Our SaaS Stack and how we got almost every tool for free

We are a six-people company, and we use more than Forty different SaaS tools.

For a new startup in the startup desert landscape, funds are like water — they’re essential commodities which must not be used until you get to the next oasis. Everything you do to conserve your funds increases your chances of getting to the next stop, while not optimizing them can lead to an early end.

Our goal is to put every dollar to work for us. Startup spending should be budgeted, controlled, and, if possible, reduced as much as possible, often by being creative.

You will be surprised how many software tools you can get for free especially in the early days of your company.

Here’s our story on how we did that for all our SaaS and infrastructure expenses.

We started by making a list of all the software tools we were using and would be using and looked for the following attributes:

  1. Cost: Do they offer credits as part of a plan? If yes, can we get discounts?
  2. Flexible Billing: We love monthly billing with a discount offered for an annual commitment.
  3. Ease of Use: We didn’t want to waste time in managing and deploying the tools.
  4. Lock-in: We wanted to ensure business continuity without any worry of getting locked into a vendor.

Here are the startup programs that offer discounts on the tools.

  1. Microsoft Startup ProgramNo matter where your company is located, if you are a funded startup, we suggest you sign up MS Startup Program. You get access to Azure cloud deals, Visual Studio license, and Office 365 subscription.
  2. AWS ActivateWith AWS Activate, you can get $100,000 for the first year if you are a part of a reputed accelerator or backed by a VC firm.
  3. YC Startup SchoolThis is probably the best deal for any startup. You don’t need to be part of any accelerator program.
  4. Segment Startup Program: Ideal for companies that are less than two years old or have received less than $5 million of funding, Segment offers two years of free services and a host of deals from Intercom,, and Mode.
  5. Google Cloud for Startups: You need to be part of an accelerator or a venture-backed company. If you are incorporated in the US, you can also get access to six months of GSuite.
  6. And, obviously, our own SaaSBoomiif you are a SaaS Startup.

We also found programs that offer a combination of discounts and credits:

  1. The Founder Club : ($750 to get in, but we can give you a 50% off promo code)
  2. The Secret: a free Europe-based startup that offers deals to new small businesses who pass their application. No accelerator or VC backing required.

DemandWork Software SaaS Stack

And here’s our list of preferred SaaS tools which we almost managed to get for free.

  1. Mail Client and Office Suite
  • Office 365: (25 seats worth $7500 via Microsoft Startup Program)
  • GSuite: Post the acceptance at Google Cloud Platform, you’ll need to email them with a request for a discount.

2. Team Collaboration Stack

  • Airtable: We manage all our customer interactions and CRM activities in Airtable. ($2,000 worth of credit via “The Secret”)
  • Notion‘Notion for Startups” with $1000 of free credits if you are part of their partner accelerator or VC Firm. if not, you can get the same offer by purchasing at Product Hunt Founder’s Club. ($1,000 worth of credit via Founder’s Club)
  • Slack: We wrote to Slack Sales team asking for free licenses being an early-stage startup, and they were kind enough to offer us.

3. Engineering Stack

  • Github Enterprise Cloud(40 seats worth $24000 via Microsoft Startup Program)
  • Visual Studio(License worth $5400 via Microsoft Startup Program)
  • Linear: We moved from Jira to a swift developer ticketing tool Linear, which is free for now.
  • Sentry($960 for 1 year)

4. Cloud Infrastructure

  • Amazon Web Services: (Credits worth $105,000 via SaaSBOOMi, $5000 via YC Startup School)
  • Microsoft Azure Services: (Credits worth $150,000 via SaaSBOOMi)
  • Heroku: ($20,000 via YC Startup School)
  • Google Cloud Platform: ($20,000 via a direct application)
  • Digital Ocean: (Credits worth $10,000 via YC Startup School)

For infrastructure tools, we suggest you space out your activation of accounts. It will give you enough room to experiment with every infrastructure provider out there.

5. Analytics Stack

  • Segment: (Credits worth $50,000 via SaaSBOOMi)
  • Power BI Pro(License worth $2340 via Microsoft Startup Program)

6. Compliances and Security

  • Iubenda: Iubenda is an excellent service to make sure your website is compliant. ($600 via “Founders Club”)
  • 1Password: For sharing passwords with internal teams. ($2000 via “Founders Club” or six months free)

7. Communication

  • OpenPhone: OpenPhone is a new age cloud telephony service. It gives you unlimited incoming and outgoing calls to the US and Canada. ($200 via “Founders Club”)

We were able to get the above tools for free by asking nicely and also using the self-hosted version, which is not advertised.

We got a combined savings of $406,210 over two years with the ability to test and experiment as much as we need without the constraint of spending.

While no living document like this is ever perfect, this is currently the best collection of resources we have used lately. I’m sharing it so that others may benefit from it. If you have any suggestions, please email me. I will add them to the list.

Although it sounds unbelievable, a leaky credit card expense can cause a serious dent in your funds. Watch your cash flow obsessively.

My Co-founder Shoaib Khan is the genius behind this. He is an expert in sourcing almost everything for a deal. In our next article, we will also cover how we sourced top furniture for our office for a fraction of the cost.

About the author

Ankit Pansari

Founder & CEO, Ex- Zoho
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