2019 UPDATE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
The Tools You Need to Master Your Startup’s Metrics
No, you don’t need to hire a data scientist!
For many years I have been obsessing about startups and especially their management of metrics and KPIs. Just check my Medium profile and you’ll see :) It has led me to understand that knowing which KPIs to measure is not the first problem to tackle when being an insight-driven startup.
The very first thing to do is to collect and access data and assure its relevance and automation. That’s the reason I moved down the data analysis value chain — so I could also help startups discover the many fantastic tools that exist out there. The goal is to achieve accessible, reliable, and automated metrics.
If you want to be business intelligence but don’t know where to start, this guide is for you. These tools can help you easily access your data and automate your dashboards and reporting. Depending on your business model and strategies, different tools are available to you.
What I can tell you for sure is that you don’t need to hire a team of data scientists or data analysts. Most of these things you can do on your own! If you don’t have much prior experience in data analysis, you can speed up the process with a coach who has done this before, without having to hire anyone!
Automated data analysis is a puzzle of different tools doing different things, and depending on your needs, skills, and business model, the tools you combine will make a system that works just right for you!
For a year now, I’ve been helping founders like yourself to set up their automated analytics stack. I’ve tried SO many tools, and I’ve learned which ones are good for what! The good news is that you don’t need to spend more than $50-$250 per month if you’re a seed-stage startup.
I know that at first, that may sound expensive. But considering how much you’ll improve your decision-making, it’s peanuts! Let’s think of an example: If you get a better insight into your product analytics, you might be able to improve your conversion rate from download to sign-up by 20 % — if all other metrics stay equal, your revenue will then also improve by 20 %! That is probably way more than a few hundred dollars!
Let’s get started! Below, you will find all the recommended tools sorted by what they do.
These solutions are tracking what your users are doing in the front-end of your app or website. Thanks to Product Analyzers, you can uncover your engagement metrics. This means that you can track exactly to see how your users move through your product. Find out what pages they visit, which buttons they click, and in what order.
So what is really the difference between Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Amplitude?
Google Analytics — We have all heard of it and it is, indeed, a fantastic tool. Its biggest advantage is that it’s free. Who doesn’t love free stuff? It is super easy to get started with and therefore one of the first things that should be implemented when publishing a website. As long as your online business is only a website in the style of e-commerce or lead creation, Google Analytics is your perfect tool to track data! The most valuable information sources are funnels, and marketing attribution (where do your best visitors come from?). If you have a mobile app, I don’t recommend using Firebase with Google Analytics (unfortunately Firebase/GA for mobile apps has no API so you can’t get access to the data that you track anywhere else). What a pain!
Mixpanel — This tool is the most commonly used product analytics tool. It’s available for both web and mobile app. The most useful features include analysis of engagement, funnel, user profiles, and cohorts. This tool gives you access to all the data you need to know to improve your conversion rates and drive retention and revenue. Their API is ok, but in general, it’s quite annoying to get data out of Mixpanel. Personally, I like to keep things simple!
“Mixpanel is the best tool for non-tech guys to get a feeling about what’s happening with their customers really fast. As soon as the events are correctly set up, it’s literally plug and play” adds Nicolas Reboud, co-founder, and CEO of Shine, who has been using Mixpanel since the launch of his fintech app.
However, it is not cheap… If you have less than 1000 monthly active users it’s for free. But once you pass that threshold, it’s a steep curve. If you have 10k users, you’ll have to pay around $400+ per month. If you’re running a startup less than 3 years old with fewer than 10 employees, you are eligible for their 90 % startup discount during your 1st year.
Amplitude — This tool has basically the same functionality as Mixpanel. You can segment users and create really clear funnels. The biggest difference to Mixpanel is the pricing. You can use Amplitude for free up until you generate 10 million events (actions taken such as clicks or swipes). That means that you can use Amplitude for free with 10k monthly active users if they perform less than 1 000 actions per month. Amplitude also offers a startup discount of 90 %, if you’ve raised less than $1M.
Amplitude offers an excellent API, which makes it possible to access, visualize, or analyze your data in other places than Amplitude. I’ve been helping multiple startups implementing Amplitude and I’ve had great experiences with the tool!
The biggest difference between Product Analyzers such as Mixpanel and Amplitude, vs Google Analytics is that they allow you to track individual users. You can find the logs of the different events that individual users have taken. That means that you can start segmenting and correlating different behaviors, which is very limited in Google Analytics.
