Building a successful startup is all about making the right choices.
There are the big choices like: What am I going to build? Who do I need to hire?
And then there's the smaller choices like: Where should we rent office space?
To help entrepreneurs sort through the mess of decisions, serial entrepreneur and angel investor Chris Dixon jammed out a quick list of things startups do and do not need.
We've sorted through the list and picked out the four best from each category, and added some commentary on each point based on our own startup experience.
Here are some things every startup needs:
- A sunny office, where you can open windows. If you're working on a startup, it's going to consume you. If you're consumed by a project, there's nothing worse than being stuck in a dark, stuffy room where time is immeasurable. It's a sure fire way to get depressed and despondent. Spring for an office with windows you can open to get the space bright and fresh.
- Make sure the office is near a park and public transportation. These are two great perks for you and your employees if you can make it happen. Putting your office near transportation makes life so much easier, especially if you're in a city and your staff wants to live outside the city. Getting near the park isn't as important, obviously, but it is nice if you can make it happen.
- You need two forms of Internet access. You should have your primary Internet connection and a backup in case that one flakes out.
- Google Docs and Gmail are great cheap applications. We're typing this up with Google Docs. When we're done, we'll share it with one of our co-workers. Google Docs is a great suite of completely free applications, and it's getting better everyday. If you're just starting out, it's a great set of apps to use for no cost.
And here are some things a startup does not need:
- Fancy chairs are just a waste of money. You might think a nice Aeron chair is worth the money since you'll (probably) be sitting all day. You're wrong. A regular old comfy desk chair will get the job done just fine.
- A vacation policy is a waste of time. You pick your employees based on the dedication they have to the company, and based on how hard they work. Your employees should be adults, and should be smart enough to know when they need some time off and when they should work. If an employee can get his/her work done and isn't letting the company down, then don't box them in with an arbitrary vacation policy. (For more on this, see this discussion based on Netflix's vacation policy.)
- Don't hire a PR firm, just be your own PR. It's easy to do PR for yourself. First, build an awesome product. Second, write a blog talking about what you're up to. Third, talk to reporters/bloggers when they email you. Trust us, reporters aren't vicious people, especially with startups. They want to tell a good story. Help them out on your own.
- You don't need to plow money into a phone system. All your employees will have cell phones. Just use those. If you want to be nice, pay for their phone bills. It'll cost the same as corporate phone system, but it will seem like an awesome perk.