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Startup Credits – Free/discounted plans for startups (github.com)
212 points by dakshshah96 36 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments

Postmark has the most interesting credit IMO, even if it's not a particularly huge one:

> Postmark - If you’ve launched your product, are charging for it, and haven’t taken outside investment, contact the Postmark support team and they'll give you $75 account credit to help with your email costs.

A lot of these discounts are based on the assumption that you're a VC-backed, or about-to-be-VC-backed startup, that will have enough runway and growth to stick around for a couple years, and will smoothly transition from a steep discount to a 4-digit monthly bill around the time you land your Series A or whatever. I like Postmark's because it's much more reasonable - "you _don't_ have VC money, but you have an obvious path to making money (and thus being able to pay us), so we'll give you some credit for free as you get up and running."

I've been totally freeloading for a side project of mine that I _don't_ expect to make any money, but in researching cheap plans I came across a lot of these sorts of discounts (usually while looking to see if they had an open source discount, since my side project is open source). It's an interesting gamble, but I respect Postmark's the most, I think.

I also like how it's credit rather than a time-limited plan. Some projects might not take off in 3-months? 12? Especially if it's 1 person working in their spare time, having a bunch of trials running out is pressure you don't need.

Credit on the other hand runs out when you actually use it, so is much more likely to coincide with you being ready to pay for the service.

> Credit on the other hand runs out when you actually use it, so is much more likely to coincide with you being ready to pay for the service.

Most have an expiry on them. A credit is (typically) a liability on the balance sheet, so companies can't have unlimited exposure weighing down their book value.

If credits expire after a certain amount of time, or are time limited in their offer, such as discounts for 12 months, there isn't the same exposure to potentially unlimited liabilities in non-expiring credits.

I agree - I would much rather a startup subsidy being based on a measurable metric rather than a time limit. e.g. A marketing mailing app being based on number of emails being sent, or a hosting provider basing it on the CPU units.

That way, a startup won't get penalised for putting an MVP out there to get kick started, and the overall infrastructure costs to the provider isn't that high.

I think it is also fairer in situations where one startup may skyrocket to profitability in 3 months as opposed to another that takes 3 years to start paying the bills.

I think AWS is sort of on the right track with their free tier pricing, and it would be nice to see others adopt the same strategy.

(Though I think AWS fails in their startup credits rationale - as far as I can see, they only offer that to funded startups.)

I would really appreciate a similar list for open-source projects


Not exactly what you asked for, but should get you started down that path if you desire funding for your open source project.

If you’re in need of SaaS that does not have a “for startups” program, I’m happy to help buy it at a discount, for free (I make commission from the vendors): https://vendr.co/startups

F6S also has a similar list https://www.f6s.com/deals.

In particular the hosting credits really lets you play around with dev without breaking the bank.

In most cases startups utilize AWS and GCP and they are generally really good, but both DO's Hatch and IBM a lot of people are missing out.

DO is awesome for startups without really good devops since they streamline a lot of the config work so it helps a lot getting the basics set up. We have a lot our free user plans on DO because it's much more cost effective and predictable (pricing wise) than AWS and GC.

IBM is also useful in a different use case because of their easy to setup dedicated hardware servers. 10k per month buys a lot of dedicated hardware (esp GPU) if you need it which is a godsend for us since we do a lot of ML and performance is dramatically better than any of the g/p instances on AWS.

Thank you for mentioning the IBM plan.

How hard was it to move from the Builder to the Premium plan? It looks pretty amazing. Though i probably wouldnt want to host a netflix-type app on an IBM cloud. Shudder... ;)

as in from the 1k plan to 10k per month? You're supposed to be in an "approved" accelerator to get it, but in reality if you pester the reps, they will move you up.

By rep what I mean is IBM has a network of people who go out and evangelize their offerings. They are the people who vet the original applications and if you live in a large city with a decent tech scene, you'll eventually run into that person.

First time I did it, I wasn't on the approved accelerator the local rep moved me up after I convinced him how cool it be for us to be "powered by IBM softlayer", as it was known back then

This is a really helpful list! I didn't know that I could get a year of Zendesk for free [1], or a year of Intercom at $49/mo [2].

I'm using Drift for live chat, but I want to switch to Intercom or Zendesk to have support tickets (or "team inbox"), and a help center / knowledge base.

I saw that Intercom is much more expensive than Zendesk, but noticed that most startups use them. Saw this on their marketing site: "84% of new Y Combinator companies that use a messaging tool use Intercom."

Would be interested to hear some opinions on Zendesk vs. Intercom.

