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Monday, August 15, 2011

Top 5 Apps for any Start Up

I stopped using a blackberry after about 2 weeks of self-employment. (I would use the term after two weeks in business but when you are slogging out long days on your own it doesn't always feel like business.) Now this wasn't because I didn't like the blackberry and it wasn't because its an inferior device. It just didn't have the applications that I felt that I needed.

I began using Google Apps essentially as soon as I began hosting my own web domain at I can't say enough about Google Apps and how affordable and functional it is for any small business. There are lots of good solutions out there like Office 365 so I recommend checking them all out.

However, Google Apps is the easiest to set up and gives you the largest access of apps available on any cloud based marketplace. Literally everything from accounting to automated email campaigns are available to you through the google apps marketplace.

So starting with Google Apps for my internal file sharing and document storage was a decision that I would do over. (And likely will do again with my next business).

My next mobile phone was an iPhone and the cloud computing and synchronization between Google Apps and the iPhone is nothing if not remarkable. This is surprising for two reasons:

1) Google and Apple seem to hate each other. A relationship that manifests itself in lawsuit after lawsuit.

2) Apple has no cloud computing of its own on par with Google Apps. (iCloud doesn't look like it will be the answer either).

Given this, I app'ed up and these following apps are ones that I couldn't live without and recommend for any start up business.

These first 5 are basic apps that I'm going assume you already know about.

1) Twitter:
I can't tell you in 140 characters or less why this application is so useful, whether you use it on your phone or not. It connects you with people who have similar problems as you and business who's problems you want to solve. It provides connections based on ideas or 'tweets'. Check out third party clients like Hootsuite and Echofon.

2) Facebook
Although the longevity of Facebook has yet to be seen there is no denying its impressive rise and connectivity. Business and fan pages have flourished for giveaways and promotions and 'community management.' If you don't know what that word means don't feel bad I just learned about it last fall.

3) LinkedIn
LinkedIn as an app that allows you to stay in touch, connect, and solicit your business to your network. 'Nuff said.

4) Foursquare
Its hard to really describe foursquare's utility but it essentially tells your friends where you are checking into or where you are. As a business you can offer promotions and deals to get more check ins which is then publicized to their friends. All in all it is a great tool for retailers but maybe not so great if you work from home.

5) Google
Now when I say Google, I don't mean just I mean the google app which encompasses Google goggles, Tasks, Voice Search and links to all of your hosted Google Apps. It really allows you to access all of your cloud computing from your phone.

Top 5 Apps For Any Start Up
Assuming you have these first 5, these next 5 will blow your mind. Well maybe not, but they are incredibly useful.

1) Paypal
The paypal app on your phone is essential to any start up because with a very low barrier to entry you can invoice, track, receive and bank funds all while accepting major credit cards. It may not look as professional as payment gateways but it gets the job done. And in the early days of a start up cash flow is important. Paypal skims a little off the top but you need to do what you need to do to make payment as easy as possible. Especially if you are charging for your time.

2) Minibooks by Freshbooks
Once you've advanced past the Paypal stage and are ready for something a little more professional, Minibooks by Freshbooks gives you the ability to create professional invoices complete with you company's logo from your phone. If you integrate with Freshbooks' third party payment gateways, your clients can even pay you with their credit cards. On several occasions I've invoiced on weekends while skiing, at a cottage or just at home. Minibooks is a time saver!

3) Pages
Its expensive for an app ($9.99). So you have to decide if this one is for you. For me this app gives me flexibility to create and publish and attach rich text PDF's for proposals that otherwise would have required me to be near a computer.

4) GeeTasksPro
GeeTasksPro just synchronizes your tasks, but it does so for hosted domains. And for that reason my tasks are always up to date on my cloud server and on my phone.

5) Skype
Ahhh Skype. If you're on a budget or don't have a huge cell phone minute allowance, Skype is the most affordable way to make calls. The call quality is decent, and did I mention its cheap?

These 5 apps can make you more effective and productive immediately. We recommend them all!


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