The Lean Startup Stack: Free Software Products for Bootstrapping Startups

After starting multiple startups, I learned that I can almost always accomplish what I want for free or dirt cheap. Following the lean startup methodology and bootstrapping are crucial while my projects are in the pre-Seed stage when expenses are coming directly out of my pocket. Trimming unnecessary expenses is especially important right now for many early-stage startups as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc.

The Lean Startup Stack came together throughout the past two months, as my clients at Shiny responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by cutting as many costs as they could. The resources in the Stack are able to directly replace many expensive software options and have freed-up thousands of dollars in my clients’ budgets.

I received so much feedback from this article that I expanded on it and turned it into its own guide! Check it out at

What is a Lean Startup?

The Lean Startup methodology is outlined in Eric Ries’ book and explains how a new project can be built, tested, and iterated on to create a successful business in a fast, inexpensive, and effective way. The Lean Startup Stack can be utilized by startup founders that want to follow the lean startup methodology. 

The Lean Startup Stack

The Stack includes legal, operations, tech, design, marketing, and financial software products and resources. The best part, other than most of the Stack being free, is that you don’t have to sacrifice quality, security, or even brand name when using the Lean Startup Stack. Many of the products listed here are made, and used, by multi-billion dollar companies. 

With so many great software products and resources out there for startups, I struggled to make the Stack itself as lean as possible. If you are a power user of free or low-cost software, check out the Appendix at the bottom for more resources for your lean startup.

Legal Stack

  • PandaDoc — Free unlimited document signatures and sends.
  • Cooley Go—Free legal document templates.
  • LegalShield ($39/mo)— Legal advice and much more.

Operations Stack

Tech Stack

Design Stack

Marketing Stack

Finance Stack

Inspired by $9 Marketing Stack by Rob Sobers and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.


*A Note on GSuite

My Lean Startup Stack includes paying for GSuite. I believe it’s worth the $6 per month per user to have your business email on GSuite and all of your document collaboration internal to your organization. 

The one free solution I am still looking for is an alternative to Google Voice. They recently started charging an extra $10/m for people to use Voice, and I have yet to find a free alternative. Shoot me an email if you find one!

**A Note on AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure

These three options for hosting are virtually the same. I recommend going with AWS because that is the service for which most Accelerators give out thousands of dollars worth of credits. 

***A Note on QuickBooks and Wave

It is amazing that most people still use QuickBooks Online and pay up to $40 per month for what they can get for free with Wave Apps. Personally, I prefer QBO and most of my clients at Shiny prefer it too, but I believe this will slowly change over the next couple of years because of Wave’s substantial free offering. 

Lean Startup Stack Add-ons

More free and inexpensive software products and resources for startups trying to stay lean. 

I have, and will, NOT be compensated in any form for referencing or linking to the products and resources in The Lean Startup Stack.