It's challenging and daunting to launch a new business. Much has to be done in a short space of time including taking care of legal and financial matters that just won't wait. It's a stressful time. Technology is one of the key things you need to get right from the outset. But what tech should you prioritise at the startup stage, and how should you go about taking the right approach to it and getting best value? Here's a primer.
Work out what you need
It's tempting to sit down with a blank sheet of paper, write down every type of technology you can think of and decide you need all of it from day one to make your business flourish. That might not actually be the case, however.
Your business plan will include strategies for growth; referring back to this document, it will almost certainly become apparent that some things might not be needed right at the outset, or at all.
For example, think about social media. Perhaps at some stage you want to be on every available platform, but at the outset some may be more important than others. It may make more sense to prioritise one or two to focus, define time and costs, factor them into the business plan, and also build in a growth plan.
Is it better to rent than buy?
According to government research published in late 2018 (PDF), micro-businesses those with fewer than 10 employees accounted for 96% of all businesses in the UK last year. If you're just starting out, it's likely you will fall into this category and, statistically, are likely to remain there for some time.
If this is the case for your business, you might not have to buy any technology outright at all. A 2018 survey by the Enterprise Research Group (PDF) showed that 41% of micro-businesses used web based accounting, rather than traditional software, while 43% used cloud computing in general. This latter figure is up from 22% in 2015 and just 9% in 2012, so if you decide to take this route, you won't be alone.
Prioritising three "must have" tech cornerstones
For startups, then, it makes sense to embrace the cloud from the outset. These providers take care of security, as well as data backup and recovery. They also allow you access to the latest features, and provide anywhere, any time access to their services so you can keep on top of the business from your office, from meetings, from client premises, or wherever you happen to be.
You also need to think about your website something that is crucial to the success of almost every business in our digital age. Consider whether it's primarily for advertising, or if will you provide services through it: Does it need to process transactions, hold user accounts, integrate with stock systems or otherwise share data with third party applications? If this is the case, how will you abide by regulations such as GDPR? All of this will affect site development and maintenance costs don't cut corners that might end up costing money down the line, but also don't buy more than you really need.
As for social media, it's a great way to promote your business and build communities, but it can be a drain on time and resources. Think carefully about what you want to achieve, weigh up the opportunity-cost carefully, and decide how each platform would be managed, and by whom. Consider what success looks like, how and when will you evaluate, and whether to drop (or temporarily rest) under-performing platforms.
Hidden inside this discussion are two key watchwords which should really be the guiding principles behind your entire business plan and forward looking strategy, not just technology. The first is to proceed with care: Every penny spent on one thing is a penny you can't spend on something else, so each penny should be spent wisely.
The second is to question everything. Last week's great idea might seem iffy after a bit of research and some asking around among trusted critical friends.
For tech in particular, consider what is necessary for success and what's a "nice to have". In the foundational startup stage, focus on the former as your business starts to grow, you can always consider adding on the latter.
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Sandra Vogel is a freelance journalist with decades of experience in long-form and explainer content, research papers, case studies, white papers, blogs, books, and hardware reviews. She has contributed to ZDNet, national newspapers and many of the best known technology web sites.
At ITPro, Sandra has contributed articles on artificial intelligence (AI), measures that can be taken to cope with inflation, the telecoms industry, risk management, and C-suite strategies. In the past, Sandra also contributed handset reviews for ITPro and has written for the brand for more than 13 years in total.