Hackernoon logo21 Essential tools for a Lean startup by@Ontoborn99

21 Essential tools for a Lean startup

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If you’re working on a product idea you probably use a ton of tools already. But, here is a list of cool tools that we think might be useful to you.

I work at Ontoborn.com as a Software Engineer. It is one of the coolest places to be. We help startups with building their SAAS platforms, mobile apps and watch apps. If you are running a startup and need any kind of help with software development, feel free to write to us at [email protected]. We deliver extremely high quality stuff at pretty competitive rates.

Lean Canvas

If you’re an early stage startup the last thing you want to have to do is write a 30 page business plan. Wouldn’t it be great if you document your business model on one page. It will allow you to focus on actually building your business? This great tool lets you adopt the principles of the business model canvas using a simple web interface. Create multiple canvases if you like, collaborate and share with others, and re-visit later.It is adapted from the Business Model Toolbox, this is the brainchild of Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean and a successful blog. We use this on every project we work on and you should too. It’s a lifesaver as it makes you focus on the things that count right from the outset.


OK, this is a shameless plug, but as there wasn’t a solution out there we decided to build something ourselves. We like to create quick, informal user personas to help us (& our clients) start thinking about the people we’re designing for. After many a project hacking together hand-written personas, word documents, Fireworks & Balsamiq mockups, the frustration came too much and Personapp was born. Create multiple personas per project and export for sharing or printing. It’s still in beta but you can sign up for an invite.


A new addition to the lean startup tools out there but a valuable one all the same. Created by customer development expert and author Brant Cooper, Unassumer helps you learn quickly what your customers really want, so you can focus on delivering the best product. Get feedback from customers and prospects automatically with a simple scoring system, and get actionable data that helps you find and target your market.

Kiss Insights

KISSinsights gives your customers a way to tell you what they need. Ask a question (or two) and your customers will see it slide up from the bottom right-hand corner of your site. A neat little addition to the feedback space.


A great tool for for testing product/market fit through a customer development survey. Use their standard template to create a survey in seconds (or use KISSinsights to create your own).

Google Apps

So many (free or very cheap) tools for the lean startup. Docs (spreadsheet, presentation, pages, forms, etc). Use them as you would Office or iWork but you can also hack them for different needs. We use Google forms for user surveys, for instance.


Unbounce lets you create simple landing page design and do A/B split testing. It takes the pain out of creating landing pages (no HTML knowledge needed) and enables you to quickly test the market for your product idea.


WuFoo lets you easily create forms that can be embedded onto your site (or Unbounce landing page above) without the need for a developer to set this up for you. We use this for email signup forms on landing page MVPs to see if there’s an interest there before we build something. It also has a very user-friendly interface for managing your forms and keeping track of analytics & conversions.


Not a replacement for face to face usability tests but a good way of pinpointing any usability issues at an early stage. Their network of testers can test anything from an early stage prototype, flat designs or a soon to be launched web app. They will review your product and provide audio commentary whilst they are using it. Bear in mind though that from our experience they can come across as expert testers so may not be an accurate reflection of your target audience. But for cheap, quick feedback it’s a very useful service (from $39 per participant).


A handy little piece of software by UX experts and neighbours of ours Clearleft, Silverback lets you record live usability tests through your built-in webcam (and mic) for watching or sharing later. As well as recording the tester themselves it also records the screen activity of them using your product so you can keep track of each stage of your test. We find it particularly useful for referring back to later when you’re writing up usability test sessions. They can also be useful to distribute to your client if they weren’t able to attend the sessions in person. There’s a free 30 day trial or it’s $69.95 for the full version. .


Intercom is one place for every team in an internet startup to communicate with customers, personally, at scale — on your website, inside web and mobile apps, and by email.


BuzzSumo provides content marketing intelligence that you can start using today to improve your efforts. Analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor. Find the key influencers to promote your content. Start it right now, it’s one of the best startup tools.


Yoast SEO (formerly known as WordPress SEO by Yoast) is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.


Canva is one of the greatest lean startup tools and it gives you everything you need to easily turn ideas into stunning designs. Create designs for Web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and so much more.


StockSnap is the best place on the internet to find beautiful free stock photos.Use stock snap to get the best quality free stock photos.


SumoMe is a suite of free tools that can be used to grow your website’s traffic. The tools are easy to install and work on any website.

The Name App

You have a brilliant idea, even come up with a unique name for it, now let’s see if it has available domains and usernames on the major platforms.

Pablo by Buffer

Buffer is famous as the easy way to schedule posts for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. Pablo is meant to bring the same simplicity to create images specifically meant for social networks. Try it and create engaging images for your social media posts in 30 seconds.


Upwork is the world’s largest online workplace where savvy businesses and professional freelancers go to work. Finding freelancers for your startup was never been easier.


More than 7 million people use MailChimp to design, send, and track email marketing campaigns. You should be one of them.


If, like many startups, you’re building a mobile app, then using Proto.io to prototype your app is an important first step. Prototyping lets you test your product assumptions and user experience without spending time and money on development costs. Once you are happy with the way your prototype looks and works, hand it over to the developers and they get a “visual spec” of what to build. They will thank you.

Proto.io lets you create an interactive mobile app prototype that you can demo on your device — all of this without a single line of code.





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