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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Riccetto

Startup Solutions: To Buy or Bootstrap?

Since we live in a digital era, there are digital solutions to nearly any business-related task you can think of — from scheduling shifts to approving expenses and PTO — there's an app or program for that. And while these solutions are meant to save time and resources, some of us have the inherit desire (or necessity) to operate on a lean budget as much as possible. Being an entrepreneur comes with its fair share of expenses and regardless what industry, size, or stage of business you're in, you're likely having the constant question in the back of your mind every time you're making a purchase, do I really need this?

There will be times when, no, it's not necessary to buy a new software subscription when an Excel spreadsheet is doing the trick, but then with some growth, the spreadsheet is becoming more of a liability and impeding business. The following offers some "food for thought" prompts to consider before making the decision to bring on a new expense or if bootstrappin' it makes more sense at this juncture:

  • What boxes do you need to check?

In our experience, taking the time to define the needs and goals of what problem you're trying to solve should be your first step. Often times, decision makers and entrepreneurs will purchase software programs because of the perceived need that all businesses should have this. Don't fall into the trap of "should." Do you really need the full Adobe Creative Suite if your design work is minimal? Do you need a CRM before you have customers or a product to sell? Take time to evaluate what problem the software is going to solve, and if indeed this really is an immediate problem in your operations, or a perceived one that could occur in the future. Consider how this problem is currently being solved; what a solution needs to do in order to at minimum solve the problem; and the most effective and desired checklist you would want a solution to provide. Separate the needs vs. the wants in this stage. As the great philosopher Mick Jagger once said, "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you can get what you need."

  • Is this interfering with customer service and/or preventing growth?

Manual processes typically take up more time, and time is money, right? Entering customer data in a Google spreadsheet, updating their order status/account is simply not going to be as efficient as a program that sends out alerts or automated messages. But if you're only managing a handful of clients, is the extra thirty minutes you spend a week able to justify a new software purchase? The flip side of this is also true, are you saving thirty dollars a month in a new subscription but spending hours a week maintaining a manual process that has interfered with customer service? I like using the coffee grinder as my gauge. If I run a coffee shop and need to manually grind coffee beans, my core product offering, the few hundred bucks I spent on an automatic grinder will demonstrably save time and energy, and allow our focus to stay on serving customers vs. sweating and getting carpal tunnel syndrome from a gruelling process that would definitely impede our growth.

Operating on a lean budget has its challenges, but if investing in a solution means providing better customer service and freeing up substantial time for more important operations or development work, it should be worth considering the expense.

  • Have you looked for free or open source options?

There are plenty of free and open source programs available online, especially geared towards startups, freelancers and small businesses. Many vendors offer free versions of their software, which will allow for upgrades later on as the business grows without needing to overhaul an entire system. Take time to research what's already out there, plenty of platforms like Reddit, Quora, or even blogs/articles have reviews on free software available on the market now. From design tools, to accounting, there's likely a free option available out there you can test.

  • Will it grow with the business?

If the above prompts have continued to sway you in the direction of looking to purchase software, before making the deep dive into researching solutions and contacting vendors, take time to consider your longterm goals and growth trajectory. For some operational tasks, it won't really matter or impact growth but for larger operational systems like IT infrastructure or sales management tools, etc. this is where a lot of future planning comes into play. The solution for right now could mean large disruptions and lengthy/expensive system migration later on as your business grows. Consider current and future requirements, and specifically seek out options that can grow with your business. Sure, some bells and whistles will be necessary as an operation becomes more robust, but are they really necessary in earlier stages? Don't pay for things you might need down the road, search out companies that provide different tiered options and customisation that can scale with you.

There are a lot of factors to examine when you start taking sales meeting, hearing software sales pitches and comparing factors like price, ease of use, installation fees and support services. It can be a lengthy process, but give yourself the time and space to scrutinise your business needs and the solutions available to avoid future headaches or unnecessary expenses. Perhaps the best option may end up being building a custom software solution. We have significant experience crafting customised software for various industries, so if you're looking to explore that option or if you are looking for help in your product development journey, feel free to reach out to us at

It's not just a product, it's our passion.

Be Brash.


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