While most ERP systems may appear alike in terms of their capabilities, they all serve a specific size of a customer base. As companies grow in their size, they go through several stages of growth with varying process complexity. And each phase is different with the amount of planning and control an organization would need. The startup phase is unique. And the ERP systems for startups cater to the needs of this specific group.
In this phase, the company has not gone through the process of standardizing process maps and optimizing around bottlenecks. These companies also can’t afford to spend on expensive integration or implementation projects. Additionally, there is very little value in these activities as the transaction volume is not high. The planning function is manageable in spreadsheets, with a couple of people responsible for forecasting, scheduling, and planning.
The ERP systems designed for this phase can be implemented in the self-serve mode with some assistance from software providers or consulting companies. Since these ERP systems are overly simplified to make them usable by novice users, they limit the options for organizations that will have much deeper needs. Most of these limitations are in the depth of object hierarchies and 1:N scenarios in breaking the processes or consolidating them.
This article outlines the top 10 ERP systems for Startups that should be part of your evaluation. To finalize this list, we have analyzed hundreds of ERP systems and their capabilities through publicly available information. The list also relies on our teams’ experience in evaluating these ERP systems for our customers.
The purpose of this article is not to recommend these ERP systems. Instead, you must carefully analyze your requirements and find a suitable product from this list or a list from your industry/market segment.
Sage Intacct product targets service-centric industries that have a deeper need for multi-entity functionality. While it has extremely deep financial capabilities that might be suitable for even the mid-size professional service firms, it lacks the depth of operational functionality that the product companies such as manufacturing, distribution, or retail would require.
The financial capabilities are much deeper than QuickBooks enterprise, Microsoft GP, Zoho, Odoo, and most products listed on this list. But if you are an eCommerce or manufacturing company, you might need several add-ons, integration, or custom development for it to work for your needs.
The product is not as simple as QuickBooks or Odoo and would most likely require consulting help to be able to implement as it targets slightly larger organizations. But if you are a service startup such as a non-profit, construction, marketing agency, financial services, Sage Intacct could be a great option. It can provide much deeper capabilities than QuickBooks or other accounting software that you might be using right now. For these reasons, Sage Intacct lands at #10 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
SYSPRO is a single-tenant product similar to ECi Macola, Microsoft GP, SAP Business One, and Infor Visual. It packages a much deeper operational functionality for small discrete and process manufacturers and distributors.
It’s not as globalized and localized as SAP Business One. But the financial capabilities are similar with deep support rich UoMs for complex distribution businesses, activity-based accounting, and layers of object hierarchies to support several processes and business models. But because of these deep capabilities, the product will require consulting help to implement. And startups might struggle to implement the self-serve mode.
The manufacturing and distribution capabilities are likely to be similar to Acumatica or NetSuite for businesses with one or a couple of sites in the US. But the solution is not as cloud-native as the newer players. The operational and financial capabilities are deeper than Odoo and Zoho. But because of this complexity and the need for implementation dollars, it makes it less desirable for startups that might have only a couple of employees. And they might be seeking a simpler solution that they can pick up easily in the DIY mode. For these reasons, SYSPRO lands at #9 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
NetSuite is a multi-tenant, multi-entity solution targeted primarily at distribution, B2C, and commerce-centric organizations. It has a very attractive price point for companies starting on their ERP journey, with the implementation fee as low as $30K. And with the assumption that the customer will be responsible for much of the heavy lifting while NetSuite simply advises them.
While the implementation price point may be attractive for startups that might be in the upper range of this segment, the product is the most complex of all on this list. And it will definitely require consulting help to implement it. NetSuite’s object and process model is way richer than Odoo or Zoho and similar to Acumatica and Sage Intacct. It’s also a far more globalized solution than Acumatica and has deeper operational capabilities than Sage Intacct for product-centric companies.
