My picks: The best service providers for startups

March 31, 2008 § 30 Comments

A friend of mine…I’ll call him Arnold Babar…is in the early stages of starting a company. Over a few beers the other night, Arnold asked me a few general questions about service providers we’ve used for various aspects of building the KnowledgeBid expert network management platform and other projects. A few came to mind immediately…then I thought of a few later that night…then a few more the next day. I’m putting them all into a post in the hopes that I might save someone else the hours of head + wall collisions it took me to find these guys. I’m only going to include services that I use heavily myself and would recommend to a close personal friend. I’ll add to this as more come to me. My top priorities: 1) cost; 2) functionality / flexibility; 3) quality; 4) reliability.

Best Corporate Telephony / PBX / Fax Service: RingCentral
My previous write-up on RingCentral is here. Super flexible PBX, digital fax delivery, digital voice mail delivery, $19.95/month. Can’t beat it. Mac friendly except for the sound recording / uploading feature.

Best Payment Processing Service: Braintree Payment Solutions
My previous write-up on Braintree is here. The payment processing industry is a total mess. The Braintree guys are straight shooters. Save yourself serious pain and go straight to them.

Best Press Release Services: PRZOOM, The Open Press
The web has antiquated the newswire industry. These two providers are free and get your PR messages on sites other than your own, which is all you really need. PRWeb and the others try to get you to pay, but it’s really not worth it.

Best Conference Call Service: Free Conference
My previous write-ups on the free conference call industry are here. The FCC says these guys can stay in business and so long as you just need them to work for your call tomorrow or next week, you’ll be fine. Call quality is good and reliability is good. I would advise against trying to bake them into your app though…you get what you pay for and who knows how long their loophole will be open.

Best Desktop Sharing Software: Glance
This a simple, functional, reliable piece of software perfect for sharing your desktop for demos. No install needed for your clients, but this means there is no way to see the screen of the person on the other end. It’s $39/month and WebEx has dropped prices in response. There may be some free stuff out there too but I would rather have my demos work and pay a little. Glance is Mac friendly, WebEx is not.

Best Domain Registrar: One and One
One and One is clean, easy to use, without constant upselling, ads and pop-ups. GoDaddy is a nightmare IMO.

Best Hosting Service: M5 Hosting
Previous mention here. These guys were referred to us by a friend and they have done a great job so far. Stay the hell away from MediaTemple.

Best Blog Platform: WordPress.com, WordPress.org
The best blogging and simple content management system out there, IMO. Open source so there are an amazing number of plug-ins, style sheets, and high quality WordPress designers out there so you can really make anything. WordPress.com is a free, hosted blogging platform (example here) while you need to host WordPress.org on your own server (example here, here, and here).

Best Corporate Email Solution: Google Apps for Your Domain
Face it, yourcompanyname@gmail.com is JV. Google Apps makes it free and easy to have Google tools under your own domain.

Best Bug Tracker: Mantis
We’re coming up on our 300th mantis ticket and so far, so good. Free, open source bug tracking & project management. We tried some of the more trendy solutions out there and were very disappointed.

Best Stock Photography: Stockxpert
High quality stock photography on a pay-as-you-go model. Many other players out there have high subscription fees which sucks when you only need 1 or 2 pictures. Examples here and here.

Best Professional Voice Recording: VoiceVector
These guys and gals are based in Alaska but you wouldn’t know it. $1o for your first 12 words and $8 for each additional group of 12 or fewer words in a single recording. Quick, easy, high quality, and they give you your recording in lots of formats. For example call here.

Best Screencast Solution: Camtasia
The web video world is like the credit card processing world…it’s a total mess. Camtasia makes it easy to record a screencast, polish it up, and host it so anyone can watch it. Example here. They have a free demo period. Tip: don’t try to cut and splice within a single recording – just go all the way through.

Best Competitive / Industry Monitor: Google Alerts
Previous write-up here. Cut down on your unnecessary news reading and get productive.

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I’d love to hear comments on these and other solid services out there. I’m actively looking for these:

Best Headset for Blackberry 8703e

Best Low Volume SMS Solution

Best Free CRM

Best Password / Login Manager

Cramer on Colbert

August 10, 2007 § Leave a comment

This is worth watching. Sorry it’s not embedded.

New look, new platform, same blog

August 2, 2007 § Leave a comment

So I finally made the switch over to WordPress from Blogger. Blogger served me well, but WordPress has features and flexibility that Blogger doesn’t have. It’s a lot easier to change the design and it generally functions much smoother. Blogger is actually a bit better with embedding videos, widgets, etc. but WordPress ironically has built in analytics that run on Urchin…which was bought by Google…who owns Blogger. Maybe someday Google will integrate all of the stuff they’ve bought and reclaim control of the internet. I’ll be here for the time being though. The conversion was generally painless, but I need to go back through my posts at some point and brush things up a bit. Also, it maybe worth noting that the tag links associated my posts go to “global” WordPress tags. The “categories” tags on the right side filter the stuff on this blog by tag.  Not sure if anyone clicks those.

Thus far, WordPress seems great. Also, I highly recommend domain purchasing and management provider One and One. Everyone says that blogging platforms and domain providers are the same, but they really aren’t. Thanks to Joe for perfecting the CSS here and Chad for the One and One heads up a long ways back.  I haven’t seen much of Chad since he started running with the horses in the hills west of San Diego a few years back though.

Let me know what you think. Your comment will show up in my new super sweet “recent comments” section..

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