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Laszlo L Mari
Laszlo L Mari

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What tools we use as a modern startup in 2018

It's another day and another post. At Dakai we use a bunch of things to increase our productivity. If you read our website I think you will know a bit more about our culture but the main points are, that we try to stay transparent to the clients, we are remote-first and we build blockchain products.

The company is up for 6 months so we had a lot of trial / fail / retry situations with a lot of our tools. Let me sum it up quickly what we used, what failed and what worked out.

Project Management

There are so many tools for this out there. You have no idea. I could start listing them and I wouldn't finish until the end of the day. It's kinda overhyped too, so you never know what's good for your people and what isn't.

First, we used Trello: It was okay but I hated the way it looks and it wasn't very scalable + It lacked features like deadlines

Then we started using Asana: The UI was nice, it scaled but it wasn't a lot more than a todo list that you could occasionally switch into trello mode (But we never really did that) and they wanted us to pay a bazillion for that if we scaled to like 50-100 people. At 50 it would be $6k every year. Who needs that money thrown out on the window?

So there came 20 other tools we signed up for, tried and didn't even start using as a team and one more that grabbed our attention: Notion.
It's worth to note that I was an early adopter so I got Notion Premium for free forever in my workspace, but I didn't end up using it heavily since then. It was just sitting in my browser and then this update came out on the 20th of March: Notion v2.0

Look how cool it looks!

So this was kinda like Trello for the teammates that loved it but you can add any tag, filter by anything, add pages inside a trello item where you can add pages inside where you can add trello items inside.
(And I won't continue but we can get into an infinite loop here and eventually kill Notion's servers)
You can create docs inside, manage permissions of the specific pages (Like not everyone should access our financial data that we -now- store there), have a page just for fun things to do etc. It gives so much freedom I can't even explain, but try it and see it for yourself.

This is not a click bait, I actually love this tool since we started using it

Email and connected services

So we needed a company email, right? Mine is by the way if you wanna drop me a message sealed in a poop emoji title (someone actually did that once).

We needed to pick between Google that everyone uses, our own local mailserver that not many use and Zoho mail that even less companies use. We tried all 3 of these and surprisingly we ended up using Zoho.

Google sucked because I was worried it steals data, you need to pay after many people and it just didn't feel right overall. I was a Protonmail user before but it sucked because you can't forward your emails, you can't export them, it's like a closed box. You switch to them once and you are stuck there forever which I hated so I pulled out fairly quickly.

Our own mail server sucked the most. The UI was horrible for the webmail. Like we were stuck in the 80s. Look:

Some horror movie beginning

Who needs something like this? I don't for sure, not in 2018, so we just quietly passed on this option and we had one more tool left to try: Zoho.

It turned out to be very extensible (even though their landing page and icons are stuck in the 2000s and suck bad the tool looks fresh and modern) and it had a calendar part + we could comment on emails internally that the email sender didn't see. These things were essential and I wrote a bot immediately that kinda automated my email habits, but more on that later. We started using this the first week and didn't regret since then.

Time tracking

As someone working with clients remotely (except when I'm consulting but that's different), we needed a solid, transparent time tracking app. So (drumroll) we tried Toggl. We paid a lot for the pro package so we could export nice PDFs etc but it just wasn't right. The desktop app froze for half of our team constantly, it looked bad, the online UI barely had any options for analyzing the data and we saw ourselves downloading it into Excel and just doing the calculations there.

It wasn't fir for our use-case. I don't know what could be simpler than tracking the time for a team and making it available for analyzing but I guess I'm very wrong somewhere with high expectations.

So we tried ~20 tools with no luck, all of them had issues so we just picked the one with the least issues: Why can't anyone build a simple but non-buggy time tracker? Anyone out there?

TrackingTime is okay for now, we probably won't switch again because I don't want our data to disappear but if you have any recommendations let me know in the comments. I would appreciate it because time tracking without a proper tool isn't our strongest bit, especially that we analyze data every week to iterate and improve.