While NetSuite is an amazing product for slightly larger organizations, the complexity makes it less desirable for startups. And the companies that might be seeking a simpler solution that they can pick up easily in the DIY mode. For these reasons, NetSuite lands at #8 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
Acumatica is a multi-tenant, multi-branch solution primarily targeted at companies based in the US and UK. The solution has limited capabilities for startups that may have global operations in multiple countries requiring tax and regulatory compliance in those countries. The solution primarily targets distribution, construction, manufacturing, and field service organizations.
Unlike NetSuite, Acumatica promotes its products primarily through a network of resellers. Like NetSuite, Acumatica has come up with a similar offer for professional services with a very low dollar amount for implementation. But the model is extremely rigid and expects its customers to do much of the heavy lifting in the DIY mode.
Just like NetSuite, Acumatica may be attractive for startups that might be outgrowing their startup phase. But they might still not be in the position to hire expensive consultants or go through the painful process of integration. It offers several native integrations such as integration with Shopify, BigCommerce, out-of-the-box POS, PLM, and marketplace integrations.
While integrations could be handy for late-stage startups that may have experienced growth with their transactions and warehouse activities, the products’ design is not as simple and would require consulting help. The companies will also need to allocate a budget to maintain the expensive and error-prone integrations.
While Acumatica is fairly similar in capabilities to NetSuite, startups might find it easier than NetSuite due to its smaller size and simpler design targeted at smaller companies outgrowing QuickBooks. For these reasons, Acumatica lands at #7 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
ERPNext is an amazing solution for startups with technical skills. It has a similar distribution strategy as Odoo and has a vibrant community of open-source developers. But it’s not as well adopted as Odoo. The solution is ideal for eCommerce and indsutry4.0 startups as the founders are highly technical and have coding backgrounds.
The products’ design is similar to Odoo but may not be as rich as Odoo as it’s a new entrant in the market. The solution has a similar feel as QuickBooks and is super easy to implement in the DIY mode. Like Odoo, it will support basic transactions that startups need. But it would not have the depth with their business objects and process models that Acumatica or NetSuite will offer to support organizations once they outgrow their startup phase.
ERPNext will also not contain industry-specific last-mile functionality that you might find in other richer solutions that target niche startup industries such as ECi DeaCom, ProShop, GlobalShop, and JobBoss2. For these reasons, ERPNext lands at #6 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
ECi Macola is very similar to SYSPRO in its capabilities. It’s a legacy product that Exact sold to ECi. ECi currently maintains and sells it with over 1K+ customers. It prepackages very deep functionality compared to Odoo or ERPNext for small manufacturers and distributors. But it’s not as robust as Acumatica or NetSuite. ECi has a very strong private equity backer that has been trying to grow the company with aggressive acquisitions.
They have several products in their portfolio. And the product strategy is not entirely clear how committed ECi will be to Macola. But Macola is a very different product with its deeper distribution capabilities than other products in their portfolio, such as ECi M1 or JobBOSS2. So it’s very likely that ECi will continue the development on Macola.
While the solution is easier and less complex than Acumatica or NetSuite, it’s complex enough to require consulting help. And it will not be as easy as Odoo, ERPNext, or Zoho that companies can implement in the DIY mode. For these reasons, ECi Macola lands at #5 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
ECi JobBOSS2 is the new cloud-native product that combines the best of JobBOSS and E2 Shoptech. JobBOSS was the simplest product purpose-built for smaller custom manufacturing startups that allowed them to configure, schedule, and manage production sites without expensive help from consultants. In comparison, E2 Shotech was a far more robust product similar sized to SYSPRO or Macola but targeted for smaller jobs and machine shops.
E2 Shoptech had deep capabilities that products such as GlobalShop or ProShop are likely to have. But this also makes the product harder for companies to implement without consulting help. Additionally, most of these packages lack the deeper accounting, inventory, and procurement functionality as they are designed from the perspective of shop floor operators. Once ECi JobBOSS2 is completely rolled out, it’s likely to retain the development flavors of JobBOSS.
