and out sections depending on how much you want to share and business plan content samples each step of the way, when you need some guidance.
Runwayvirtual forged by RunwayHQ and TechNation delivers you the bite sized accelerator training packages of know how to accelerate your startup in the key areas where you are not quite sure how.
Stanford's D School Design Thinking Crash Course - For disrupting your own ideas, as a tool for exploring open innovation collaborations and using it as the template to redesign for delivery of the desired customer experience.
8. Pitch deck and Boardroom worthy templates
Regardless of the stage of your company, a lot of your success can be garnered from your slides.
Slidebean.com - for Board Presentation templates and to access specific VC templates.
Pitchdeck - a great tool for consistent branding and communications.
CrystalKnows - DISC based Personality assessments, email style predictions and coaching tools to understand anyone's personality for hiring, team building, business development, stakeholder engagement, and more. Integrates into your Gmail and tells you how best to craft your message to the target audience's personality profile for greatest impact. Highly recommend! Understand the gaps and strengths of your team pre Series A and use it as a tool to assess for diverse new talent to round out the team, once you are ready for scale.
9. All things legal - Basic Contracts, Term Sheets etc.
- SAFE Notes - A safe note is a way to structure early investment rounds at the angel and seed stage before a properly priced equity round. It is an alternative to "convertible notes". A commonly accepted way to raise funding before your Series A.
- FAST Agreement: Don't know how much equity to give to those heavy hitting Advisors. These are best served under a FAST Agreement but be sure to add terms and conditions to the equity that they will earn in over time.
- UpCounsel - a great place to promote your trademark, patent, contract assignments to suitably qualified legal counsel all over the world.
- This Singapore website gives you your basic contract templates - NDA's, Term Sheet templates, subscription agreements etc to get started. DragonLaw - now Zegal (SG) and RocketLawyer (USA) are two legal templating tools to massively reduce your legal costs.
10. Human Resources
- LinkedIN - to access international functional talent from around the world
- Angel.co - to access angels and investors directly who can serve as Board and inhouse accelerators + cofounders and employees interested in taking stock instead of cash.
- Quarter Life Campus - A fantastic internship platform that provides you with no cost internships that cover digital analytics, business development, data science and content strategy. Be sure to provide a win/win opportunity for these talented students from around the region. Tap into different and diverse customer perspectives and identify top talent early!
- Marriagebuilder - because entrepreneur fatigue affects startup founders as well as their families.
These 10 startup hacks will see you accelerate the growth of your startup in no time at all.
These are the tools that I and my portfolio companies have personally found helpful.
If you ever need support on your journey I keep an open door at 4pm every Friday at Unilever Foundry LEVEL3 in Singapore. I'm always happy to warmly welcome a fellow entrepreneur and talk through the challenges. Sometimes its the lessons learned and shared that can make all the difference.
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Leesa Soulodre is Chief Innovation Officer of Inspirit IoT, an Adjunct Faculty Member of Singapore Management University, and an Expert for the European Research Agency on SME ICT Disruption. She is a Board member of RunwayHQ and Board Advisor to venture capital firm, Raiven Capital.
As a serial en/intrepreneur, Leesa has worked for more than 20 years on the cutting edge of strategy and technology. She has advised more than 400+ multinationals and their start-ups in 19 sectors across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas and led companies with turnovers from $4M to $14B USD into new markets. She has shared the exhilaration of one IPO, numerous exits, and the hard knocks of lessons learned.