Launching and growing a startup is one of the biggest missions an entrepreneur can undertake. But while competition remains fierce, the advancement and accessibility of smart solutions are making it easy than ever for startups to find their feet.
Business tools — from customer relationship management (CRM) platforms to accounting software — help to save startups time and money by automating key processes and maximizing efficiency. Yet, with so many tools vying for the attention of business owners, navigating the over-saturated market can be overwhelming.
Every solution we include is affordable, and we even list some free options for startups committed to keeping costs to a minimum. Read on to discover our top picks, or jump to specific sections using the links below.
Best Free Business Tools for Startups
Not every startup will have a budget for smart software. If you're keeping a hawkish eye on your outgoings, here are some great startup tools that you won't need to spend a cent on.
- Startup tool: Accounting software
- Price: Free
Accounting software doesn't need to come at a premium. Lenido is a quality accounting tool that offers a number of accounting functions at no cost to the user.
The free accounting platform can be used to create invoices and quotes, produce financial reports, view unpaid invoices, apply discounts and refunds, and encrypt your data. Lenido can even integrate with your accountant for tax support, which is quite a boon for a complimentary tool.
- Startup tool: VPN
- Price: Free
Hide.me VPN is the best complimentary VPN we've tested. The security and privacy tool offers an impressive amount of features for a free tool, including a killswitch, obfuscated server options, and AES-256-bit encryption. Its network speed is decent too, but its use is restricted to the US, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands.
While Hide.me is a decent security solution, startups should be aware that ‘freemium' VPN services tend to profit by displaying ads and tracking your data. For many internet users, this trade-off may not be worth it.
And Hide.me isn't the only free business tool that should be approached with caution. While complimentary software can provide a lifeline to businesses in a squeeze, their user experience, feature offering and commitment to data protection will always fall short of paid-for alternatives.
With this in mind, next we cover which business solutions are worth splashing a dime on.
- Startup tool: Video conferencing
- Price: Free
You've probably already heard of Zoom. The video conferencing platform welcomes over 300 million daily users, and enjoys some of the best name recognition in the industry — and for good reason.
If you're looking for a no-frills video calling app, you really can't go wrong with Zoom. The platform lets users create meetings, facilitate breakout rooms, livestream calls across platforms, and even support the meeting with live translation and captioning.
Best Communication Tools for Startups
Communication tools refer to any type of technology that helps businesses stay connected. Here are a couple of our favorites.
- Startup tool: Web conferencing app
- Price from: $11.99
If you manage remote or hybrid teams, RingCentral provides the best web conferencing software we've reviewed. Its platform, RingCentralVideo Pro offers high-quality video and audio, a heap of unique features that give bigger names Zoom and Google Meet a run for their money, and no limits on call length.
RingCentralVideo Pro has a rock-solid free plan too, so there's no reason not to try the software out for size.
Polycom VVX 601
- Startup tool: VoIP phone
- Price from: $249
If it's a voice communication tool you're after, Polycom VVX 601 performed the best in our Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) research. Not only does it boast a sleek ergonomic design, but it also X every single feature you'd expect from a top-tier internet phone system.
From its 4.3-inch color touchscreen and 16-key setup to its HD voice quality and video capabilities, Polycom VVX 601 is a lot more versatile than similar models. However, at $249 per model, its price point is a little steeper than other VoIP systems we reviewed.
Read our guide to the best VoIP desk phones to check out its competition.
- Startup tool: Multi-Line Phone System
- Price from: $189.99
Multi-line phone systems are great options for those who can do without the bells and whistles of VoIP systems. When it comes to multi-line systems, Nextiva X-885 is about as reliable as they come — letting businesses handle 12 lines, connect to existing softphone technology, and even manage customer relations.
Thanks to its impressive versatility, Nextiva X-885 outperformed every other model in our research, making it the best multi-line phone system for startups.
Best Cybersecurity Tools for Startups
With online attacks costing businesses more and more each year, investing in cybersecurity is no longer optional. Here are some affordable tools designed to keep startups safe.
BitDefender GravityZone Antivirus software
- Startup tool: Antivirus software
- Price from: $77.99 per year
Antivirus software is a simple yet effective way to keep threats at bay. After researching and testing the top solutions, BitDefender GravityZone came out on top due to its impressive feature stack and high levels of customizability.
BitDefender's central console offers a variety of functions including app blocking, anti-phishing filers, and ransomware protection. Its price point may be steeper than rivals like Surfshark, but if you're after antivirus software that can do it all, BitDefender GravityZone will be the choice for you.
- Startup tool: Password manager
- Price from: $2.99 per month
As password requirements grow increasingly strict, password managers provide workers with a centralized way to keep track of codes. NordPass is a reliable and versatile password manager that offers a range of useful functions from autosave autofill to password strength tests.
NordPass doesn't overload users with unnecessary features, making it simple and straightforward to use. It offers a free version too, which is a huge win for startups with small or non-existent cybersecurity budgets.
- Startup tool: VPN
- Price from: $7 per month
Virtual private networks (VPNs) help you browse the web securely by disguising your IP address when you use the internet. NordLayer was the best VPN we tested due to its slick usability and stand-out features like its dedicated account manager and central control panel.
Providing users with DNS leak protection and a dark web monitor, NordLayer is actually much more than a VPN, and at just $7 per month, it doesn't break the bank either.
Read our guide to the best VPNs to see how it compares against its rivals.
Best Project Management Tools for Startups
Project management tools are essential for streamlining your workflow and keeping all your ducks in a row. We list our top picks below.
- Startup tool: Project management
- Price from: $5 per month
ClickUp is the best project management software we tested, largely because of its generous free plan. ClickUp Free Forever isn't restricted by a user limit, is packed with useful task management features, and even offers 24/7 live support. It does have a five-project limit, however.
