Passion counts for a lot in an entrepreneur, but it sure doesn’t hurt if he’s a tightwad, too. If you’ve got an entrepreneur who isn’t cost-conscious, here’s some advice straight from the trenches.
Book airline tickets online. Use discounters like Orbitz.com or Expedia.com to compare fares for the same route. Or look for alternative flights to nearby airports, suggests Bart Schachter, a managing partner with Blueprint Ventures in San Francisco. Instead of flying direct from San Francisco to New York, drive across the bridge and fly from Oakland. Flights from Oakland to New York are cheaper than ones that leave from the other side of the Bay.
And share hotel rooms when you can. If it’s good enough for Apple and Intel (when they were young), it’s good enough for a startup. And think of all the team building that might happen after-hours.
Take a tip from FBC Systems, an enterprise software maker in Urbana, Ill., that’s about to close its first round of venture funding. Its founders bought their cell phones through a family plan so they can call each other without worrying about the cost or how long they talk. As long as you don’t get emotionally attached to your phone number, shop around, switch plans and providers often. And if you make lots of conference calls, find a company that will let you make them for free. That’s what Blueprint’s portfolio companies do.
Think pre-owned. Nimbus Wireless, an El Dorado Hills, Calif.-based wireless semiconductor developer, only buys used computer and office equipment. What it doesn’t use, it refurbishes and sells on EBay.
Based in a region where defunct technology companies outnumber surviving ones, Nimbus has found an opportunistic way to finance operations before securing its first round of venture capital. “True, we’ve been creative about our financing, but we haven’t become a reseller business,” says Chuck Reddy, a Nimbus co-founder.
Don’t hire a public relations firm until you’ve first built enough credibility in your industry, suggests Will Graylin, founder of three wireless startups in Boston. “Build customer relationships, make your customers happy, and then when you need to pump up sales, create buzz,” he says. “As you get out into the market, you need credibility, not PR. If you know your customers, you need to do a sales job, not create a press release a week.”