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Sifting the startup scene for small business tools

Posted by Devin Cole  July 19, 2012 03:03 PM

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Since nobody works harder than the people running small businesses, nobody stands to benefit more from the improved efficiency, reach and impact offered by new digital tools.

But – and this is a big but! – over-extended small business owners often don’t have the time to explore new products, and they don’t have the staff to whom they can delegate this task. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of some companies in the Boston startup scene that small businesses may want to be aware of.

Also, if this subject interests you, come on over to MassChallenge for a free event called Top Tools for Small Businesses, happening this coming Monday night, July 23rd. It’s a panel discussion, moderated by Debi Kleiman, President of MITX, followed by free beer & pizza thanks to Trillium Brewing Company, The Family Business Association and the law firm Tarlow Breed Hart & Rodgers. Click here for more info. (Disclaimer: my company is represented on the panel, along with Privy and Pingup, both of which are awesome).


It’s not a generic service for all small businesses, but it does provide resources to 125 high-growth startups every year. So if you’re business might be one of them, then you’ll want to be part of this community. The other reason MassChallenge is relevant here is because they so heavily vet the companies that participate. So if you see a product or service that intrigues you and it’s from a MassChallenge company, you can be confident that this team and the concept have passed through a rigorous judging process from investors, IP lawyers, and business experts.


Grasshopper makes it easy for small business to immediately punch above their weight by making your cell phone feel like a sophisticated, Fortune 500 phone presence for the customers and prospects that you’re trying to serve and impress.


These guys have an awesome interface for bringing all you channels of communication together as an antidote to the fragmentation and overwhelming noise of today’s online world. Get your email, tweets, Facebook comments (etc) all in one place. They’ll even give you nudges to help you not miss the optimum timing for reaching out to a key contact. This service is targeted at recruiters, but it’s really a huge value add for any over-worked worker in the digital age. (MassChallenge company)


One of the great things about running a business today is that you can make a fractional purchase of almost anything. (For example, at my company, we use Zipcar rather than buying or leasing a company car. It’s a no-brainer.) Well whatever you’re looking to rent, Rentabilities is your online destination to find it and get it, from electronics and furniture to bouncy castles and sno-cone machines. On the other side of this transaction, if your business provides items for rent, then Rentabilities acts as a partner to bring you more traffic. (MassChallenge company)


Aims to be the easiest way to track applicants in one place. More efficient than email and simpler than other recruitment software. (MassChallenge company)


They give you a leg up on creating and deploying apps for your workforce. Both the functionality of the app and the ability to deploy it on your employees’ own mobile devices.


Using the right apps can be a game-changer for your business, but you need to understand who’s using them and how. Localytics does just that for iPhone, iPad, Android, HTML5, Windows Phone and Blackberry. (MassChallenge company)

Constant Contact

Not really a startup at all, but this is about helping small business people, so let’s not forget the originator of the email marketing category. And that’s not all Constant Contact does. These days, they’re adding on other services – like social media promotion and plug-and-play loyalty programs, to solve even more problems for small businesses.


Also not exactly early-stage, these are the inventors of the phrase “in-bound marketing.” HubSpot offers all-in-one marketing software. They help you create and push out content that helps you permeate the social web and increase your search engine results. They also help you optimize your website to convert more traffic and measure your success.

Dave McLaughlin is CEO and Co-Founder of Vsnap, which offers free apps that make it easy for businesses to engage customers and prospects more personally by using short, targeted video messages, rather than email. Vsnap is a MassChallenge Finalist.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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