Where are the best startup events in London?

london startup events

In recent years a buzzing tech community has developed throughout the eastern area of the city and beyond. It is now rated as one of the top places in the world to base your startup in terms of support and funding. The main focus of London’s startup scene, in media coverage at least, has been … Read more Where are the best startup events in London?

Bootstrap your Startup – Simple Tips on How to Bootstrap your Startup

How to Bootstrap Your Startup

When bootstrapping a startup it is easy to get overwhelmed by thoughts of the kit you might need. It would be great to go out and buy a top of the range laptop or desktop with all the latest software pre-installed but this can be a potential waste of time and budget. Cash flow can be tight to non-existent and so the last thing you want to do is invest capital in the wrong places. So keeping costs to a minimum in the IT department can be essential when first starting out. In the post, we are going to give some essential tips on how to bootstrap your startup.

Image: Save Money by 401kcalculator.org
Image: Save Money by 401kcalculator.org

There’s a huge range of free or low-cost options when it comes to IT solutions for your bootstrapped startup to save you some of that valuable cash. In this blog post, I’m going to take a look at some cheap or free alternatives for software and kit for your startup. Let’s run through a few ideas to get you up and running for minimum money in no time.

Part 1. Don’t buy Microsoft Office!  

There really no need to run out and buy the latest copy of Microsoft Office or other expensive word processing programmes. There are a few options out there that perform all of the basic functions that the vast majority of people use without any up front or sometimes ongoing costs. 

Google Drive - An MS Office alternative 

If you’ve got even a flicker of an internet connection you can work online in the cloud with Google Drive. This Google product gives you access to a full suite of Microsoft Office-like utilities for free. All you need is a Google account and it’s free to sign up via the link below. Once you have an account you get 15GB of free storage with the option to purchase more if you run out.

Image: Yoko Honda by flickr.com/photos/yukop/
Image: Yoko Honda by flickr.com/photos/yukop/

It’s worth noting that this is for the full Google account so if you fill up space with photos you won’t have any left for all those valuable documents. 

A Google Drive account gives access to Docs - an MS Word equivalent, Sheets - an Excel equivalent spreadsheet editor and Slides - a simplified MS Powerpoint clone. So you have all you need to make documents, spreadsheets, and presentations for free online. Plus the best part about using Google drive is it will autosave all your work so you don’t need to worry about your machine crashing or losing your internet connection, bonus.

There also smartphone app versions of the programmes if you want to keep editing and creating on the go although these tend to work better on Android then iOS.  

Cost: Free


iCloud - Apple's online software suite 

A similar affair to Google Drive, by signing up to an iCloud account with Apple you can access their suite of applications online at no cost. This is a bonus if you already use Apple products like an iPhone or Mac though these are not particularly money saving for a startup! 

Image: iCloud screenshot @Mr CharlieStamp

Pages in iCloud have many of the features of the full Mac-based version, as does Numbers and Keynote, Apple's Word, Excel and Powerpoint alternatives respectfully. These are certainly enough to get you started and well worth using in-browser if you are already part of the Apple ecosystem and complement the full iOS and Mac versions of the software. 

Cost: Free 


Evernote - Fantastic note taking 

Unlike the above MS Office alternatives, Evernote does essentially one thing but does it really well. It is at its heart a note keeping the application and lets you create notes within what it terms ‘notebooks’, basically a system of folders. You can also tag your notes which makes it super easy to search through and find previous notes you’ve typed up. It had a handy feature that lets you ‘clip’ and saves notes from web pages and images to help bring your ideas to life.  

Image: Evernote on Lumia on Evernote by flickr.com/wundering02
Image: Evernote on Lumia on Evernote by flickr.com/wundering02

Evernote works in-browser or you can download a desktop version for PC and Mac, plus there is a great smartphone app version for note taking on the fly. 

If you want the more advanced feature you can upgrade from the free version to the Plus, Premium or Business versions for a yearly payment. As a startup, the free version should offer more than enough to get you going and aid your productivity. 

Cost: From Free 


Libre Office - Open source MS Office alternative 

If you are looking for a fully functioning downloadable suite of Office-like applications then the open source LibreOffice is a good way to go. Applications in the Office suite include Writer, the word processor, Calc, the spreadsheet application, Impress, the presentation engine, Draw, a drawing and flowcharting application, Base, a database and database frontend, and Math for editing mathematics. All the applications are designed so that files from Microsoft products should open function and be editable across the Libre Office suite. Regularly updated and supported by a large dedicated community of passionate open source community this is a great first port of call for anyone looking for a free alternative to the applications Microsoft or Apple has to offer.