The Subscription Analyzers
When you are running a subscription startup, there are a lot of interesting and fundamental revenue-related metrics that can be identified using only payment data. Thanks to these tools, you can super easily get access to your Churn, Retention, MRR, etc. without knowing how to calculate these.
Unfortunately, since they only rely on your data from payment platforms such as Stripe, the data stays quite shallow. These tools will tell you what your churn is, but you won’t be able to understand why. You’ll end up going in circles! If your service is a software or a digital product, I recommend you to complement these tools with some different tools to track how your users use your platform.
So what is the difference between ProfitWell and Chartmogul?
ProfitWell — This is a very popular subscription analysis tool since it’s completely free no matter your revenue! They earn their money from other services instead. Like the others, they connect with most of the common payment solutions (Stripe, Braintree, Zuora, etc). ProfitWell gives you access to metrics such as Monthly Recurring Revenue, Churn, and Cohorts. Something that sets ProfitWell apart, aside from being free, is their most recently added feature. Earlier this year, they made it possible to insert an asynchronous JS snippet to your code. Thanks to that snippet, you can see how active your subscribers are! Pretty nifty! Unfortunately, you can’t see what actions they’ve taken, so I still advise you to complement ProfitWell with another tool to track all the engagement metrics.
Chartmogul — Like ProfitWell, Chartmogul connects with most payment solutions. What makes ChartMogul useful for certain startups is that you can manually upload Google Sheets with the subscribers that you invoice offline. Plus, ChartMogul integrates with Google Play and the App Store, so you can also analyze mobile subscribers. Makes your life easier!
Chartmogul is free until reaching 10k in MRR, so there is really no reason to not plug it in and start using it from the moment you onboard your first customer. If your startup is part of one of their accelerator program partners, you can get a $50 monthly reduction! That’s like… a lot of coffee!
The Data Visualizers
These are the tools that will allow your whole team to automate the KPI reporting and give you access to all the data that you accumulate from other tools. The Data Visualizers can be used for automated, customized dashboards and ad-hoc searches. These tools also make it easy to share data with investors or other stakeholders through email or URL links. A must-have if you ask me!
If you are one of the many startups that feel like your data analysis is scattered and unstructured, this is the type of tool that you need. With these tools, you can connect the results you see in your own database and in your Product Analyzer tool with your marketing or sales activities.
What is the difference between Klipfolio, Google Data Studio, and Databox?
Klipfolio — This is an incredibly flexible tool that can get extremely powerful. It is your centralized access to all of your company’s data and metrics. Klipfolio can connect all the different tools and databases generating your company’s data. In Klipfolio you combine and treat it to make the data informative and useful. It’s your one-stop-shop!
Connecting the data sources and Klipfolio can be a challenge depending on what tool you want to connect and the quality of the tool’s API. You connect your database to Klipfolio with a SQL query, a piece of cake for any developer to do!
You can choose to use their template dashboards, but I recommend you develop your own dashboards optimized for your business and goals. Klipfolio and most of these tools have templates riddled with vanity metrics, so watch out!
Klipfolio is similar to Excel to some extent, as you analyze data with the help of formulas. The biggest difference is that Klipfolio updates itself with the most recent data, so no more manual copy and paste every week. Ctrl+C? Ctrl+V? Ctrl+Bye! Moreover, it allows for automatic reports by email or Slack. Now that’s convenience.
But similarly to Excel, Klipfolio takes some time getting used to and requires a learning curve. On the other hand, the customer service helps you get started…
“When I needed to build my first Klip, it wasn’t as daunting as I first believed. Clicking on their support button, I got instant step-by-step human help on how to configure the Klip to display our business data,” says Shirley Johansson, Growth CMO at Handiscover.
The pricing is very startup-friendly, starting at $29 per month for a team of 2 people. As you start to increase the size of your team, the $99 plan including 15 dashboards is recommended.
Data Studio — One again, Google strikes with its presence in the data analytics space by providing a free data visualizer. Unfortunately, it is very limited in use since it only automatically updates the data coming from Google products, so: Analytics, Adwords, DoubleClick, YouTube, and Sheets.
By using Google Sheets, you can manually update other data that you want to include in your dashboard, but as we know manual work is not sustainable and can quickly get time-consuming. Another alternative is subscribing to Supermetrics, which helps you automatically connect a few other data sources, such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.
Another huge drawback for Data Studio in my experience is that it can’t transform your data to group them into weeks or months. So for example, if you want to group your data per month you need to hard code into your data source a new column for months. Not fun, and not quick!
If you use Big Query as a database Data Studio could be of some value, but as you scale Data Studio will be very limiting.
