Here is a list of accessories that bootstrapper’s may find useful along their journey. The vastness of choice on the web can be difficult to muddle through. Here are a few apps and services that I either personally use, or have came across on my journey in the bootstrapping and start-up world.
CRM: Zoho & SugarCRM
Every business needs a CRM, standing for Customer Relationship Management. From bootstrapper’s to large enterprises, we need to ensure we are organised to allow us to better serve our customers. I’ve used a lot of CRM’s in my time, and whilst Salesforce.com is my outright winner in terms of functionality it’s just too expensive for most bootstrapper’s out there. So in first place here is ZohoCRM http://www.zoho.com/crm/. Zoho provide a whole bag of tools for bootstrapper’s, their costs are from free to pretty fair and you can sign up with no fear of incurring huge costs should you need to scale.
SugarCRM http://www.sugarcrm.com/ is very like Salesforce and has an open source community. Sugar for me is too expensive and falls in to the same boat as Salesforce.com. However it’s saving grace is that it has a community edition, so if you know how to manage a LAMP server you can likely install this and it will meet most of your needs.
Support Ticketing: OS Ticket, ZenDesk & Snappy
Support is a huge part of most companies, and a good support ticketing system can be hard to come by. There are various offerings out there, the most well known I would say is Zendesk.com, it’s a great platform with many, many users. osTicket http://osticket.com/ is in my opinion the best free self hosted support ticketing solution on the web. I’ve used it many times in different deployment types and it simply works. The last one to mention is a new player to the market Snappy http://besnappy.com/ developed by UserScape http://www.userscape.com/. UserScape however are no new entry to the market, they have been providing support ticketing software called HelpSpot for many years, plus they were bootstrapped which is great. In the new connection economy these guys are top dollar.
eMail: Google Apps & ZohoMail
There are lots of webmail providers out there. If you’ve already got your domain and website it’s likely that you already have some form of webmail. I often find that these solutions just don’t meet requirements when you have multiple email addresses that may need varying levels of permissions, filtering, access, forwarding etc. For me there are two outright solutions here, the first is Google Apps http://www.google.com/Apps the de-facto go to for webmail. The only issue is it used to be free, and now it’s anything but. I still use it because I’m a big fan but an alternative offering is ZohoMail http://www.zoho.com/mail/. ZohoMail is a fantastic solution. And if you are using ZohoCRM then you are a perfect match.
There are many billing solution available on the web, but I usually only offer my support to one; WHMCS http://www.whmcs.com/, a true British success story. WHMCS are the biggest hosting billing solution on the web today. Their solution incorporates a host of features that even offers basic CRM! I dedicated a whole post to WHMCS that you can read here. I offer no alternative but if you find one please review and feel free to comment with your feedback.
On-line Shop: Open Cart & eShop
Opencart http://www.opencart.com/. Opencart is a great piece of software, I’ve worked with it many times and the one thing it offers above all the rest on the web in my own experience of course is documentation and very active user forums. If you’re not in to installing your own software and configuring to suit your needs then I would suggest looking at eShop http://wordpress.org/plugins/eshop/ for WordPress. Again it offers great documentation and has a huge community behind it.
Payment Solutions: Paypal
My only experience other than with major merchant gateways is with Paypal, Paypal is recognised and accepted pretty much everywhere on the web. If a site does not support Paypal I’ll often go elsewhere as I like the convenience and security. The big thing going for Paypal is it’s documentation and community. If you need a developer to work on payment integration in to your web apps or eCommerce store then this is the way to go.
With that said I’m really looking forward to finding new start-up providers that can compete with Paypal. Their fees are very high and the market is ripe for the taking at the minute. I’ve seen many new web app type providers popping up but until they get a little more traction it would be hard to recommend any.
When looking for any provider solution it can be hard to decipher among them, my main ‘must haves’ are usually great documentation and active community. My secondary is low entry cost and manageable costs if I plan on scaling.