What’s the Minimum Viable Startup Stack?

Choosing the best SaaS apps for your team while keeping your budget in check is complicated. Learn our top tips for SaaS budgeting today!

November 7, 2022


In the current economic climate, most startups are reassessing their tech stack and looking for budget-friendly alternatives. But reducing software spend shouldn't mean saying goodbye to time-saving features.

Whether you’re building your toolkit on a budget or looking to optimize your current SaaS stack, this post is for you. 

We’ll share:

  • Some tips for getting the most out of your software investment
  • Our top 7 of the most cost-effective (and full-featured) tools for marketing, customer support & project management
  • Our pick of the coolest startup programs you can't miss

Ready? Let’s dive in!

How to Build a Minimalist Startup Stack

Before we dive into our tool recommendations, let’s take a quick look at how to optimize your software investment.

Full-featured tools > Specialized tools

Specialized tools, designed for very specific use cases are great. But they can soon add up, bust your budget and give you little in return.

Building a minimalist tech stack is all about using as few tools as possible while getting the most value out of each one. 

Are you in the process of reducing your SaaS stack? If so, we recommend you begin by looking for software that can replace 2-3 tools in your stack.

For instance, if you're currently paying for a CRM, an email marketing tool, and a cold mailing tool, consider a 3-in-1 alternative. We’ve seen this trend of tools adopting broader feature sets to the point that many feel very similar (Trello, Notion, Clickup, Monday…). It’s time to hack your stack.

Take advantage of free plans

If you’re currently testing tools that are convenient but not essential, consider continuing on a free plan after your trial period. Don’t automatically upgrade to a paid plan. 

Mind the learning curve

It may take you a long time to see your tech stack’s ROI if your tools are hard to use. Steep learning curves translate into:

  • Implicit training costs
  • Wasted time
  • Tons of tiresome trial-and-error

Gravitate towards tools with:

  • Accessible and easy-to-use interfaces
  • Detailed resource libraries

It’s always great when vendors provide you with high-quality resources to onboard and train your team. And your best tools will be those that your team is actually happy to use.

SaaS Startup Stack: 7 Tools You Should Try

Now, let’s take a look at our top favorite tools for startups on a tight budget. We’ll divide them into 3 categories:

  • Project management tools
  • Customer service tools 
  • Marketing tools

The Most Versatile Project Management SaaS Tools

When it comes to versatile project management tools, we recommend Notion and ClickUp.


With Notion, you can manage projects, knowledge, and tasks from a single platform.

Notion is:

  • Great for road mapping and project planning.
  • Ideal to keep your company wiki, and any other relevant information that you want to share with your team.
  • Intuitive and user-friendly.

Our favorite Notion features are:

  • Databases, which can be filtered and displayed across your workspace as kanbans, calendars, and more.
  • Its minimalist design, which prevents the tool from overwhelming your users as your databases grow.
  • Its growing ecosystem of integrations and templates.

Notion has a generous free plan for personal use. Paid plans for teams start at 8 USD/month per team member.

Notion offers a $1000 credit for startups. Discover if your company qualifies on Notion’s website.


ClickUp is a project management SaaS tool that aims to replace as many tools as possible.

ClickUp's key features include:

  • Fully customizable task management dashboards.
  • The ability to send and receive emails from within the platform.
  • Offline mode.
  • Dozens of integrations, with tools such as Zoom, Zandesk, and more.
  • Automations.
  • The ability to create docs within the platform, and connect them to specific tasks.
  • Whiteboards.
  • Live chat.

Clickup offers a free plan that includes unlimited users, tasks, and projects. Paid plans start at 5 USD/month per user.

Feature-Rich Customer Support SaaS Tools

Customer support tools are key to connecting with your users and delivering a great experience.

You may want to try out Zendesk Chat and Acquire.io

Zendesk Chat

With Zendesk Chat, your live chat features can scale according to your business needs. This is a great solution for midsize companies preparing to grow.

Zendesk Chat offers you:

  • Various channels to get in touch with your customers, such as email, social media, and more. In fact, you can reply to messages both online and offline. 
  • Customer feedback management.
  • AI bots to answer common questions.
  • Reports and analytics so you can track and improve your customer service efforts.
  • Multiple integrations.

Pricing starts at 49 USD/month. A free trial is available.


Acquire.io is a SaaS platform for multi-channel customer engagement.

Some of Acquire’s key features are:

  • Screen sharing, chatbots, co-browsing, and voice-call capabilities.
  • Centralized user insights.
  • Team-shared inboxes.
  • A performance metric tracking system.
  • Real-time dashboards.

When it comes to pricing, Acquire offers quotes upon request.

The Most Concise Marketing SaaS Stack 

There’s no doubt about it: Marketing is key. But it’s also one of the areas that’s most prone to tool FOMO and overspending. 

If you’re looking to build a minimalist marketing stack, we recommend taking a look at ActiveCampaign, Hootsuite and SEMRush


ActiveCampaign’s main focus is helping marketing and sales teams to have a unified outreach and lead nurturing workflow. 

ActiveCampaign offers you:

  • A holistic approach to cross-channel marketing, as it covers multiple channels, including email, social media, and WhatsApp.
  • Comprehensive reporting that analyzes consumer behavior effectively. This is great for filtering marketing campaigns that don't work and need to be reviewed.
  • Useful lead segmentation and automation workflows.
  • 870+ integrations.

ActiveCampaign doesn’t offer a free plan, but it does offer a free 14-day trial. Annual billing starts at 9 USD/month. 


Hootsuite is one of the most popular social media management tools out there. And that popularity is well justified, Hootsuite is extremely robust.

Overall, with Hootsuite you can:

  • Plan your social media campaigns
  • Edit and share your content
  • Keep your audience engaged

But more specifically, Hootsuite lets you:

  • Schedule your posts
  • Easily manage your messages across channels with a universal inbox
  • Automate your marketing efforts across social media platforms
  • Track ad and post performance across various platforms in real-time
  • Deliver personalized messages across social media 
  • Monitor trends and encourage engagement at scale

Plus, it also offers multiple integrations with other popular tools, such as Salesforce, Hubspot, Zendesk, and more.

Pricing starts at 49 USD per month.


SEMRush is one of the most popular SEO tool kits out there.

With SEMRush, you can:

  • Get a centralized view of your backlinks and assess their quality
  • Run a competitor analysis and review their performance (including paid ads)
  • Perform keyword research for local and international markets
  • Analyze your user’s search intent
  • Get an SEO analysis of your latest content draft

SEMRush also offers some social media management features you may want to take a look at.

You can choose from multiple SEMRush monthly plans, ranging from $119.95/month to $449.95/month. Plus, you can try it for 7 days for free.

The startup hack to save on SaaS

Picking the right software tools can result in exponential growth for startups, but according to our data, companies are spending an average of 17.9% more on SaaS than they did a year ago. SaaS costs are rising and can sometimes be too high for startups.

Here's the hack: Startup programs. These allow startups to access powerful software at an affordable price and is often the best way to set you up for success.

To help you locate those, we've put together a list of the the 18 startup programs we like the most.

From Customer Service to Product Analytics, Billing and more. Luckily, many companies offer startup programs these days.

How SaaS Management Tools Make a Difference

As startups scale, their software gets out of control and the best way to avoid that is to put something in place today. Cledara helps 1,000+ customers across 29 countries get visibility and control of their software early with the most complete software management platform.

If you're a startup, check out Cledara’s Startup Program to see if you’re eligible. It's the best way to set your software up for success.

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