So everyone told me I need a CRM from the beginning. I spent 5 months without one, happy with my email and my memory but it got limited. I started to forget who I talked to, about what deal or project and stuff got really cluttered in my head.

So the logical way to solve this is to start looking for a CRM that can automate things and keep track of what's going on with your sales right?

NO. You will just waste your time like crazy. Don't ever do that! I tried all of them, I had a Saturday when I was only looking at CRMs to find one that actually does the job that I need it to do and NONE of them are okay.

Long story short we ended up integrating our CRM into Notion too and we had to give up automation (that none of these tools seem to support properly anyway) but I hacked together a script that can send out Linkedin messages to my connections at scale, based on conditions like how long ago we talked, what the person asked etc. It's a small project but I might sell it because I think there's a need for something like this coupled with email maybe?

Version Control

GitHub, obvious choice, duh.


We use Discord. I know, Slack is king in this but it's distracting, it is limited, it is expensive, it sucks at scale, it gets really cluttered and there are no proper permissions unless you pay thousands of dollars for the enterprise version.

Slack is bad. It decreases your productivity at the same scale it decreases your RAM in your computer. Summed up: avoid using Slack if you can.

But there's an alternative: Discord. It is originally for gamers, it has an amazing permission system, it is not cluttered and there are voice channels so most things can be discussed quickly through there. Heavy discussions go into channels divided by channel groups and we can even invite clients separately into one single channel where they can talk to us for rapid feedback.


What else would you need? We only found one thing missing: Threads. Threads were cool in Slack and we miss them but I bet Discord will come up with a solution very soon. They have an update every week so we see lots of improvements constantly.


With these tools our stack could go from so many different solutions to 3: Zoho, Discord, and Notion. I recommend trying this because it's powerful. Really powerful and will scale with you.

Any suggestions for me? Let me know

Also check out our website:

Top comments (6)

rhymes profile image

Thanks for the pointers, I'll check out discord. slack threads are the feature that I like the least because the information gets lost in those little blue links and if you come back to the chat it's hard to glance what has been discussed. Linear chats for the win 😁

donis profile image

Discord is following Slack functionality quite closely and TBH if you think Slack sucks at scale, Discord will suck as well. Sure, it's free, but it's very gamer oriented, which might be not for every company.
The important thing it lacks is integrations, which become very useful feedback tools as you go onto a larger scale (monitoring alerts, deployment alerts, instant-actions-from-the-chat, etc.)

jschleigher profile image
James Schleigher

Great post! I agree that project management software and time tracking are essentials to have. I also manage my work and employees with these tools. Fortunately, I can have them all in one tool like and Quire! Working and managing my team is much easier.

aswathm78 profile image
Aswath KNM

For CRM . Try ZOHO CRM . Its a great choice .

If you want all in one Project Management Solution . Try Basecamp

Take a look @ Zoho One if possible

laszlolm profile image
Laszlo L Mari

First of all, thank you for taking the time to comment and recommend, I really appreciate it.
We tried Zoho CRM but it just lacks what we need. All of them do.
The optimal CRM solution would:

  • Automate Linkedin message sending and stats recording
  • Email sending and response rate recording
  • Automating other sales channel with exact stat recording for messages we write
  • Automatically pulling in website visitor data from Google Analytics and seeing where they came from + putting effort into marketing through that channel (like if most people clicked an email that highlighted "solidity tips and tricks" it would recommend us to write something similar, that's what pulls visitors in
  • We even use apps like Shapr etc. that could be automated

I started building something that slowly tackles these things starting with Linkedin. Let me know if you know a tool that does this. It can record things into Zoho CRM so we might use it in the end but not how it was designed by default.

For Basecamp: I used it to manage my life for 3 years and I was paying for it but seeing its flaws I think Notion gives way more freedom, looks better, has all features Basecamp has except the chat and it looks better + feels better cause it's way faster.

Re Zoho One: We looked into it, we don't really need most of their things so I'm pretty sure we won't end up subscribing to the whole solution

Again, thanks for all the responses and if you know a sales tool that does it all let me know, it would be a great help!

jorotenev profile image
Georgi Tenev

Thanks for the tips :)