New must-know tools for entrepreneurs and start-ups

Start-up life is tough, but certain tools will make it easier. We’ve found five apps, programs and gadgets that savvy entrepreneurs swear by.

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There’s so much to keep track of when you’re an entrepreneur, from tracking inventory to searching for staff on job boards and websites. Anything that streamlines your list of things to do and helps keep you sane is a good thing, right? Here are five must-have gadgets and smartphone apps you need to get your ASAP.

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Square's plug-in card reader accepts credit cards anywhere

Square's plug-in card reader accepts credit cards anywhere Photograph: Courtesy of Square


Clarity
If you had five minutes with a leading expert in your field, what would you ask? This online community connects up-and-comers with successful business owners. You can scour a database of 14,000-plus pros—organized by topic, location, name or cost—and schedule a phone call with a mentor, whose per-minute rate is determined by his or her experience and notoriety. For example, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban commands about $167 per minute, while American Apparel marketing director Ryan Holiday charges $10. clarity.fm

CoFoundersLab
Just as online daters rely on companies like OkCupid and JDate to find an ideal mate, business pros can turn to this site to find the work partner of their dreams. Profiles include a short bio, skills, contact information and what they’re looking for in a potential cofounder, including time commitment and monetary investment. Standard profiles are free, but an upgraded membership puts your name at the top of search results and gives you unlimited messages (three months $60, six months $108, one year $120). cofounderslab.com

Square
cash only signs can send potential customers looking for the quickest exit instead of their wallets. But with this petite plug-in card reader, you can use your smartphone to accept credit cards anywhere, anytime. Sign up online to receive the approximately 1.5" x 1" white cube by mail. Download the free app, link your bank account and voilà, you’re in business! You can even e-mail or text receipts to your customers. squareup.com; free

Basecamp
Small-business owners have to balance everything from staff assignments to client databases. Keep track of it all in one organized place with this Web-based project-management tool, which allows you to assign tasks, track team member progress, work on documents simultaneously, receive e-mail recaps of meetings and archive projects when you’re finished. Bonus: You can give it a gratis spin for 60 days. basecamp.com; prices vary

Cloud-based file sharing
You and your team might be sans office or operating from different locations. Instead of e-mailing attachments back and forth, utilize a cloud system such as Google Drive or Dropbox  to create, share and update documents with multiple people. Ian Anderson, who runs start-up PR outfit Swim Agency, uses Google Docs to coordinate with team members and keep customers informed: “All of our campaigns are tracked in real-time on Google spreadsheets, so that our clients can check our progress as it occurs. There’s never a sense of ‘What work are they doing?’ ”


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