Agile App Selection

Today there are too many applications to choose from, what’s the best way to get started quickly?

Spying on the competition

There’s a growing number of startup and tools specifically geared to helping you explore the technology stacks of other startups:

Other tools take a product oriented approach, either collecting community information or attempting to analyze the internet:

Not all of the statistics can be correct, nevertheless these tools and others can help highlight and explore software solutions which are widely used, or fast growing in usage, or used by a competitor or ‘model’ company.

Finding Alternatives

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) has small business startup options  however is still at the technical infrastructure end and not really offering “business-in-a-box” application level solutions, however a number of providers – notably bitnami are offering complete pre-built software stacks as either VMs or ready-to-go AWS or other images.
  • Free Software Foundation  offers a comprehensive software catalogue, it’s definitely worth checking and being aware of what exists in software category you are interested in.
  • For software development, the Apache Software Foundation has lot to offer.

European alternatives

Since US software is shown to be compromised by the US government – a lot more coming out on the wikileaks CIA exploits right now – you may be considering alternative non-US software solutions appropriate to your region.

Noysi: is one example which is European startup that is positioning itself as a European alternative to Slack, Dropbox etc not subject to
  • Mobile: both mobile and desktop apps available including Windows, OSX, Linux as well as iOS
  • Integration: Github, Google Drive, Google Hangout, JIRA, Trello, Hubot, Zendesk, incoming/outgoing webhooks
  • Cloud: cloud-hosted solution
  • Value pricing: Free trial up to 10,000 messages and 5Gb of storage. 48EUR/user annual subscription

Of course there is no guarantee of privacy in any jurisdiction: the UK intelligence agencies were found to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights – and supplied some of the CIA exploits reported on wikileaks – and a legal case against mandatory surveillance is ongoing in Germany.

[Note – Noysi is based in Spain and I haven’t heard a similar case against Spain yet.]


In China the monitoring technology is advanced and will not to be subject to legal challenge.
Technology interchange is controlled in both directions:

  • US companies may require
    • export licencies from the US government to export technology to China (or potentially even to receive Chinese visitors)
    • China may require to inspect source code of software imported to China.  IBM, Microsoft and Apple are all variously reported to be complying with this with inspection facilities set up for the government review
  • Chinese companies face controls on exporting, for example the well known case of Huawei in the USA.

China has a large enough local market to be able to create local alternatives to any US startup, and very good ones too.  A good case in point is Wechat: 846 million active users, a high proportion of them now doing online shopping and using payment function in 300,000 retail chains. But around 85% of these users are inside china and overseas market expansion was variously reported as a disaster and global expansion plans scrapped.

Open Source remains a good logical model to tackle global market: in this way implementors in different jurisdictions may be compliant with their own local laws without having to deal with the problem of compliance with potentially contradictory laws and data access demands from other jurisdictions.


India may provide some interesting alternatives with a growing number of technology companies.  For example based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, provides not only an alternative to Microsoft Office / Google docs but also a complete integrated suite of apps including Helpdesk, CRM, social media management, Accounting and much more.  There is a low barrier to entry with a number of free services for limited number of users, though subscribing to complete software suite would add up cost.

I’m not aware of the level of government interference in India-hosted solutions. If they don’t spy on global data hosted in their own country, that could be turned into a competitive advantage for their country’s software industry.

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