The Lean Startup Stack – Founder Tips – November 2019 Edition

Part of my job as a part-time CFO is to make sure my clients aren’t overspending. Some of my clients are incredibly lean already, but others spend like it’s an addiction. This guide won’t tell you what and what not to spend money on, but it does discuss various offers and ideas for running your startup in a lean way.

Time Sensitive Offer

Most notably, American Express has an offer still available for the Business Platinum card that is unmatched in my lifetime (trust me, that’s not enough hype). According to its Offer Terms, you get WeWork Platinum Global Access for a year when you get the Business Platinum card and enroll in Platinum Global Access (PGA) before the end of the year (2019). I am not working with or being compensated in any way by anyone for mentioning this offer. I simply found this offer on my own, claimed it, told all my friends about it, and am now trying to spread the word to more founders.
WeWork may not have the greatest press right now, but it is still an incredible option for office space. I previously paid $450 per month for hot desk space at my local WeWork. With WeWork PGA, I now get to work from any WeWork in the world as long as I book it prior. With a $595 annual fee for the Business Platinum card, I am saving $4,805 over the 12 months I can utilize WeWork PGA for free. As well, you can get your team Business Platinum cards for $300 per year each and they also get WeWork PGA for a year! Seriously, I don’t think I hyped up this offer enough. Update: As of November 14th, 2019, it looks like the WeWork PGA offer is no longer valid. 🙁

General Tips to Operate a Lean Startup

Don’t build your own software.

If you can get away with utilizing another software or at least a template for one.When I was running an equity crowdfunding platform called Slice Capital, we constantly said our Value Proposition was that we had our own technology which allowed us to be more nimble and different from our competition. On the surface, this sounded great! But what went into creating the technology was a lot of time and money which took our focus away from our customers. In hindsight, I would have delayed building our own software and gotten a usable product up as soon as possible, even if that meant using the same white-label software as our competitors. It would have saved us a lot of money and enough time for us sort out our priorities.

Don’t get your own office.

One of my first clients at siliconCFO decided they needed a private 6-person office at a local WeWork. At the time, it made sense because they were planning to grow into the office pretty quickly and they believed a private office to invite potential clients to would help with sales. In reality, they could have gotten away with two or three hot desk memberships at less than half the cost and would have benefited from almost all of the same perks. This would have saved my client over $10,000 over 6 months.

Join an online accelerator, or any accelerator.

Most accelerators, even free ones, will give you lots of perks they have sourced from service providers. AWS credits are the typical main perk, but you can find tons of discount codes specific to the accelerator with deals you won’t find publicly available. WeWork even has a Services Store with coupon codes from lots of service providers including UpWork, Invision, Polymail, and, of course, AWS.

Bring new team members in on a trial basis first.

It’s always good to see how someone works first-hand and how they interact with your team before committing to hiring them as an employee. This “trial period” gives you a specific amount of time to decide whether the new hire should stay or not, while keeping expectations level between both you and the new hire.

Barter.

This one is as simple as it gets. Try offering your product or service in return for a product or service you need. It can make a sale easier and save you money at the same time.

There’s always a cheaper option.

If you’re really penny-pinching, you can pick up a lot of office and marketing supplies at the dollar store. A founder friend of mine likes to get sticker sheets and cardstock from the dollar store, then utilize her office’s printer to make her own marketing materials for just a few dollars.

Keep auditing your own expenses.

As you grow and move out of the lean startup phase, you should still sift through your expenses to make sure you are spending your money wisely. Subscriptions are especially important since they can add up to a lot of money over time. I recently came across a recurring cost one of my siliconCFO clients was incurring that amounted to about $500 per year. This cost turned out to be a business phone. They were already paying for GSuite, which comes with Google Voice. Over the two years, my client paid for this recurring expense they could have saved over $1,000 by using Google Voice instead of the other business phone. That $1,000 would be really handy right now as they are investing as much as possible into growth experiments.

That’s it for now. There are tons more tips and tricks founders use to run their startups as lean as possible. If you have any particular tricks of your own and want to share them, send them over to me at jacob@siliconcfo.com.