Free research tools for free insight

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If you were to ask me (so maybe you’ll decide not to), you would find I am utterly dismayed how the research industry (the one I’ve been in for 24 years) has massively under-served the startup community. The access to research for startups is poor.

Market research has been very much developed for the corporate budget. When I was in corporate positions, it wasn’t that unusual to spend six-figure sums on individual pieces of research. Given that was close to 15 years ago, I can only imagine what that would cost today.

Imagine for a moment what £100k would mean to a startup struggling to create a product or service, bringing together a team and generating sales. I guess it’s not so surprising – business follows the money after all – but it is utterly sad in my opinion.

Most bootstrapped or pre-investment startups have £0 to spend on research (if that’s you then keep reading, this post is for you). Those with funding might justify a few thousand on research, but that research absolutely has to pay off a return on investment.

It’s through necessity that invention thrives and whilst at least 50% of the people I tell that my business does ‘market research for startups’ respond with “Why? They don’t have any money do they?”, the other half are fully supportive and recognise the genuine need for new ideas to be validated and developed with data and insights.

But this post wasn’t supposed to be a rant about why I work with startups (that’s actually this post). This is about the plethora of free tools that are available to startups in order to help them pull in that much needed understanding of customers.

Full list at the end of this post. I wanted to focus on just 3 in more detail for now…

Generative AI

An absolute no-brainer and an obvious choice but let’s look at tools such as ChatGPT and image generators like Dall-e. ChatGPT has, for me, become a valued team member. A research assistant who can operate at lightning speed. A research assistant which sometimes takes a little too much acid (a la ‘hallucinations’), needs a little guidance and direction (good prompts) but as a FREE tool is pretty damn incredible.

Here’s a few examples of what I’ve asked it to do whilst I’ve been writing this post…

  • Come up with a template for a fully timed 30 minute depth interview guide to carry out customer discovery interviews
  • Turned that template into an online survey
  • Given me a review and recommendation of which survey platform I might use
  • Created a visualised concept of the product I intend to produce

ALL IN SECONDS. Phenomenal. OK it might not be perfectly produced but it can really help to put words on a page and cut down on that time where you’re staring at a blank page.


Not strictly free (there is a fairly pricey subscription) but it does have a free plan, as many of the tools listed below also have. The free account will obviously give you some data and may well give you enough in order to make your pitch deck look more informed and more knowledgeable about your market and the size of the opportunity. There are also other data aggregators below which can give access to public data. Worth spending time to pull together what’s available for free before going ahead and purchasing anything.

Google Trends

I really love this tool and the flexibility in what you can search for in what areas and countries over what time period. It can fundamentally help you show why ‘now’ is the right time for your startup. Example from last night’s Dragons’ Den of ‘cacao’. It’s currently trending pretty high worldwide, you could use this data as a compelling answer to the question ‘why now?’.

Just 3 tools I really rate.

Here’s a full list of 22 to check out (at time of writing they were free or had a free account available):

Data aggregators

Audience insights


Web stats, usage, data

Research sources

Data collection


Would you like to learn how to run your own research?

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