Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

My favorite posts of 2008

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’m finally back and getting into the groove of 2009 after heading to my hometown to spend time with family for Christmas, and then taking off time over New Year’s, as well. It’s good to be back. But before I start looking forward to all the very good things that are coming in 2009, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2008. Here are my favorite posts (for a variety of reasons) from the past year.

2008 blog posts

 

10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs (2/25/08)
“Here’s a look at 10 qualities that some entrepreneurs share that may help them be great at starting a company, but not so great at existing in normal society.”

The board meeting & the business plan (1/25/08)
“No matter how solid the plans are in your mind, you’ll find holes when you write things down. This is true in about 99.9% of the cases. I’m sure that there are exceptions; other people like Jack Kerouac who famously wrote On the Road on one long scroll, but in general, things get clearer when they are written down. ”

What Skymall can teach you about user testing (1/23/08)
“Basho the Sumo Wrestler table will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it.”

What’s going to happen to the music industry? (1/8/08)
“So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.”

7 ways to raise money for your start-up (2/19/08)
“The good news for anyone who has limited resources when starting a company is that entrepreneurs seem to agree that this can be a good thing. The need to conserve resources often leads to creativity, hard-work, and a drive to succeed that can be missing when money is available and things are easier and more comfortable. So the first piece of advice when you’re thinking about raising money is to make sure that you really need it before going after cash.”

Four hurdles to jump after starting a business (2/13/08)
“When you start a business, you may be trying to hold onto faith that it will be a success, but you don’t really know that it will be. Along with that, you don’t always know where you’re next client will come from. Or employee. Or dollar. So you have to come to a point of accepting the not knowing, embracing the uncertainty. For me, it’s kind of a thrill to be working this all out as I go because I have come to believe that no matter what I face, I’ll figure it out. It might not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, I’ll either determine a way to get around the issue, find someone to help me with it, or overcome it in some way.”

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media (3/25/08)
“One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.”

5 ways to make sure that skimmers will read your email message (3/13/08)
“The life of a skimmer is treacherous. They go to meetings and get asked a question “about that email that was sent yesterday” and have absolutely no idea how to answer. They never know what time the party is going to start, or who was invited, or what day it is going to be held. Skimming causes problems. But for whatever reason, skimmers can’t stop. They might just think it’s ridiculous that people send long email messages. They might be “all about efficiency” or “impatient” or “don’t care.” The list of reasons is long.”

The rare women tech start-up founder (4/30/08)
“Although it may have been said many times in many ways, I think it’s a mistake to gloss over the issue of having kids…For every start-up founder, I think, balancing a career with the rest of life is something to think about. But as a woman, the issue rarely leaves my mind. It adds urgency, pressure and stress. And I’m sure for some women, this trifecta of bad emotion is enough to keep them from starting that start-up.”

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations (4/17/08)
“You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times.”

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem (4/11/08)
Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked.”

Stop scheduling meetings on Tuesdays and get to work (5/8/08)
“I might be the last person to know this, but Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. I was alerted to this fact by this blog post, which pointed to some research by Robert Half International. But then when I went to dig in deeper, Tuesday-is-the-most-productive-day-ever was all over the Internet.”

.anydomainnameyouwant soon to be available for purchase (6/27/08)
“I have heard a lot of people making the case that the only domain name that really matters is .com. Although I agree that the .com domain name will stay the strongest for the foreseeable future, this thinking is really short-sighted. Although technology is advancing quickly, the Internet is still in its infancy. It’s hard to predict what will happen in two years, let alone in 20 years. I think that there is a very good chance that other gTLDs will become important. I’ve seen evidence of this in other countries, and honestly, it’s even possible that the gTLD system could eventually go away entirely.”

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app (6/5/08)
“Do the “addiction test.” Can someone use your application once and then never again? Not good. Do they use it once and then feel compelled to immediately use it again? That’s good. Do they want to go back and use it the next day? And the next? That’s even better.”

Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have (but I’m working on it) (8/21/08)
“I have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.”

Five things your business can learn from Disney (8/13/08)
“Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.”

Five reasons to start delegating more today (9/10/08)
“Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work.”

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough (11/4/08)
“I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.”

