Six Tools That Can Help Commercialize a Startup App (with Free Alternatives)
More than 81,000 apps were launched on the Google Play Store last month alone and 26,000 on the Apple App Store — that’s nearly 4,000 new apps every day in just one month. Of course, the vast majority of those apps won’t be direct competitors but they all share the same space as you do. And competition aside, launching your startup app beyond the MVP stage comes with numerous challenges.
Fortunately, the silver lining to having hundreds of thousands of apps launched every year is that the entire process of commercializing a startup app and making it generally available to the wider public is very well-documented. As a founder, by following best practices and using the right tools, you can significantly improve the odds of a successful launch. What tools, exactly? Let’s find out.
6 Must-Have Tools for Launching Your Startup App (with Free Alternatives)
The following 6 tools were picked to increase your team’s productivity, enhance customer experience, and promote automation so time and effort are better spent on more important tasks. Utilizing these tools to the fullest could well mean the difference between the success or failure of your startup app.
Each tool/service belongs to a specific business function or task that’s critical during the GA launch phase of your startup app. And finally, each tool will also include a free alternative should you need it.
1. Social Media Management and Selling: Hootsuite
Hootsuite is an inexpensive social media management tool that can help you share your startup app news on a plethora of social media sites, schedule posts, get analytical insights on engagement, clicks, new followers, and more. Hootsuite efficiently manages many social media streams and targets multiple audiences through customizable customer segments.
Hootsuite does have a free plan but most startups would require the functionality of one of their paid plans.
Free Alternative: Later + Google Analytics
Like Hootsuite, Later is an inexpensive social media management tool with a free plan that not only includes scheduling posts but also analytics (albeit limited). Although you can use native analytics from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok, having everything in place is definitely easier.
Finally, for more in-depth analytics and to track referral traffic, we recommend using Google Analytics.
2. Finance Management: Foundersuite
Foundersuite is a cloud-based application created specifically to help startups, incubators, and entrepreneurs to manage the entire fundraising lifecycle from cradle to complete financial independence. Foundersuite provides startups with a whole host of tools, including:
- Progress Tracker to track milestones and update investors
- Competitive Matrix to track competitors
- Idea Validation app that allows the startup to get instant feedback on their ideas
- Investor CRM, which includes 69 templates founders can use for recruiting advisors, building a hiring plan, dividing up equity, and much more.
- Startup Docs, a database of over 80 docs consisting of NDAs, financial models, pitch decks, founders’ agreements, and more.
To date, Foundersuite users have raised over $250 Million.
Free Alternative: Crunchbase/Foundersuite + Google Docs/Sheets
Although Foundersuite has a basic plan, it skips on the collaborative features and the ability to add members. One of the ways to overcome this is to use Google Docs/Sheet with the base plans of either Crunchbase or Foundersuite to research potential funding sources and collaborate with team members.
3. CRM: Intercom
A robust CRM is imperative for startups to handle sales, customer-facing processes, workflow management, and a plethora of other customer-related features. For startup companies, Intercom fits the bill as an affordable, comprehensive solution with plans that allow the CRM to keep up with the growth of your company. Intercom is chock-full of features not included in many other CRMs, including alerts and escalations, a chatbot, APIs, LiveChat, the ability to create a comprehensive user knowledgebase, a helpdesk, workflow management, support ticket management, ROI tracking, a self-service portal, and a host of other useful tools.
For the price, Intercom is the most comprehensive and stable CRM for companies launching a startup app.
Free Alternative: HubSpot CRM
Unlike most other tools on this list, however, Intercom does not have a free plan. Fortunately, there is HubSpot CRM for founders that need a free alternative to Intercom. The headlining features for HubSpot CRM’s free plan include email tracking & notifications, prospect tracking, scheduling meetings, and live chat.
4. Improving UI: Balsamiq
As your app grows, you’ll need new features, find bugs, and overall inefficiencies — forcing you to kick up design and development up a notch. Fortunately, there’s Balsamiq, a rapid wireframing tool to do just that. Non-artist designers can use Balsamiq to sketch out different user interfaces for mobile, desktop, web applications, and websites without having to create design elements from scratch.
Balsamiq provides a graphical user mockup builder application featuring pre-built widgets using a drag-and-drop “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) editor. Designers can share mockups with team members and even clients. Balsamiq facilitates innovation and collaboration resulting in faster low-fidelity mockups.
Balsamiq offers multiple plans starting from a free plan to their largest plan featuring unlimited active projects. They also offer a $5 a month plan consisting of plugins for Google Drive, Confluence, JIRA, FogBugz, and XWiki.
Free Alternative: Figma
Figma is an incredibly capable design tool for creating quick low fidelity mockups. It has a large library of pre-built design components and an active community supporting it. The only limitation with the free plan is the very few projects you can work on with your team simultaneously.
5. Project Management: Asana
With nearly 120,000 paying and free customers in over 190 countries, Asana is one of the most beloved project management solutions out there. Asana is extremely customizable but also comes with numerous templates specifically designed for marketing campaigns, project launches, broader company objectives, and more. Asana offers three separate plans for companies: Basic, Premium, and Business.
Most companies will be able to quickly justify the cost of paid plans as it unlocks a lot more customizability and control over projects.
Free Alternative: (also) Asana
While there are some project managers more robust, and, arguably, easier to use, Asana simply offers the most in its free plan and is thus our pick for the best free project management solution.
6. Scaling through Cloud: Cloudways
As your startup gains more users, you may find your existing (possibly on-prem) solution lacking scalability. This is where Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting platform can help. In essence, Cloudways is a hosting provider for the cloud, designed specifically with startups in mind. Cloudways supports five major cloud vendors: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Digital Ocean, Vultr, and Linode.
Cloudways also supports various popular content management systems (CMS) including WordPress, Magenta, Koken, Drupal, and Joomla. Cloudways is easy to set up, offers pay-as-you-go pricing, site cloning, and more. In addition to this, Cloudways offers mentorship, growth tools, and a discount on Cloudways through the Cloudways Startup Program.
Free Alternative: Google Cloud (Free Credits Only)
Cloud hosting will be one of the core expenses of your startup app and one that is difficult to avoid as there are no viable free alternatives to Cloudways for startups. The closest thing to a free plan is Google Cloud’s $300 credits (not available to everyone) along with the Free Usage tier that comes with many of Google Cloud services.
Commercializing a startup app, especially on a shoestring budget, is a daunting task. Even the most business-savvy entrepreneurs are likely to face roadblocks at one point or another. However, nothing says these roadblocks cannot be avoided or quickly dealt with. By selecting and leveraging vital tools like the ones discussed here, startup founders can overcome obstacles that come with launching a product.
That said, DIYing your startup app all by yourself may not be the best idea, especially in this day and age when help is so readily available. If you’re on the verge of taking your MVP to a full-fledged app and would like to know more about the process, the challenges, and the costs, reach out to Moonlight Labs for a free consultation today.
Moonlight Labs is a digital agency that specializes in developing prototypes, MVPs, and fully-functional, scalable products. We can be the partner you need for your startup journey — from concept to launch and beyond.