bootstrap a startup - cambridge elevator

Building a Platform is Cheaper and Faster Than You Think.

Most startups begin with an idea. These ideas are usually started by engineers, who can recognize a need, or a limitation of our current technologies, and then that engineer works furiously to design, create, test, test, and test their product until it’s ready to do what it was originally envisioned to do.
Congratulations! You have a potentially world-changing technology. What do you do now?

Marketing.

Shudder. For an engineer, this probably seems like the worst part. But in fact it can be simple. And really cheap. You have a website that will serve your business’ needs (whatever they may be) in under a day.

Step 1: Start a Website.

Having a website is absolutely essential to being taken seriously in the business and technology world. Everyone from angel investors to venture capital firms to technology publications will want to look at your website to see what your business is about, and if you’ve clarified what you’re out to achieve.

Here’s the quick and dirty instructions for making your own platform website:

  • Register a domain for 99 cents (or free). – What’s your business called? Get that domain name locked down now. You don’t want some domain-squatter (yes, they exist) who registers your business’ name and then asks you for tens of thousands of dollars. The earlier you do this the better. Hey, with a good promo code it’s only a dollar!
  • Get Web Hosting (yes, you have to) – This is the biggest expense for a website, but a necessary one. Again, you can be thrifty and use a promo code that’ll get you 1-year of hosting for just $45.
    Before you ask: yes, you can get free hosting. But if you host your website on Weebly or WordPress.com, you’ll immediately give your website an amateur-ish look. Not only that, but you won’t any of the content on your site: Weebly (or WordPress) will. In the world of business that can be a fatal error.
  • Install WordPress – WordPress is a free software application that most new websites are made of. It’s easy to learn (especially for software engineers!) and you can set up your website quickly.
  • Choose a WordPress Theme – Again it really doesn’t matter. There are millions of themes to choose from, and you can get a high quality one for free. No need to buy a premium theme, especially when you’re first starting out. This is the fun part: you get to choose the look and feel of your company website.
  • Set up pages for all kinds of visitors – Are you looking to attract angel investors? Create a page that feels like a quick 2 minute presentation you’d give at a convention. Looking to sell your product directly to consumers? Then you should consider purchase e-Commerce software that’ll handle the payments/transactions for you.

One Special Message for Engineers: Don’t Try To Build Your Own Host

We’ve seen this over and over again. Engineers realize that web hosting is just a server with your website on it. You could make your own server for your website! You could get the parts from a used computer store for cheap, install some open-source software and have your website all in-house!

Don’t do it. This goes against every instinct in an engineer’s being, but you need to resist it.

First off, you should be working on making your product/idea/invention work perfectly. That’s what you (presumably) are best at.
The time saved spending $50/year is enormous compared with building up your own server. Also there’s the electricity use-problem if your website becomes popular.

Part of business is learning to save time by getting other people to do things for you, so you can focus on the essentials. Hop to it!