10 bootstrapping / startup-life-hacks we’ve learned (so far)
1. Work from a founder’s home
Doing this not only saves money, but if done right is a more comfortable way to work longer hours, with access to a proper kitchen, washrooms, and in our case a beautiful patio with BBQs. In order to make the environment feel like an office, we have decided to collocate – we have found that by simply bringing the team together, Ben’s home was transformed into an office during the working hours.
2. Save on furniture!
We have invested in a ping-pong table as our desk / board room table. Not only is it a cheap way to get a big surface, it folds up for easy storage to make more space, and can double as an office perk (if you ever take your external monitors off it! we haven’t yet). Did we mention better resale value?
3. Use walls (and windows!) as a whiteboard
Post milestones and deadlines on windows as a reminder for yourself and the rest of the team. Post product designs on walls as a convenient reference. It will save you time, space, and you might not even need a whiteboard.
4. Get whatever you can for free
We usually open the door of the condo to get free A/C coming from the freezing hallways of the building! We keep the door propped-open with a cheap bulk-sized bag of rice we’re eating. It is a great way to rapidly cool the room and save money! We still haven’t found what we will do during the Canadian winter, but if you have any suggestions on how to heat up the office for free, let us know! By then we will probably have depleted the rice sufficiently that the door will no longer stay open.
5. Pool funds and buy bulk food
Instead of buying lunch / dinner everyday, we decided to buy in bulk and cook together. We save time by rotating who will cook that day or bring leftovers. (Read: live collaboratively!) Our cupboard is full of random cheap food we’ve found. We work with the ingredients at hand. Who knows… we might even write a startup cookbook at a later date.
6. Bike to work
It helps save the planet. It also obviously minimizes the amount of money you spend on your commute, and saves valuable time. It’s also helped us stay in shape despite our long hours.
7. Tap-into your personal network, and be grateful
Have a family member or friend who’s a lawyer? Get their help in preparing your key documents (and use an expert where needed). Save their time by doing as much prep work as possible for them. You’ll save money, and they’ll probably care more about you than a third party. One of our uncles is composing some music for our videos. We’re also plant-sitting some tomatoes and basil, extracting rents in the form of free food. We have been very grateful of our friends and family thus far. They have provided us with invaluable amount of support.
8. Crowdsource. Crowdsource. Crowdsource.
We are big proponents of services like 99designs.com, crowdSPRING.com, squadhelp.com and MycroBurst.com (we’ve mostly experimented with 99designs, to-date). These awesome services help you generate and execute on ideas faster and cheaper. There’s even a crowdsourced site for code, Scriptlance (we haven’t tried this yet though). Any others you like? Let us know.
9. Negotiate everything!
Enjoy being “poor” for a bit. And use the word “poor” when you negotiate. Whether it is your internet bill or an order of business cheques, tell them how “poor” your company is… It can go a long way in getting credits and discounts.
10. Don’t cheap-out on everything
When you need to spend money, don’t hesitate! Spend it! Even though bootstrapping is really helpful in making you last longer before revenues kick in, we strongly believe it shouldn’t be at the expense of being efficient and happy. If your ping pong table gets annoying and kills your productivity, buy a real desk. It works awesome for us, but it may not work for you. Buy a big monitor if it’s going to boost your productivity. We also truly believe in spending on hiring the right talent, contractors or agencies (and paying them competitive rates along with rewarding them with bonuses). Not only will you get a better product, but you’ll also save time… Early on, we decided to invest a sizeable amount of our initial investment into a top-notch design shop to kick-start our front-end development. This approach helped us save many weeks in the development process.
This is how we’ve been bootstrapping. Any other tips you’d add?
Read more about bootstrapping your start-up on the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit
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