How we bootstrapped Shiny New Toy

It’s getting easier and easier to start a company.  The tools you can use to operate, manage, and communicate with the folks you work with are becoming more robust and dirt cheap to adopt.  Here’s a few of the services and tools we used to bootstrap Shiny New Toy and get things off the ground. We’ve indicated the hard costs of each of the services we use.  These costs do not include the cost of our time in setting up and configuring the services the way we like.

Web Hosting: Dreamhost

Having used Dreamhost for a few years now, we were pretty proficient with their services and the Dreamhost admin panel.  Additionally, we find them pretty cooperative folks to work with.  The debate over who is the best web hosting company is a heated one.  Ask 10 different people who the best hosting provider is and you’ll probably get 10 different answers.  There certainly may be better providers out there than Dreamhost.  But it doesn’t matter, we like Dreamhost, they’re cool to us, and we’re sticking with them.

Total annual cost for unlimited web site hosting: $320

Public web site: WordPress 2.5

Of course we’re using WordPress to power to our public site.  One of the reasons Holly and I continue to work together is our fondness for WordPress and especially the user community. Simply put, we think its the best online communications platform available today.

Total expense: $0

Email and Calendar Services: Google Apps

Email and calendaring.  Two critical parts of any office infrastructure, virtual or not.  Also, one of those areas where it didn’t make much sense for us to spend time futzing with the best solution.  Sure, using Google Apps means all your data is running thru Google’s servers, but I can live with that.  Maybe we shouldn’t trust Google, but we do.

Total expense: $0

Intranet: Google Sites

Originally, we were using pbWIki and in many ways it is still a superior Wiki.  But when Google made Site available, it made sense as we were already using Google Apps for Your Domain

Total expense: $0

Voice Services: Grand Central + our cell phone plans

Yup.  Grand Central is another Google service.  But it’s super flexbile.  Grand Central provides  you with a single phone number to do what you want with.  You can set it to go straight to voicemail, you can set it to ring on a number of other phone number.  You can switch up these preferences at will.  It’s the Swiss Army knife of phone numbers.

Total expense for GrandCentral: $0
Total monthly cost for cell phone plans: $125

Business Cards:

To me bootstrapping means finding solutions that allow remove some of the thinking for you, allowing you to focus on what’s most important.  Your business card is definitely one of those items which you could dwell upon and over analyze for weeks.  But your business card is not critical once you have something with your contact info on it to hand out.  Enter Moo Cards

Total expense for 200 cards: $25

Note: We’ve since replace our Moo Cards with custom designed cards printed at Overnight Prints.  Moo Cards are great and we love them.  But their cute, little size is both a strength and a weakness.  Sure, they’re awfully adorable, but when you place them in a stack of other cards you gathered a conference, they are prone to sliding out and ending up on the floor when you gather the stack. That’s no good. 

Virtual Presentations: Google Presentations

The cool thing about Google presentations isn’t that you can use it as a replacement for PowerPoint.  No, the coolest thing is that you can use it a replacement for WebEx.  Google presentations allows you to share your presentation with your audience even if they don’t have a Google account.  You can share your presentation in a remote control format, so your audience sees the slides as you click through them.

Total expense: $0

Invoicing: FreshBooks

While most other decisions we made were pretty easy, choosing a solution for invoicing was a tough one between FreshBooks and Blinksale.  For pure invoicing, both make excellent solutions.  But in the end, we decided that FreshBooks provided us with some additional bookeeping solutions (like time tracking) that could take us to to places that Blinksale simply wouldn’t. 

Freshbooks has an initial 3 client package that is free.  Using Freshbooks to manage up to 25 clients is $14 per month.  Quite honestly, after 25 clients, you might want to look into outsourcing to dedicated accountant to keep your books.

Monthly expense: $14

Project Collaboration: WordPress MU

Most people opt for Basecamp in this category.  And that makes a fine choice.   But what we’ve found in the past is that it tries to do too much and our clients find it overwhelming to the point that it paralyzes them and they avoid participation.  What clients really want to know about their project is what is going on with it.  So we modified WordPress MU with the Prologue Theme so that our clients can easily log in and see the latest activity.  It’s quick, easy, and without all the complex barriers to participation that Basecamp seems to come with.

Total expense: $0


Grand Totals

So we have about $350 in annual costs.  And $144 in monthly cost.  Over the course of a year, that’s a grand total of $2078.  Not too bad.

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  1. Posted July 23, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Hey, thanks for the shout out and for signing up! We just had a customer dinner in San Francisco (I think you’re in SFO) last week.

    Next time we’re down that way, please come out so we can thank you in person!

    - Sunir @ FreshBooks

  2. Posted July 26, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    As you know I’m a huge fan of Freshbooks. I love your review, especially of hosting, since I need to move over shortly to someone different.

    Your project management tool is the best DIY hack I’ve seen. I love it, though I use LiquidPlanner a bunch.

    Moo has business cards now too, if you didn’t already know that.

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