Babel Fish, Google Translate and human go head-to-head (12/5/08)
“To me, it looks like the human with moderate Spanish skills won, hands down. But if you aren’t lucky enough to sit 3 feet away from someone who is willing to indulge your translation needs, I would go with Google Translate. At least in Spanish-to-English translation, with these examples, it had a slight advantage.”

Entrepreneurs in a downturn

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Fresno BeeThe Fresno Bee, a newspaper in Fresno, Calif., recently featured this article about entrepreneurs in an economic downturn. The entrepreneurs interviewed were generally optimistic – one of the most important qualities of anyone who starts a company. I’m also interviewed in the article, so check it out if you have a minute.

Entreprenuers see upside in downturn: Many Valley small-business founders see the economic slump as opportunity knocking.

Consulting sucks, but thanks for the work

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Starting a company is tricky because there is never enough money. There are ways to raise money, and ways to save money, but usually you are thinking about both of those things because money is tight.

At the moment, I’m doing quite a bit of consulting work to give my company a cash infusion. And this is working quite well. Luckily, the projects are interesting and the clients are delightful to work with. (They also read my blog!) Most importantly, the money is coming in.

Love HateBut although I love my consulting jobs half the time, the other half of the time I despise them. Because every day, every hour, every minute that I spend doing my best work for my clients is time that I take away from working on my start-up.

I consider this to be a necessary evil at the moment. But the process of getting these consulting jobs and using this capital-raising strategy has given me some insight into how to make the process more painless than painful.

My most recent article on The Industry Standard has the full scoop, so go read it now to find out more – Consulting for capital – 5 ways to make it work for your start-up.

These are the five points that the article covers:

1. Charge by the hour
2. Watch the contract terms
3. Learn from the work
4. Network
5. Schedule around your busy times

What strategies do you use to make consulting a positive capital-generating tactic for your start-up?

Photo by *_Abhi_*

Becoming an entrepreneur & the things that inspire us

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

This week’s article for The Industry Standard is more personal than other articles that I’ve written for them in the past. It’s here: How to Make the Leap from Corporate Hack to Entrepreneur. I give some tips, but mostly the article is a first-person account of my transition from working at a big company to founding my start-up.

In the article I mention a vacation that I took to Arizona. That trip happened in May 2007 – Chris and I went to Phoenix, Sedona & The Grand Canyon to celebrate our first anniversary. At the time we went, I wasn’t thrilled with my job any longer. I was getting the itch to leave, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I loved the people I worked with, I had a good position, relatively good money…but I wasn’t really happy anymore and I couldn’t figure out why.

Then I went to Taliesin West.

I am not a huge architecture fan. I mean, I like architecture, but I don’t know much about it. Chris studied architecture for a year or two in school before switching to industrial design, but even so, going to visit an architecture-related exhibit isn’t what we would normally choose to do. But we were on a road trip and wanted to stop wherever the wind blew us, and however it worked out, we ended up at Taliesin West.

We took the tour. It was an hour-long, guided. In the tour, we went through various buildings on the school campus – Wright’s office, the studio and gardens, the private gathering room and even the family’s bedrooms. All along the way the guide kept telling us all these cool facts and interesting things, totally creative stuff that had my mind racing. Here are a few things that I saw and learned:

– There was an observation point on the grounds where Frank Lloyd Wright and one of his wives (he had three during his lifetime) used to bring chairs to every single night in the spring and summer, to look at the valley around them. There was nothing as far as the eye could see. Standing at that point today, the entire sprawl of Phoenix/Scottsdale was visible.

– The students who attended the school actually built the school before they could attend. They used only the materials that were available on the land. All of Wright’s designs were built to make sure that the buildings blended into the surroundings, and brought the outside inside, as well. This is called organic architecture, and he was way ahead of his time with it.

– Even after the grounds were built, new students didn’t get to live in the buildings. Their first year, they had to go out into the surrounding wilderness area and build their own dwelling on a slab that was there for that purpose. This was like a crash course in architecture – if your dwelling wasn’t good, you would be living with the insects and other animals. Married students often brought their families to experience this with them.

– Frank Lloyd Wright was a major movie buff, so there is a movie theater on the grounds. It’s pretty dark inside the theater, however, so he had the builders dig small cut-outs into the rock along the floor, and installed lights – the first track lighting ever.

