Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Two Favorite Entreprenuer Bootstrapping Tools

There's a great discussion going on over at the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur's Facebook Group. The topic mentioned was that of Entrepreneur Resources. I couldn't resist chiming in with my two favorite tools.

Here's what I had to say...

My favorite two TPE tools (in terms of money saved, and functionality):

1) - Google Apps (free edition) - this is huge. To add to what Sam mentioned above, Google Apps provides you with free e-mail, documents and calendar for your own domain name. It was one of the first things we put in place for our small business, and was by far the smartest "IT" move we've made.

Consider the advantages of Google Apps...

For the price of a domain name, I was able to ditch and setup:

This let me put forth a much more professional image than an address.

The document tools meant we didn't have to rush out and buy MS-Office. Instead, we could make use of the Word Processor and Spreadsheet provided by Google Apps. While not as sexy as Office, they provide some definite benefits like online collaboration and remote storage (i.e., docs live on Google's backed up servers, not my flimsy laptop hard drive).

There's also a calendar module that helps keep our schedule relatively under control, and this too allows for online collaboration. The fact that our clients can send me an MS-Office meeting request, and I can seamlessly reply to it, is probably reason enough to setup the calendar.

The bottom line is that we ended up saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, just by signing up for this single service. We didn't have to buy Outlook or setup an Exchange server - and I didn't need to bring in a Windows expert to get it all working.

2) - Of course you've heard of Wikipedia - pbwiki allows you to setup your own company wiki. And why would you want to do this? For me, a wiki is a super fast way to setup a combination knowledgebase / scratchpad.

Need a place to jot down marketing ideas? Stick them on the wiki. My todo list? Add them to the the wiki. Customer details? Make a page for the customer, stick the details there. The wiki grows easily, and can accommodate all sorts of tidbits of information. Rather than having to make an effort to have a centralized intranet for your organization, you can build one organically using a Wiki. And the pages are accessible by your team, so everyone can be on the same page.

I find that both of these tools let us get down to the business of coding (which is what we do), without worrying about IT infrastructure (or cost). They're a huge win.


  1. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Ben - I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about Google Apps. For many of us, Google Apps is a robust, inexpensive set of tools that work. Sure, Google has suffered some service outages recently, but that's unavoidable with any application, not just Google Apps.

    For your readers that are looking for to learn more about Google Apps, they should check out this online video, Google Apps: Quick Tour which is sponsored by Google, of course :-)

  2. Anonymous3:21 PM

    ... so long as you don't mind giving Google all of your personal info, the right to troll it, and the right to send you advertisement based on it.

    We set up a macmini as a workgroup server, VPN enabled, CalDAV, wiki, etc etc. The cost: $600. It's run for 2.5 years solid with a reboot about once every 6 months. OpenOffice takes care of M$Office. Airset (or others of that ilk) cover the calendaring for free (if CalDAV is too difficult to setup).

    Basically, any entrepreneur who even considers an Exchange server when starting out, should reconsider their decision to be an entrepreneur! Even VC funded with money to burn, there are faster, cheaper, simpler, more stable ways to do things than slaving one's company to Micro$oft.

  3. Anonymous -

    Personally, the google having my data issue doesn't bother me. I already trust them with my info, and their security / backup strategy is going to far outweigh anything I can come up with. So, I see the ads as a small price to pay for a great product.

    On the other hand, I agree with you that there are other solutions besides them. Your MacMini approach sounds like a great one.