DataBox — This is an easy-to-use tool that automatically helps you create interesting charts. It is very easy to set up, but also very limiting. Since everything is automatic, you have no insight into how metrics are actually calculated. This is a problem in data analysis because if a number doesn’t seem to be correct, and you don’t have any transparency in the calculation you will just lose trust in your data. Remember: it’s not just about knowing what your numbers are, but also why.
When working with this tool, I had a lot of problems with bugs. Customer service took a minimum of 24 hours up to 3 months(!) to solve these problems. On top of this, their pricing is quite expensive. For 10 dashboards (they’re really small, you fit like 4 charts into 1 dashboard) you need to pay $119.
The Data Scientist’s Tools
The Data Scientist’s tools are incredibly flexible and powerful if they are well installed. Data Scientists love these tools because it lets them treat large sets of data and perform advanced queries (in SQL language).
The major drawback, however, is that you can’t directly connect APIs. For most of them, you can only connect data from a database. This means that if you want to summarize data in one place — from your CRM, Facebook, Google Analytics, AND your database — you’ll need to create some serious Data Management. Definitely not a good investment of your time or money if you’re running a startup.
What’s the difference between Looker and Chartio?
Chartio — The interface allows for both drag and drop analysis in interactive mode and a SQL mode. The interactive mode is perfect for non-technical team members to explore their data. And SQL mode allows for the more specialized team members for unlimited exploring.
Compared to their competitors, they offer self-service access to their platform. This means that you can quickly get up and running for only $400 per month. Not bad! If you’re a startup founded less than 2 years ago, you might be eligible for their 75 % discount.
Looker — An increasing amount of startups are asking me about Looker. It is a tool very similar to Chartio in terms of features. However, they’re better than their competitors at explaining what you can do with their tool.
Unfortunately, their pricing is waaaay out of range for what is reasonable to pay for such a tool when you’re a startup. I met a Series A startup that paid $3000 per month for Looker. Wowza! It is clear that Looker is targeting large organizations.
Client Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
Yes I know, this is not really a type of data analysis tool. Yet, I get a lot of questions from founders who want to know which CRMs I recommend. Therefore, I’ll include my recommendations based on my experience working with data generated by CRMs.
You use a CRM to track your leads and all the interactions you have with your leads up until they convert to paying clients. The data that you generate inside your CRM is an important piece of the puzzle when you want to understand B2B customers. Here, you can learn more about what makes certain leads convert while others don’t. I recommend you connect your CRM to your Data Visualizer through their API, so you can analyze the data that your CRM generates.
Salesforce — It’s the oldest CRM around. It’s the original! Their focus is clearly large organizations, so it’s not ideal for startups. That said, they do offer a cheaper plan that works for startups. Unfortunately, with regard to data, I don’t recommend Salesforce. Their cheap plans don’t give you access to their API, so the data that you want to analyze is stuck inside Salesforce…
Hubspot — This is a swiss knife of different tools for marketing and sales teams. Their CRM is the most valuable tool for early-stage startups. They are actively targeting startups through VCs, Incubators, and Accelerators with their offer for startups. Eligible startups have 90 % off the first year, and then 25 % off. If you’re only interested in a simple CRM, you can use Hubspot’s for free.
Free sounds really good! Unfortunately, their API is quite limited, so if you’re serious about analyzing your leads to understand how they convert, I don’t recommend Hubspot.
Pipedrive — This tool offers a really beautiful solution for sales teams. It’s easy to set up, flexible, and very visual. The teams I’ve worked with who use Pipedrive have been really satisfied. Their pricing is very reasonable, between $12.50-$29 per month per user. If you want a free 1-month trial you can use this link.
On top of this, their API is absolutely magical! As a data analyst, it makes me so happy to work with their API. You can achieve very powerful insights when using their custom fields, in combination with their API and a Data Visualizer.
Whether you need tools for product analysis, subscription analysis, data management, or client relationship management, I hope this guide can help you to find what’s right for you.
Well, if that’s not enough, I have created multiple free templates that you can refer to for different stages of your startup, click on the link and check out all my free resources.
If you have any questions about these tools or the methodologies I use to coach startups, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Melinda Elmborg was a Venture Capital Investor at the French VC firm Daphni. To be able to actually help startups, she switched careers to become a startup coach. That’s when she started Startup Action.
After meeting hundreds of startups and their founders, she knows what works and what doesn’t. Based on her learnings, she has developed The Startup Action Framework that guides startups from launch to exponential growth.