– When Wright was a boy, there was a certain set of blocks that he always played with – Froebel blocks. He often credited these blocks as laying the foundation for the basic principles of architecture that he used throughout his career.

Ok, so those are some random things, and you might read them and think “so what?” Or you might think that some are cool and others are mundane. But I left Taliesin West with my mind racing about all the ideas that I had heard, and with the need to be creative burning up in my chest.

It took me a bit of time before I eventually left my job to start Pure Incubation. But this visit to Taliesin West started the avalanche. After this visit, I knew in my heart that I had to leave my corporate gig.

And this visit also reminded me just how important it is to find things that inspire us. To visit new places, see new things, meet new people, take a chance on something unexpected. You never know where inspiration might strike.

These pictures are all from various people on Flickr – all better than any of the pictures I took that day. They are all from Taliesin West.

Taliesin West
Photo by andy54321

Taliesin Sculpture
Photo by bluecanary_dreams

Japenese taliesin
Photo by bluecanary_dreams

Furniture taliesin
Photo by andy54321

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

As I write this post, I’m getting ready to go away for a long weekend with Chris (my husband) to visit friends and family in Philadelphia. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that both of us are entrepreneurs – Chris helped start Spine Frontier a couple of years ago and I started Pure Incubation back in September. It may be obvious from that statement alone, but let me just come right out and say it – we are both insanely busy with our jobs. It is hard to get away for a vacation – even for a weekend – and to take a day off (gasp!) is practically impossible. But we are doing it this weekend.

Philly loveAs I was thinking about leaving, though, all the reasons why we shouldn’t go away kept swirling through my head. And they almost kept us from going (we didn’t book our flights until 5 days ago, for example). So I thought it might be useful to give my fellow entrepreneurs a list of 10 reasons that they should take more vacations. Refer back to this post anytime you are considering going away, but almost back out. Be strong! Take that vacation!

1) You work too much. I have no problem with working hard – or long – but if you are an entrepreneur, it’s likely that you work too much. Like to the point where you aren’t getting enough sleep, exercising regularly or eating well. Working a lot isn’t necessarily the best way to be productive and it’s hard to stop once you’re in the habit. So stop everything for a couple of days, get some sanity back, and you’ll be able to return to the job with a more realistic outlook on work duration – and you’ll likely be more productive during the hours that you are working.

2) New environments spark creativity. Right before I quit my last job, I took a vacation to Arizona. On the trip, we went to visit Taliesin West, the Frank Lloyd Wright school of architecture. I know very little about architecture, but seeing the amazing creative environment that was built at that school was so inspiring to me that I know that I had to leave my job. It opened my heart up again to the creativity that was just dying to come out – and that I could bury in the sameness of my everyday life.

Dance Philadelphia3) You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times. Going on a vacation will give me something else to talk about – outside of my work.

4) It’s been a long time since you’ve been on a vacation. Admit it – when’s the last time that you took a vacation? A real one. A work trip doesn’t count. If it’s been longer than 6 months, it’s time.

5) You need to reconnect. For me, the trip will be great because I’ll be able to reconnect with Chris. We see each other during the worst part of our days – in the mornings (when I can barely function) and after work (when all Chris wants to do is veg out and recover from the insanity of his day). A vacation is going to give us the opportunity to spend the good parts of our days together – and this is important. Maybe you need to reconnect with your spouse, or your friend, or your kids or your parents – or maybe you just need to reconnect with yourself (solo vacations are highly underrated in my opinion). Invite whoever it is that you’re missing to go away with you and spend the time reconnecting.

6) You need to get out of the house. OK, this one might just be for me. But my office is IN my house, and I can never escape work (or the house). I love where I live, I look at the ocean from my office window, but I need to get outside of these walls. If you work from home, which many entrepreneurs do for a season, you know what I mean.

7) It’s helpful to remind yourself why you’re working so hard. Most of us aren’t working our butts off for nothing. There is usually a dream, a goal, a vision to come at the end of it. For me, I want to be able to travel. So taking periodic vacations reminds me why I’m doing all of this.

Joan of arc of philly8) You need some fresh air. You’re probably working so hard and so much that you spend most of the daylight hours in your office, wherever it may be. You need to get outside, to breathe the air, to have the sun shine on your face. Typically people spend time outside on their vacations, whether it’s strolling through a neighborhood or doing something active.

