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Born Free: Launching a Software Startup, Part II

A company needs patents, trademarks, copyrights, operating agreements, and equity-vesting schedule documents. There are at least two options on how to get these for free.


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The goal of this article, (this is part II), is to offer suggestions on how to build a company and give it a chance to stand on its feet, while spending nothing more than the legal fee to register as a company and a domain name. Hopefully it will afford you more time to try to build your company well.

For part I, click "How to Create a Software Startup, Part I."

Legal Documents



At some point, a company needs patents, trademarks, copyrights, operating agreements and equity-vesting schedule documents. There are at least two options on how to get these for free.

You can barter. Some lawyers will work for equity, but this is my least favorite method because the documents listed above require an intellectual property lawyer, a general business lawyer, and likely along the way, you will need a few other types of lawyers. Typically, the fewer equity holders you have the better.

My favorite approach is to D.I.Y (Do It Yourself). Make sure you only create the documents you really need. A lawyer might write up a 50-page partnership agreement that will take tens of hours and cost tens of thousands of dollars, but it is much easier to work with partners you can trust and be able to write a simple document that covers the basics and allows you to move on and focus on running the actual business.

Office Space

There is some debate in the bootstrapping world about whether to have an office or not. I would say it is much better to not have an office. Don't make your partners waste time, money, and stress tolerance on commuting. Why not use those to work on the actual company?! And when there have to be meetings, just get creative and find what works.

Holding Meetings

Get used to online meetings using Skype video chat, and other remote conferencing software. It will help you avoid trekking down to the local Starbucks and more importantly, open you up to working and collaborating with people anywhere in the world.

Registering Domain Names

This is one area where you have to pay a little. A domain name costs about $10/year. I realize nearly all the good domain names are taken. My advice is that instead of going out and buying a $1,000 domain name, hold out on buying a domain name for your company until you have at least a somewhat clear marketing and branding strategy. Once do you do decide to look for a domain name, here are some good qualities of a name you should look for:
    * No more than 5 syllables
    * Catchy and easily rolls of the tongue
    * Easy to spell and has no uncommon misspellings (if it does, buy those domains too)
    * Gives a general clue about what you offer, but is not too specific

Server Hosting Plans

Once you have a good domain name, you need to host your application. Hosting fees can not be avoided. Even if you host from home (not recommended), you will still incur electricity fees, use space which you inevitably pay for, and allocate hardware resources, as well as maintenance time. Ironically, hosting from home is likely most expensive.

There are plenty of hosting plans that suit start-up companies, ranging from $10-25 per month, depending on a few factors like the technology you are using. They often offer great support and have 99.9 percent uptime. Also plenty of cloud hosting options are available.

Accounting

Accounting turns out it is easy because with little or no revenue, it is extremely easy and also a D.I.Y. Once revenue begins flowing in, a part time book-keeper can be contracted.

Giving You The Biggest Chance to Succeed

Bootstrapping might be fun, but it does not make a successful company by itself. So go nuts innovating, learning your market, discovering your customers and solving their pain-points. This is the other piece of the puzzle to your success. With a burn rate of essentially zero and a well-oiled machine as your team, you can stretch the finances you begin with and give yourself the most time to get your company on a path to success.

For more discussion on various topics in the article, contact me on Twitter @genadinik.


   
Alex Genadinik is the founder of San Francisco Hiking Community and a Startup Consultancy. Please say hello and continue the conversation on this topic on Twitter @genadinik
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