• Michael Knighten

The 2020 SaaS Startup <$100 Essential Toolkit

I’ve recently co-founded a startup, and after working so long in more mature enterprises with diverse toolchains, it was actually massively educational to return to first steps and figure out what our critical needs were, balanced with essentially zero budget. As we’ve grown and raised money, we’ve graduated in some areas to other tools, but I wanted to share what we felt were the absolute can’t-live-without-tools for a team building SaaS software. I don’t have any vested interest in any of these apps, they’re just the ones we settled on as we spun up, they worked perfectly, integrated where we needed, and were either free or very cheap.


  1. Google Apps. We knew going in we’d want to centralize authentication around Google SSO, and didn’t want to have to go back later and move everything over after setting up simple sign-in. A bonus for us has been how strong Google now plays with Microsoft docs - when we receive Keypoint presos, Excel sheets, Word docs like MSAs etc., we’re able to do everything in Google and send it back, and not a one of us have a MS license. And an added unexpected bonus has been that Google Meet (or whatever its called this week) has worked surprisingly well for our internal meetings and standups etc. And at $6 per user pm, it fit our budget.

  2. Slack. No-brainer. Used free for months, and only started paying once we wanted to bring in external users etc., and even then it’s insanely cheap for the value we derive.

  3. AWS. We’re building on AWS, and never really considered using anything else. There are a number of ways to get your hands on AWS credits too, some banks (eg SVB) offer startup credits, as well as some credit cards etc. - we found that by leveraging our networks and partners we were able to get most of our AWS usage free for the first year, which is massive when there’s no revenue.

  4. Jira. We’re all Atlassian old-timers, so didn’t really consider anything else, and it being free to start again matches our budget. We have looked at a few other issue trackers eg Clubhouse since starting up to figure out integrations, and tbh just aren’t seeing that anything yet comes close to the power of Jira’s workflows, issue states, etc.

  5. Github/Bitbucket. Not much to say here, you gotta put your code somewhere and we’re using both for various projects. And they’re only getting more free by the day.

  6. Quickbooks. I tried out a few different tools for managing accounting and HR etc., but found that Quickbooks has everything you need to start out, and I’m amazed that every time I want to go do something new the functionality is there. We started out only paying $28 for QBO which is nuts given we were able to tie together all our bank/card accounts, do budgeting, pay bills, run payroll (once we started paying people), etc. and are only up to $70 now with the additional modules we’ve added. Such a great value.

  7. Stripe. We need to be able to bill customers, and can’t even begin to think about PCI compliance right now. Stripe integration with our app was brain-dead simple, and the cost is peanuts compared to the value we get, especially given they only get paid when we do.

  8. Reclaim. We didn’t know we needed Reclaim until we did. Startup life began as a welcome return to meeting-free days with time to work and GSD… for like two weeks. Reclaim works perfectly and noise-lessly to manage our calendars, and is free.

  9. Miro. From day one, our team was remote, with team members ranging from San Francisco to Boulder to Slovenia. I was initially suspicious of a whiteboarding app that might whistle me back to the kind of horrid multi-day “planning offsite” navel-gazing exercises that I’ve come to dread, but we’ve found Miro to be awesome for working thru ideas with remote team members. And again, free. Amazing.


That’s it, that’s what you need to start. Everything a SaaS startup needs to get up and running, for under $100 a month.


Epilogue

As we’ve grown, there are other apps we’ve added or replaced. We needed a CI tool so we went with CircleCI. We eventually outgrew QBO for payroll once we added health insurance benefits and international payments so went to Rippling for that portion, still keeping QBO for everything else. We added Carta for managing equity, Datadog and Sentry for deployment metrics, LaunchDarkly for feature flags, SalesForce and Outreach for CRM and email campaigns, Figma for design iteration, etc., but even still our total spend across all tools is less than $500 a month. It’s a great age to build a company with the wealth of inexpensive, amazing tools on the market.


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