9) Talking to people in other places will help your business. No matter what your company is doing or building, you have customers that you need to serve. And getting out of your familiar bubble will allow you to talk to people about what you’re doing – and will help you refine your ideas to make sure that you’re serving them better.

10) Vacations are fun. At least, they should be. And if a vacation isn’t fun to you, do something that is. The point is, you need to lighten up sometimes, have a little fun, laugh, joke around, remember that everything isn’t serious and at the point of imminent collapse (which is how entrepreneurs usually feel).

Bonus #11) Your employees want you to go away. (This is for those of you who have employees.) If you ever worked for someone else, you know how it is when the boss is away – there’s a feeling of freedom, of lightness, of relief. As the boss, you may not want your employees to feel this freedom. But it’s important not only for you to get a break, but for your employees to get a break from you. When you get back from vacation, you’ll find that they are refreshed, as well.

Happy travels!

(the pictures here are all from Philly – “Love” by vic15, Dance Philadelphia by my aim is true, Joan of Arc by pwbaker)

The #1 most important personality trait of an entrepreneur

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

There are a lot of things that go into starting a business – fearlessness, dedication, risk-taking, money and perhaps a bit of stupidity. But the number one characteristic that seems to be common in all entrepreneurs is their adaptability – their willingness to change plans and go in a different direction when needed.

In her blog today, Penelope Trunk wrote that it really isn’t possible to know if your idea for a start-up is any good. I agree with her. And I believe that this is the reason that founders need to be so adaptable. If you don’t know if an idea is any good before you start, it’s highly possible that along the way you might find out that it isn’t that good. Or that there is a better idea. If that happens (and it often does), you need to be willing to make a change, and quickly. “Founders need to be adaptable,” says Jessica Livingston, author of the book Founders at Work. “Not only because it takes a certain level of mental flexibility to understand what users want, but because the plan will probably change. People think that startups grow out of some brilliant initial idea like a plant from a seed. But almost all the founders I interviewed changed their ideas as they developed them.”

Changed priorites ahead signYesterday, Chris came home from work and told me that his company received their third FDA approval. This is a big deal in the medical device industry because it’s the point when a company can start marketing and selling its products (i.e. making money). I started to congratulate him but he told me not to bother. It turns out that after they had sent the application for approval, the designers discovered a flaw, so they are already working on version 2 of this device. Although they got the approval, the product is essentially going to be tossed out. He didn’t seem too phased. “Things change,” he said.

This flexibility is something that I’m working on as a key component of my start-up. I have to be flexible since a core part of my business model is starting a lot of businesses at the same time, some of which will not go as planned. At my first board meeting, one of the board members suggested that I start a software company as one of my launches for Pure Incubation. This wasn’t one of the original plans, but it seems like a good idea – possibly even a great idea (no one knows for sure yet!) – so I’m going to be flexible and incorporate that business idea.

Here are some other stories from the people profiled in the book Founders at Work:

“Over the years, I’ve learned that the first idea that you have is irrelevant. It’s just a catalyst for you to get started. Then you figure out what’s wrong with it and you go through phases of denial, panic, regret. And then you finally have a better idea and the second idea is always the important one.” – Arthur von Hoff, cofounder, Marimba

“We built this app for the Palm Pilot, which was getting pretty good growth. We were getting 300 users a day. Then we built a demo for the website, which was functional, so you could do everything on the website that you could do on a Palm Pilot, except the website was unsexy and we really didn’t care. It was like, ‘Go to the website and download the Palm Pilot version. It’s really cool.’…Sometime by early 2000, we realized that all these people were trying to use the website for transactions, and the growth of that was actually more impressive than the growth of the handheld device, which was inexplicable because the handheld device one was cool and the website was just a demo…We had the moment of epiphany, and for the next 12 months just iterated like crazy on the website version of the product, which is today’s PayPal.” – Max Levchin, cofounder, PayPal

