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If this is your first time launching a company or running a small business, you’ve probably felt overwhelmed by all the things you just found out you didn’t know.
Overnight, you’ve become the HR, IT, Tax, Benefits, Compliance, Finance, Accounting and Marketing departments all in one. All that, and you still need to build an amazing product, sell investors on your dream, and recruit a stellar team to bring your vision to life.
Since starting Cluster in 2018, we’ve been through all of this and then some. To save you time and help you avoid mistakes, we've compiled a list of our favorite tools to help you quickly build an infrastructure that’s efficient, easy to manage, and will take a massive burden (and a lot of liability) off your shoulders.
Gusto is a cloud-based platform that makes it very easy to set up recurring payroll for employees and send payments to contractors. The all-in-one application is also useful for making employee reimbursements which is useful for companies that don’t incur enough expenses to warrant a dedicated expense management platform like Expensify or Abacus.
Gusto also manages third party benefits (health, dental, vision), and automatically enrolls and manages contribution amounts when we add new folks to the team.
Rippling is an all-in-one platform that handles your company’s payroll and IT needs. In addition to payroll and benefits, the company is a one-stop shop for laptops and cloud apps (Slack, Zoom, Google Docs). They’ll ship pre-configured equipment to new employees with remote access management already set up so they can get right to work. The best part is that their equipment packages are billed as a monthly fee so you’re not shelling out the full price of new computers up front.
Selecting a law firm that regularly works with startups will save you a lot of time and money. They can help you understand current market deal terms and rates. They will also have legal document templates to help you navigate common startup issues found across your business. Many also offer deferred payment plans until you’ve hit certain funding thresholds. We’ve been very happy with our firm Orrick. They’re not cheap, but when it comes to attorneys, you get what you pay for.
Need on-demand HR help? Bambee gives small and medium-sized businesses access to an HR manager for just $99 a month. You will be surprised by the number of HR-related questions that you’ll have as you build your team. Bambee won’t just save you time, it also helps you mitigate risk down the line. It’s worth it.
As a startup, Brex is one of the few companies that will issue you a credit card without requiring a personal guarantee. Their credit card rewards program is generous and their travel portal is great (that is, whenever we can get back to traveling).
We were an early customer of their banking product, Brex Cash, which combines checking and savings into a single high-yield account (back when interest rates were above 0). It also provides free domestic and international wire and ACH transfers. Their website experience blows other banks out of the water, and customer support has been excellent. The downside: they’re a virtual bank that doesn’t issue checks or allow you to deposit cash.
The next level up is a company like Bench which will take care of bookkeeping for you. They’ll categorize and correctly apply expenses and revenue across your ledger, saving you a lot of time and pain brushing up on corporate accounting rules. If you're pre-revenue or you don't need accrual-based accounting, this is an very good value.
Many startups qualify for special R&D tax breaks for new businesses developing technology. Clarus R+D is a firm that specializes in helping companies apply for and receive these benefits. They can unlock substantial tax savings for your company.
Slack’s value comes from three key areas. First, notifications make Slack a real-time status tool for literally anything in the business: job posts, leads, applicants, site goes down, expense charges, Twitter mentions, GitHub pushes, Google Calendar, etc. Also, the experience interacting with some of these third-party integrated products is even better on Slack than via their own interfaces. Second, teammates posting links, ideas and conversations in public spaces is the best way to disseminate information at a company. Third, it kills internal email, which is great.
If you’re a remote company or just want to get team collaboration started on the right foot, check out Notion. It’s an integrated Wiki, project management, spreadsheet, and document tool all in one. Currently, they’re running a $1,000 free credit special for startups.
Never do another repetitive task again. These tools integrate with just about everything you use on a daily basis to automate tasks, such as transferring and transforming data between a form on your website and Google Sheets, and notifying you via email or Slack. They are very easy to use and immediately gratifying. Many have freemium plans to get you going.
The amount of tools you get for $12/month per user from GSuite (email, video chat, cloud storage, Sheets/Docs/Slides, etc) is exceptionally good, and the offerings have only gotten better over the last few years. I’ve enjoyed how well things are integrated across their platform. For example, Google DataStudio is an included tool that enables you to build dashboards from multiple sources including Sheets, Google Analytics and custom queries run in BigQuery.
Airtable makes creating and organizing a database as easy as using basic spreadsheets. It is visual and configurable for non-technical folks for maximum ease of use. Airtable incorporates great tools such as Kanban views for project management and forms that can be integrated into your website to capture data.