Free (and nearly-free) tools every startup founder should know about.

One of the great things about creating a startup in 2024 is that there’s an incredibly wide range of powerful tools available for little or no investment. It’s amazing how a startup operation that would have required five people a few years ago can be run by one person on a laptop today.

Here’s my list. Got additional ones that should be on here? Let me know!

Jump directly to:

Communication and Collaboration

Google Workspace. Startup agility means being able to do real-time collaboration on documents and spreadsheets. Don’t be sending Excel and Word docs via email attachments – 1996 is never coming back again!

Real Time Communication: Don’t manage your team via email as if it’s still 2009. Use either Slack or Discord (both have free plans).

Calendly. Don’t be annoying by asking someone for a meeting and then taking 13 emails to find a mutually convenient time. Send them a Calendly link and say “just pick any time that’s convenient for you”. (free version gives a subset of functionality).

Notion is a great tool for creating and sharing rich media documents. Get Notion for Startups – $1,000 package for free! Also, Coda is a similar platform.

Project Management Me, I was born without the ability to organize anything, sadly. Fortunately, there are a bunch of great planning apps out there including Trello, Asana, Monday, and

Marketing and Sales

Social Media Management Tools. For many startups today, social media is an important component to top-of-the-funnel activities, and you don’t really want to spend your entire day posting across six different socials. Hootsuite, Sked Social, and Buffer are all designed to automate your social media posts. All are paid, but have some free features.

Email Lists. You will want to start collecting emails and sending out updates on your awesome new startup. Mailchimp has become a standard, Hubspot does this and more, MailerLite is good as is Omnisend. On a related note, I love SerialMailer for sending personalized emails in bulk.

Website. You can build a website for your startup in a few minutes, little or no money. Options include Squarespace (you can buy your domain there too, since they took over Google’s domain business) as well as Wix and cool no-code platforms like Bubble. If you want to go a little deeper, WordPress remains the world’s largest website platform (software is free, many inexpensive hosting options) and of course if you’re opening an online store then Shopify is huge.

Need some great photos? Don’t steal from random people on the internet, get high-quality free photos from Unsplash and Pixabay!

Can’t afford a copy of Photoshop? Photopea is a free online analogue of Photoshop.

If you need to create forms and surveys, plus get analytics, Wufoo is my old friend, and Typeform is a little slicker.

Canva, of course, is an incredibly powerful graphic design platform, with a free trial available.

Competitive Landscape Research

Want to know how interest in peanut butter cookies today compares to the interest in chocolate chip cookies over the past five years? Google Trends gives you a free look at search volume data!  Answer the Public, ahrefs, Semrush, and UberSuggest will give you insight into what people are searching for online. This will help you to craft articles and posts that will align with current search traffic, plus it will give you market visibility that will help to inform all of your marketing efforts.

Crunchbase and Pitchbook. Find out have much money each of your competitors have raised, who invested in them, and when. These are both paid services, but there is some data available for free.

Wayback Machine Want to know what Zoom’s pricing page looked like in 2015? The Wayback Machine has historical screenshots of nearly every website. Free. It’s awesome.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Let’s say you wanted to see a list of people with “Widget” in their title, working at companies East of the Mississippi, who started their job within the past 18 months, only at companies with more than 1,000 employees. The standard edition of LinkedIn won’t do that, but LinkedIn Sales Navigator will. An incredibly powerful tool.  (free 30-day trial).

Owler Hard-to-find company data and smarter news alerts. Free version lets you follow 10 companies per month.

G2 and Capterra Are you selling software and services? You’ll want to read the reviews of your competitors.

And don’t forget plain old-fashioned discussion groups. If you’ve developed a new brand of ice cream, for example, you’ll want to join all the different online groups for ice cream lovers. Check out Facebook Groups, Reddit, Slack groups, Quora, and find groups that are relevant to your venture. Join the conversation. It costs nothing, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll develop leads that will end up being valuable for your startup.

  • RocketLawyer and Legal Zoom are both very comprehensive providers of online DIY legal services.
  • Long before the rest, Nolo has been the leader in legal self-help books and resources.
  • CommonPaper is a great resource for creating contracts from standard templates.
  • You’ll be sending and signing a lot of contracts, as a startup founder, so make sure you are using a good e-signature platform such as HelloSign (now part of DropBox), DocuSign, or PandaDoc.
  • Several large law firms offer DIY document generators and more. Their goal, of course, is hoping that you’ll be a great paying client someday. Some of the best are:
    • Foley Ignite is probably my favorite. Very large well-respected law firm offers an incorporation kit, resources, document generator, and more.
    • CoolyGo Cooley is a very large global law firm (1,200 lawyers) and they put together a site filled with free resources for entrepreneurs, including document generators.
    • DLA Piper Accelerate is the same idea, from another large global law firm.
  • Stripe Atlas has become a very popular company formation service.
  • Clerky is an excellent service for startup legal paperwork.
  • Gust is a startup service that offers an incorporation package.

Mockups and Prototyping

If you are building a product that will be delivered as software, website, or mobile app, there are tons of great tools available for doing mockups and prototypes. Here are a few of the best:

  • Balsamiq is an awesome tool for rapid mockups (free trial).
  • Miro is a comprehensive visual collaboration tool that includes Freehand, a powerful tool for creating interactive prototypes (free for 1 prototype).
  • has terrific prototyping tools, and a free version to start.

Finance and Capital

Cap Tables: Carta is the best way to manage your cap table. They have a range of services for startup founders through their Carta Launch program:

When you send out pitch decks, make sure you use DocSend, which allows you to see who has viewed what.

For business banking, check out Mercury, and for a business card for your startup, check out Ramp.


A free collaboration platform for developing web applications. Automatically manages real time collaborative editing, version control, and deployment.

Cloudflare (managed DNS for free)

Provides worldwide infrastructure for web content distribution to ensure that your website loads quickly no matter where your users are.


A version control platform for code repositories. Securely track and distribute code across your team and external contributors and integrate it with your application servers.

Browser Dev Tools

Web browsers include sophisticated tools for developing and troubleshooting web content. Advanced performance analysis and logging are closer than you think.

VS Code

Code editor with a robust extension and integration community that integrates seamlessly with github.


Encapsulates applications in containers that can be shared and run across many different environments and types of infrastructure ranging from development to production.

Ubuntu (Linux)

One of the most popular variants of Linux that supports headless environments, desktop systems, or subsystems in environments like Windows 10.

Stack Overflow

If you’re an engineer, you’ve visited Stack Overflow: a community of engineers that ask and answer detailed questions about implementation of code and engineering solutions.

A popular service for learning how to use coding frameworks and tools. Driven by instructors in narrated, short videos that demonstrate concepts accompanied by downloadable examples you can run.

MDN Web Docs

An exhaustive and authoritative resource for documentation around web standards and APIs.

Finding Freelancers

Upwork – find a freelancer for anything, sometimes at amazingly low rates.

Fiverr – great for small projects, sometimes as low as $5.

Amazon Mechanical Turk – good for microtasking (with used it for customer development and research – hired 100-200 people to complete our survey for $1)