“I came up with the idea to do a simple-to-install database at the back end. Then you’d use the browser as the front end. It could store any piece of information at the back, but the browser would be used to display it…So I wrote a business plan and didn’t know what to do with it…I knew Jack and knew that he was a great software and hardware engineer. So I shared this idea with him…While we were putting the business plan…together and were working at FirePower Systems, they installed a firewall around our corporate intranet that prevented us from dialing out to our personal email accounts. I had an account at Stanford and Jack had one at AOL, so we would dial out and email each other. but we couldn’t do that anymore because the firewall prevented us from accessing our personal accounts. So we ended up exchanging information on floppy disks and on physical pieces of paper. That’s when it occurred to us, ‘Wait a minute, we can access any website in the world through a web browser. If we made email available through the web browser, that would solve our problem.’ ” – Sabeer Bhatia, cofounder, Hotmail

“Entrepreneurs have to keep adjusting to…everything’s changing, everything’s dynamic, and you get this idea and you get another idea and this doesn’t work out and you have to replace it with something else. Time is always critical because somebody might beat you to the punch.” – Steve Wozniak, cofounder, Apple Computer

“[Our original idea was not just a DVR.] It was this flamboyant, home server network thing. And we actually got funded based on that. When we got into the technology, we realized, ‘Hey, network technology isn’t quite there yet. The idea of a server is fine, but how do you explain it to the average consumer?’ We learned very quickly that this was going to be a hard sell and a hard thing technologically…We went back to the VCs and said, ‘Thank you very much for the money. We’ve changed our minds. Here’s what we’re going to do and here’s why we think it’s a good idea.’ ” – Mike Ramsay, cofounder, TiVo

“Flickr was kind of a lark. It was a side project that we built while we were in the process of building Game Neverending. The back-end development of the game fell really far behind the front-end development, and so while we were waiting for the back end to catch up – being restless hacker types – we built this sort of instant messenger application in which you could form little communities and share objects. And we just added the ability to share photographs. So Flickr started off as a feature…Eventually, we had to put the game on hold and stop development on it because Flickr was really taking off.” -Caterina Fake, cofounder, Flickr

What do you think? What’s the most important personality trait of an entrepreneur?

Photo by Redvers

5 places to spend money on your start-up

Friday, February 15th, 2008

As a rule, most start-ups are short on cash and want to spend as little money as possible to give their business enough runway to take off. But there are some times that it doesn’t make sense to bootstrap because it may do more harm than good.

Here are the five places to spend money on your start-up to give you a better chance at success.

1) Get a good bookkeeper or accountant. This piece of advice doesn’t apply if you are a bookkeeper or accountant, but I am not. Having a good bookkeeper is worth every Stack of moneypenny. I love – no, I adore – my bookkeeper. Not only is she helpful in getting my budgets together, paying all my bills and cutting checks to all my contractor’s, but because of her past experience, she also has been able to help me with a number of other start-up issues, such as opening a bank account, wiring money overseas, setting up an LLC, registering a DBA, and a number of other business issues that it would have taken me hours to figure out how to do without her. Some people are able to find this experience and expertise elsewhere – with a business partner or advisor, for example – but it’s incredibly valuable to have someone on your team that has done the paperwork before. It will save you hours of work and will keep you from making costly mistakes.

“One of the hassles of ONElist was that I was the one managing the books the first year, as well as answering the 200 support emails every night, as well as doing all this other stuff. I guess I’m torn with how cheap do you want to go with a startup. Having an accountant is kind of a nice frill.” – Mark Fletcher, founder, Bloglines

“One [of the biggest challenges starting a start-up] is, in general, not knowing what’s ‘normal.’ Investors hand us ‘normal’ term sheets, consultants ask for ‘normal’ fees. I’m 21 – I haven’t seen enough of the extremes to know what’s normal.” – Blake Ross, creator, Firefox

“We knew what we knew, which was the product. But there were all these little things that you just have no clue about. It was incredibly overwhelming.” – Mena Trott, cofounder, Six Apart

2) Hire a great lawyer. Do not try to save money on a lawyer. A great lawyer will keep you out of trouble and out of court (which kills a lot of start-ups before they can ever gain traction). A lawyer will also help you when it’s time to raise money or sell your business. Spend money here – it may seem like a waste or too big of an investment, but it’s well worth the cash.