The development framework of JobBOSS is likely to make it easy for companies to configure it in the DIY mode. But it will also have a much deeper functionality for machines and job shops that is likely not available in other vanilla solutions such as Odoo or ERPNext. For these reasons, ECi JobBOSS2 lands at #4 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
ECi DeaCom is the simplest purpose-built solution for process industries, including food and beverage distributors, pharma and cannabis manufacturers, and DTC brands. While DeaCom has many features required for smaller distributors and manufacturers, it’s not as limited as other solutions like QuickBooks or ProShop with its transactional integrity and has an SQL-based datastore as its database.
ECi DeaCom enjoys a unique position in the market for smaller process-centric companies that will require significant development and integration with other competing solutions such as Odoo or ERPNext. Even Acumatica or NetSuite will struggle in these verticals and will require several add-ons. These companies require unique capabilities with traceability, recall management, route accounting, and serial number requirements.
ECi DeaCom was born in the cloud, but it’s not as well adopted as NetSuite or Acumatica and has just over 200 customers. But ECi DeaCom can easily be implemented in the DIY mode without requiring much consulting and implementation help. For these reasons, ECi DeaCom lands at #3 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
Zoho has a very similar offering as Odoo, with a very large market share in the CRM and HCM markets. And it has a similar market strategy as Salesforce or Workday but with much smaller customers. Due to their cost model, and since the vast majority of their development is done in India, they are one of the cheapest in the HCM and CRM market, with a per-seat license that could be as low as $1 per month.
Zoho is a great fit for startups in the professional services, distribution, healthcare, and eCommerce categories. Similar to Odoo, Zoho is especially attractive for companies that may have internal technical capabilities or might want to extend the existing platform on top of what is offered out-of-the-box.
Once companies outgrow the startup phase, they will struggle with Zoho with complicated scenarios such as consolidated invoicing or complex allocations. But the solution is simple enough for companies to implement in the DIY mode with minimum consulting help or dollars. For these reasons, Zoho lands at #2 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
Odoo is one of the most straightforward products for startups to consider, with deeper operational capabilities than other cloud accounting solutions such as QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks. It has a very affordable business model for each app that easily integrates with most other offerings like ERPNext or Zoho.
Odoo will not have the last mile functionality for niche industries out-of-the-box that other solutions such as ECi DeaCom or ECi JobBOSS may have. But it’s a rich solution for eCommerce companies and industry4.0 integrators that have in-house capabilities to extend the solution to support their internal processes.
Like Zoho or ERPNext, Odoo’s object and process model is not as rich as Acumatica or NetSuite. But that is also the reason why Odoo’s design is so friendly to the startups. And it doesn’t require as expensive consulting help to implement it. For these reasons, Odoo lands at #1 on our list of the top 10 ERP systems for startups in 2022.
The solutions designed for startups provide the bare minimum that a startup will likely need without consulting help to set up and maintain. These solutions also provide the essential pre-baked integrations. And they offer far deeper operational capabilities than other cloud accounting solutions that would require several add-ons.
If you are a startup currently on QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks, you must take a serious look at these solutions. But make sure you don’t hang on to them for way too long or over-customize. Once you outgrow these solutions, the solutions designed for the next stage can provide far superior ROI and efficiency at that stage when you are in a position to afford consultants who can design your processes for the next phase of your growth.
The startup companies are much smaller in size than other SMB segments. They typically have revenues under $5 mil. These companies also have an extremely limited budget for their implementation, typically under $30K. They can’t afford to hire expensive consulting firms. The systems designed for startups are overly simplified to allow startups to implement them without much external help.
The larger the ERP system, the more layers it will have with its configurable options. These layers of hierarchy make data entry easier and users efficient as they interact with the system. These layers and tracking of dependencies also make the ERP implementation projects extremely complex and error-prone. Without the help of consultants, you are likely to overengineer the processes and experience poor results.
The consulting companies work by hours. So if they are not spending as much time with training and implementation due to your limited budget, they will expect you to do the heavy lifting. Also, when you are a startup, you might not need to go through the process of standardization and reengineering as your products and processes may not be standardized yet. Even for the smaller companies, the implementation may end up costing $200-300K without any complex integration, etc. So either the product is too simple, or they would expect to do 90% of the work.
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