“I have a dream” is what Martin Luther King Jr. said, and admittedly, his was at least an order of magnitude larger than the dreams of an average company founder. But all companies start with a dream. Dreams are great: in them, you can invariably be invincible, conquer every challenge. However, such dreams can quickly turn to nightmares, if you are not careful. A startup is like a dream.
What follows is an idea or a series of ideas: a roadmap, perhaps. Not a freeway, but more of a winding country lane that is hopefully a joy to drive down. Still, it is not without danger—perhaps a mudslide is caused by a sudden deluge, or a deer, alpaca, or kangaroo suddenly runs out into the road. This is a journey into setting up a startup technology company, from the perspective of technology. Do you buy on-site infrastructure, move wholly into public cloud, or perhaps do a mixture of both? If cloud, what particular ’aaS do you partake of—platform, infrastructure, software, or any number of the other flavours that now abound?
The first mistake that the average founder makes when starting a company is to rush headlong into the making of things, be that widgets to fit a sprocket, consultancy days, or what ever else is used to generate revenue. This is expected; you are suddenly the master of your own destiny, and cash flow reigns. However, and this is important, before you even start to earn, there are many things that you should complete, apart from the obvious things like opening your business bank account, getting a good accountant, and incorporating your company. Things like choosing and setting up email, office applications, collaboration software. Timesheets, bookkeeping software, payroll. Customer records database and management.
What decisions do you make regarding your technology stack? Do you go on-site with physical hardware and locally installed databases and applications, or do you start in the cloud?
This is the age-old consultant’s answer of “it depends.” It depends on the market you are working in. If you are a software house, do you trust Git to hold your crown jewels? (Hint, you can have Git with an on-site deployment.)
If you are a one-person consultancy, then a device and a couple of SaaS applications could be the way to go.
This is the first in a set of articles that will go though the process of setting up your business from the perspective of a technology stack to support your widget and sprocket making.
When you are in startup mode, cash reigns. This is one of the main drivers when deciding your path to technology usage.
Today, the choice of personal end user equipment is very diverse. Do you go for a desktop device? A laptop? A notebook? A tablet? Or depending upon your business, could everything be done from your phone? If I were in the market today for a personal compute device, I would go with the Microsoft Surface device. If you had asked me twelve months ago, I would most likely have said an Apple device. With the surface and the attachable keyboard, you have the best of both worlds regarding form factor: a fully functional and reasonably specified laptop and a tablet. In fact, the only thing that is missing from the Surface is the ability to add a SIM. That said, access to Wi-Fi is becoming more freely available. This, together with a phone and a decent multifunction printer (because you will need to scan, copy, and print things), are most likely the only real capital expenditure on technology you will initially need.
Of course, you could go down the open-source route, utilise a Linux-based OS, and purchase an alternative device.
What about your supporting software to actually enable your documents, presentations, and spreadsheets? Again, you have plenty of on-site and cloud-based options: locally installed Office for Windows or Mac-based devices, or LibreOfice for Linux-based devices. An Office 365 subscription could provide access to the vast majority of software needs for as little as $9.00 a month, for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher for day-to-day application needs, and Outlook and Skype for your communication and collaboration requirements. There is also Google Docs. For basic use, free time tracking can be done with SaaS-based applications like Toggl or Timesheets.com, again for approximately $9 a month.
Bookkeeping can be done with MYOB or Quickbooks or Sage. Again, all for approximately $10 a month. Contrast this with the cost of around $200 for full software payment.
Finally, we look at a customer records ledger. This could be something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. For the first couple of months, that would most likely be more than enough. However, with companies like Zoho and Bitrix24 offing a free tier of their SaaS CRM product, you may as well start properly. So, for an initial outlay of between $900 and $1800 for a laptop per employee, and a printer for a $250, a cell phone contract at approximately $50 per month per employee, coupled with approximately $30 a month per employee in recurring software costs and $90 a month for your Internet connection.
You will have the basis from a technology perspective for your startup, next week, we will start to move forward from day one.