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Asana offers free project management tools to keep your startup on schedule. Their online project management tool allows small business owners and their employees to collaborate on projects more effectively.

www.asana.com

Xero, an alternative to Quickbooks?

While reading a Inc magazine article about the new artisan/entrepreneur movement, the story referenced an online accounting software provider, Xero. Xero appears to be an accounting program similar to Quickbooks but it is web based. With pricing ranging from $19.99 to $39.99, Xero may actually cost more than Quickbooks on an annual basis. However with Quickbooks dominating the market, it is always nice to have an alternative.

(Source: xero.com)

Top free alternative tools available for business owners

1. Google Docs - Alternative to Microsoft Office

2. SquareUp - Alternative to Paypal and other tricky payment services

3. Weebly - Alternative to all premium web page creators

4. Google Analytics - Alternative to premium web page tracking services

5. Trefis Financial - Alternative to Reuters paid financial reports

6. Local public library - Alternative to paying for research magazines

7. Unpaid interns - Alternative to paying salaries

8. GIMP - Alternative to Adobe Photoshop

9. Ubuntu OS  - Alternative to Microsoft Windows

10. GMail + Thunderbird - Alternative to Microsoft Outlook

Favorite “best of” entrepreneurship links

http://under30ceo.com/the-11-best-websites-social-networks-for-young-entrepreneurs/

http://under30ceo.com/10-must-see-interviews-with-todays-top-young-ceos/

http://under30ceo.com/10-must-have-android-apps-for-your-small-business/

http://under30ceo.com/top-50-events-for-young-entrepreneurs/

http://under30ceo.com/280-must-read-books-for-entrepreneurs/

Part 2 of 3: How to build a cheap customer support system

Use the following steps to setup an easy phone based customer service system using Twilio. While there are endless features and plugins available, this post will focus on only getting core features.

Step 1) Download Twilio OpenVBX package from http://www.openvbx.org

Step 2) Download the WAMP server from http://www.wampserver.com/en/. WAMP is the easiest web server to install and includes MySQL and PHP right out of the box. Both of these components are required by Twilio.

Step 3) Run the WAMP installer

Step 4) Once finished, go Start -> Programs -> WAMP -> Start server

Step 5) Go to C:\Program Files\WAMP\bin\ and double-click mysql.exe

Step 6) Type CREATE DATABASE TWILIO; and press Enter

Step 7) Close the Window

Step 8) Run the OpenVBX Installer. When prompted, enter TWILIO as the database name

Step 9) Once finished, go Start -> Programs -> OpenVBX -> Start Service

Note: All subsequent steps require a Twilio account. Go register one if not already done. 

Step 10) In the UI, File -> Enter number pool. Enter the phone numbers of all employees who will be answering customer support calls. If your employees do not want to use their own number, click “Autogenerate numbers” and enter the number of employees. 

Step 11) In the UI, you can configure hours of operation, email notifications, SMS notifications, IVRs etc.

You are done! That was super easy especially when you compare the time and cost required to do more conventional solutions. 

Part 3 will feature how to integrate this phone system with a popular email platform (GMail).

Part 1 of 3: How to build a cheap customer support system

A bootstrapped startup can never save enough money. It requires owners to minimize regular cash outflows and one-time capital expenditures. However, many startups require need to build extensive customer support systems to build their loyal customer base. While most customers can be serviced over the internet, many require phone support. A bootstrapped startup has the following challenges while trying to build an effective yet cheap customer support system:

1) Lack of stable office space. Employees are often working from home, Starbucks, etc.

2) Conventional solutions require considerable capital expenditures on servers, VBX units, phone units etc.

3) Setting up conventional solutions require either in house IT staff or expensive 3rd party IT services

These challenges are easily met with today’s modern cloud technology. Twilio is a service which allows anybody (with little to no IT experience) to setup a customer service system over the phone. Twilio services can be installed on any machine with a simple installer and features the following:

1) Automatic routing to multiple phone numbers

2) Receive and make phone calls via a browser

3) Voicemail with full transcription abillity

4) SMS and email capabilities are integrated

5) Ability to receive payments over the phone

6) Full IVR capability (Press 1 for…, Press 2 for … etc.)

7) 3rd party integration to allow polling, analytics and many other features. 

Twilio offers a pay per use model. 

PRICING MODEL:

$0.01 per minute for incoming calls
$0.02 per minute for outbound calls
$0.01 per SMS
$1.00 per month for a phone number
$2.00 per month for a toll-free phone number
$0.025 per minute for browser phone calls

Part 2 will offer insights on how to use Twilio to setup a phone based customer service system. 

Part 3 will offer insights on how to integrate the phone customer service system with a popular email platform (Gmail) to offer a complete customer service solution for any startup.