“They’d put in a right of first refusal. Since I was a young entrepreneur at the time, I didn’t understand that this basically meant that you couldn’t go to any other VC…We didn’t have a very good lawyer back then.” – Sabeer Bhatia, cofounder, Hotmail

3) Hire employees with special skills and experience. Stick with contractors vs. full-time employees as long as possible, but when you are hiring, it’s worth a little extra money to get someone who has the special skills and experience that you need. For example, I need a series of reports written in SQL Reporting Services. This is a customized list of reports, I know someone who has written these types of reports in the past, and I am going to hire her to do it for me again, even though it might cost me a little more than a rookie SQL programmer. I am willing to pay her extra because I know that she is good, and she won’t have to spend a lot of time making mistakes and fixing them (because she’s already made her mistakes in the past). Chris hired someone to handle his company’s regulatory issues with the FDA – and he spent a little bit more to get someone who had previous experience working with that particular government agency, which just might help get their products through the FDA pipeline a little more quickly. Plus, the inside knowledge of how the organization works will save them hours of time in preparing documents and submissions.

“The difference in almost any position between someone who does a good job and someone who does a great job might be 20% more in salary, but it’s 100% or 200% more in throughput. If you can have enough people in the company that work twice as efficiently as the person sitting next to them, because they just know what to do, what not to spend time on…It’s just, hey, you give this engineer a task, and it’s just done right in half the time as the next person.” – Stephen Kaufer, cofounder TripAdvisor

4) Splurge on occasional perks that make a difference. Sometimes small splurges can make a huge difference in the company’s culture, and are worth every penny. For me, that means something as small as taking people out to dinner (with their families and significant others) to celebrate whenever we hit a big milestone, to thank them and to mark the $20k espresso machineoccasion. Chris’ company, at a recent conference in Jamaica, instead of getting each employee an individual hotel room, rented a villa (for just a bit more money) that came with a private cook, housekeeper and butler. The experience that we had on that trip far exceeded what it would have been if we didn’t have authentic, home-cooked Jamaican breakfast every morning. The extra cost was worth every penny.

“We were very frugal and we didn’t spend money on frills, but after the IPO there was a really bad time for Marimba when it was very difficult to hire people, and all the early people that had been there 3 to 4 years were starting to leave. Morale was very low, and so I went to the CFO and said, ‘Look, I want to buy an espresso machine.’ And he said, ‘No, we can’t do that, it’s too expensive.’ A few weeks later when another senior engineer quit, I said, ‘Screw it, let’s buy an espresso machine.’ So Jonathan and I went online and bought this super-duper Italian, fully automatic, $15,000 espresso machine on his credit card and submitted the expense form. The CFO almost had a baby…They came and installed the espresso machine and it was the best money we ever spent. Every morning, people would meet and crowd around it…people loved it, they couldn’t stop talking about it. A month later, the CFO came and said ‘I’m sorry, we should have done this years ago.’ And it tells you something about where you spend your money and what you spend your money on. It’s not just business-related expenses. You also have to create an environment that you like so that people are happy and feel they are valued.” – Arthur van Hoff, cofounder, Marimba

5) Spend when it will accelerate the business. The first four months of my start-up, all my Web sites were running on a hosted server that cost about $40/month. Low-cost, low-bandwidth – and I didn’t need anything more than that. Shortly, I will be rolling out a Web application that will need a more robust server environment, so I splurged on getting my new servers set up well ahead of time. I started paying for the servers in January (I likely won’t be using them full-power until March), but having the extra time to set up and test and move all my existing sites will allow my business to hit the ground running when the application is finally delivered.

“I wouldn’t recommend [skimping on hardware sometimes]. We often had to replace stuff we bought because we had been so worried about costs.” – Mena Trott, cofounder, Six Apart

“As you’re growing…what I tried to foster here is an attitude of risk-taking, where all I want to know really is what’s my downside scenario in terms of time and opportunity cost?…If the amount of time spent making a mistake is small, don’t be afraid to make a lot of mistakes without a lot of time analyzing whether you should or shouldn’t do it. On the Web, it’s particularly easy to try something and get feedback. If it doesn’t work, drop it.” – Stephen Kaufer, cofounder, TripAdvisor

Eventually, even after a combination of saving and spending, start-ups often get low on money and need to look for additional funding. Next week, I’ll talk a bit about where start-ups can get cash, and the pros and cons of each option.

All of the quotes in this article are from the wonderful book Founders at Work: Stories of Startup’s Early Days, by Jessica Livingston.

Money photo by luismi1985
Victoria Arduino Venus Century Espresso Machine, $19,932.00.