But this can easily be bypassed by creating multiple accounts or upgrading to its paid plans which start at $5 per user, per month.
- Startup tool: Project management
- Price from: $8 per month
If you're still working solo or managing a tiny team, we would recommend using monday.com instead. monday.com is extremely usable and it's easy to adapt to the needs of your startup – offering a number of customizable functions like drag-and-drop functionality, and editable columns.
The platform makes it simple to automate a number of processes too, from status updates and email notifications to progress updates and time tracking. But while monday.com is a great option, especially for small teams, it doesn't offer time tracking and real-time chat features on all tiers like ClickUp.
Best Marketing Tools for Startups
Getting the word out about your business is essential, especially if you're early on in your journey. Here are some tools that can help expand your startup's reach.
- Startup tool: Social media management
- Price from: $10 per month
Zoho Social is a one-stop-shop for email marketing, letting startups schedule posts, collect social feedback, collaborate, and analyze post performance all for as little as $10 per month. Zoho supports a wide variety of social platforms too, from Instagram and TikTok to more niche sites like Pinterest.
Zoho Social is the best social media management tool we've reviewed, largely because of its affordability. However, if you run ads on YouTube, or are in the market for more advanced features like content targeting and custom reporting, you'll need to fork out a little more for Zoho Social's Professional or Premium plans.
- Startup tool: Email marketing
- Price from: $16 per month
If you already manage email campaigns — or are considering launching one in the future — Omnisend can help supercharge your strategy. The email marketing platform lets you create tailored email content with templates and a drag-and-drop builder. Its automation options, like automation splits, conditional content blocks, and custom workflows, help to save startups valuable time, too.
Most of these features are available for free. But if you'd like to send out more than 500 emails a month or reach over 250 contacts, you'd need to bump up to Omnisend's Standard plan which retails at $16 per month.
HubSpot Marketing Hub
- Startup tool: CRM marketing
- Price from: $18 per month
CRM is a core part of any successful marketing strategy. HubSpot's Marketing Hub excelled over its competition in our research, thanks in part to its impressive free plan, its abundance of robust marketing features, and credible help and support options.
Startups can use the platform for email marketing, content marketing, and paid marketing at no cost. However, unlocking social marketing and omnichannel features comes at a considerable premium, so we'd recommend using separate tools for these functions, instead. Check out how it compared to its competition in our guide to the best CRM marketing platforms.
Best Financial Tools for Startups
Looking to streamline your finances without hiring a professional? There are tools for that, and here are some of our top picks.
- Startup tool: Accounting software
- Price from: $30 per month
When it comes to getting your books balanced, no software is better than QuickBooks Online. Not only does it offer a top-tier feature stack, including great bookkeeping and accounts payable and receivable tools, but the accounting software also integrates with some of the biggest platforms, from Square to PayPal.
While QuickBooks Online is solid across the board, it really excels in expense tracking. The platform allows users to create custom categories and run reports for improved visibility, and its app even lets users track miles driven on business trips.
- Startup tool: Invoicing software
- Price from: $11 per month
Zoho Invoice is our best-rated invoicing platform for small businesses and freelancers because of its generous user limits and its reasonable starting price of $11 per month.
The tool offers 16 invoice templates which can all be customized to your business's branding, and it has advanced capabilities lots of its competitors lack like multi-currency support and hour tracking.
With multi-customer billing and automatic payment reminders, Zoho Invoice's free plan is pretty comprehensive too, as long as you only need to fire off a few invoices each month.
Best HR Tools for Startups
Whether you have a dedicated human resources (HR) team or you're juggling 101 tasks yourself, HR software is a vital way to streamline employment-related processes.
- Startup tool: Performance management system
- Price from: From $8.33 per month
Maintaining high levels of performance isn't always easy when you manage hybrid and remote teams. Workday helps startups to overcome this struggle by giving employees a user-friendly and useful way to ramp up their productivity.
Workday offers goal-setting, talent review, and analytics capabilities that make it easier for workers to stay encouraged and managers to keep tabs on progress. The performance management tool is affordable too but does require startups to sign up for a three-year minimum contract which requires a certain level of commitment.
- Startup tool: Payroll software
- Price from: $35 per month
After we put the leading payroll providers through their paces Rippling came out on top, thanks to its unbeaten industry expertise, its wealth of payroll features — like auto-payment runs, advanced reporting, and employee app — and great scalability.
Best Sales Tools for Startups
Whether you're trying to attract new customers or retain current ones, here are our top sales tools for startups.
- Startup tool: CRM software
- Price from: $23 per month
Zoho CRM lets you automate workflows and core processes, nourish excellent customer relationships, and use data to reflect on your performance. CRM aside, the platform can also be used to market your business and to support your customer's queries — making Zoho CRM a powerful all-in-one sales, marketing, and customer service tool.
- Startup tool: Ecommerce website builder
- Price from: $29 per month
If your business is selling online or is considering doing so in the near future, you should know about Shopify. Shopify is an ecommerce website builder that helps startups build and manage a website that sells.
From abandoned cart recovery to SEO optimization, Shopify offers every feature you'd expect from a premium website builder. However, it really comes into its own when it comes to sales features — offering a wealth of perks like online storefronts, creator tools, and an in-house customer checkout app, Shop App.
Learn more about the provider and its pricing structure in our Shopify pricing guide.
Next Steps: Moving Forward With a Solution
While the startup tools we listed in this guide performed the best in our independent research, they won't fit the needs of every type of venture. For more information about other leading software and hardware options, with detailed product breakdowns and best fors, check out our ‘best for' guides across the site, such as best POS for small businesses and best CRM for sales.