[1] https://www.zendesk.com/startups

[2] https://www.intercom.com/early-stage

I've used both on my startup (as well as Crisp) and ALL are excellent at what they do. It comes down to your use case.

We ended up with Intercom because their user/company model fitted our SaaS (i.e. one user login could be associated with multiple subscriber companies) and we could easily filter by company or users to see total activity and provide support. Drift and Crisp were modelled on the 'one user, one company' concept.

We got on the Intercom startup plan too, which really helped our cashflow (we are bootstrapped). However that runs out in a month or so, and the full price is going to be eye watering. Wish they had a stepped plan over 3 years like HubSpot which would help slower growing companies.

We hit an eye-watering price point with them and Intercom was very willing to work with us on a much more reasonable fixed price point with an annual commitment.


I would suggest taking a look at Crisp.

I find it very intuitive and useful. More power isn't always needed.


Interesting, I had never heard of them before. That's very affordable pricing.

There's also FrontApp.

crisp offers a lot of amazing features even on their free plan

Don't forget about the new kid on the block Crisp: https://crisp.chat/

Thanks, I hadn't heard of Crisp before!

A great list. As a founder of a bootstrapped SaaS, I am always on the lookout for discounted startup plans, and am amazed at how hard it is to find this information.

For instance, we had been using the free edition of HubSpot (mentioned in this list) for about 6 months, and it wasn't until we spoke to support about a problem that a return callback from a sales rep mentioned that they have a 90% discount on their paid plans for a year. It was a no brainer to unlock the full suite for around $140 a month as opposed to $1500/mo. Their discount is stepped over 3 years too (so you don't pay full price until the 3rd year).

Wish more companies had similar initiatives. Also, I don't know why a lot of companies offer 'startup discounts' only to funded companies. I would think that a company that just received a cool million dollars from a VC could afford to pay full tote odds, whereas a bootstrapped company that has to eke out an existence from a small, growing subscriber base cannot get a discount to help cashflow?

I believe it's under the assumption that you (a funded start up) will be around longer than something that might go under and not worth eating the cost of the discount without the pay off of a full price subscription later.

Really nice list. As a startup person, I try to keep track of these. I also try to keep track of the time lines, so if necessary I can switch service providers as credits come close to expire(unless they have really impressed me). AWS only lasts a year, azure usually lasts a year but you can get it extended as well.

When is a good time to apply to AWS/GCP credits?

Before you take pre-seed funding - no references, just a web site and some traffic.

After a 6-figure pre-seed? (Is the start-up credits still available?)

Also, do AWS/GCP require exclusivity wrt to other clouds ?

The earlier the better. None of them have exclusivity but they do have requirements on funding. If you already raised too much it can be problematic, or if you're already a paying customer them switching to credits might require extra work.

Sometimes they require you to have a VC or accelerator intro for the higher tiers but you may be able to get around it if you know the right people.

GCP has a regular small startup program that doesn’t require that you have VC funding or specific accelerator backing. It isn’t nearly as much, but I got $1000 on top of the initial $300 for my bootstrap.

I cant reveal much but they did change the rules and added a new smaller package. All 3 levels are technically available directly without an intro but again may take work to navigate the right relationships.

Disclosure: I work on Google Cloud.

We document the levels directly on the site [1], though I think there’s at least one bug in the FAQ :). We try to make it clear that you can also apply directly.

[1] https://cloud.google.com/developers/startups/

I need that! Who do I talk to?

Find a google developer advocate and ask for an intro as well.

That is a neat and very useful list that I'll be sure to pass around. I'll also add a little email to the effect that these are all companies that have alternatives and that the whole goal of these 'free' or discounted plans is to get you locked in to some product.

Thank you so much for this. I have small company and we try to be very spartan with costs and sometimes have to go by without some very important services.

The Zendesk one is the most needed right now!

Off the topic, does anyone know how to get free AWS Credits without having VC support?

I am about to launch something and I really require AWS Credits for that. Thanks

Sign up for Brex. Or use Stripe Atlas to create your company.

You can also apply to aws activate. They will be glad to give you credits if you make a solid case that you'll end up using aws a bunch.

AWS Activate is designed for startups in select accelerators, incubators, Seed/VC Funds, and other startup-enabling organizations.

I have looked into Stripe Atlas but it has a bit of complications regarding Double Taxation for Indian startups. I am just a guy working alone on this project so I don't want to deal with those tax related issues.

Will checkout Brex. Thanks

Activate is not only for such accelerators. My previous bootstrapped company got in, it just took some negotiating.

I took the sentence from their website. I will apply if they are open for negotiation. Thanks.


weird concept but might make sense for some companies.

Thanks for that. But the program costs $5,900 program and I am not really sure if that's worth it.

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