Cost: Free - Open Source 


Microsoft Office Online 

If you really do need or crave the bells and whistles that Microsoft Office provides it is now available in a few different versions. Following the trend of other products such as Google Docs (above), Microsoft has made an online-only version of their office suite available for free. As with other providers all you need is to sign up online for a free account and you have access to stripped-down versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote.

These will be enough to get you started but there may be a point where you need a little more or your startup. Thankfully you now have the option of paying monthly for access to a fully downloadable license version of the Office suite for both Mac and PC. If your startup team expands as you grow there’s the option to add more users as you go. It’s nice to have this flexibility but be aware that for the business plans (link below) the cost does increase if you pay monthly as opposed to taking an annual plan. 

Cost: From Free 


In the next part of bootstrap your startup, we will be looking into graphics editing options for your bootstrapped startup. 

Part 2. Don't buy Photoshop

There's a ton of savings to be made if you know where to look online and avoid the more 'obvious' choices that most folks might make. So let's delve in and see where we can cut costs but not corners when it comes to your startup's graphical software.

Gimp - Image manipulation software 

No, I'm not calling you silly names, Gimp is free to download image manipulation programme. Many people have likened it to the more famous Photoshop package but the issue with the comparison is Photoshop comes in a wide range of guises.

Image: Gimp for Windows screenshot from gimp.com Image: Gimp for Windows screenshot from gimp.org

Gimp is essentially a lite version of Photoshop, much like Photoshop Elements. This will allow you enough editing for basic use but minus the $100 price tag, handy in a bootstrapped startup. I'd recommend this if you are for example editing images for a blog post. Therefore you can crop, trim, adjust the light balance and a few other functions that will improve the image but nothing too advanced.

In my experience, it's proved most useful as a tool to crop and layer an image then save it for 'web' use as a smaller file than a full hi-res image. If you've ever used any version of Photoshop then you will feel at home with the interface. It has the trademark floating menu boxes to the right and left to quickly select the appropriate function.

Cost: Free
Download fromgimp.org


As with Gimp above, Paint.NET provides a host of features in a free to download programme. You can manipulate images, add text, edit colors and apply layers to your heart's content.

The interface resembles the Paint programme that comes preloaded will all versions of Windows but has way more features. This is a great bit of software for beginner and intermediate level users but wouldn't quite cut it for an advanced user. It really depends on the demands of your startup but for most Paint.NET will more than suffice.

This software is currently available for Windows only and will work with 7 SP or newer, yes even Windows 10.

Cost: Free

Download fromgetpaint.net

Canva - Image creation tool

Canva is a relative newcomer to the market when it comes to image manipulation but is growing its user base rapidly. It's easy to see why if you jump in and start using it. Essentially an image layering tool rather than an editing suite, the interface is incredibly user-friendly and it provides a very smooth experience considering it runs in the browser.

Canva is really useful in producing marketing materials and eye-catching images for blog posts and social media. You can upload your own base image or choose from the thousands available in the left-hand menu by typing your subject into the search box.

Once you have a base image or color you can add pretty much whatever you like on top. There are some popular inspiring quote style images already set and you just edit the text. I'm sure you've used Facebook anytime in the past 2 years you will have seen the type of thing as per below.

bootstrap your startup
Image: Easily made by me at Canva.com

There's a great selection of templates to choose from, for example, the one above is called 'social media' and is formatted at 800 x 800 pixels to perfectly fit most blog posts or any Facebook wall.

You can create Facebook and Twitter covers, eBook images, flyers, posters, invites, business cards, the list goes on. This is a pretty neat site to use if you want to quickly churn out some professional looking graphical content for your startup.

Cost: Free (Business account optional)

Site: canva.com

Inkscape - Vector graphics package

If you're looking for a vector graphics editor equivalent to Adobe Illustrator or Corel Xara but without the outlay then Inkscape is just the job. There are versions for Mac, Windows, and Linux with regular updates provided.

Being open source means there is a great community of developers, designers, and supporters behind the project to constantly offer advice and help users. The site also features a gallery of users drawings and designs to really show off what's possible when using Inkscape.

I'd recommend this for startups that need to produce some bits of detailed graphical design. There are plenty of user-generated tutorials available to get you going if you are a complete novice like me.

Cost: Free (open source)

Download from: inkscape.org

Picasa - Image editing software  

If you have a startup where you will be dealing with a lot of images Picasa might just be able to help you out. It's an image organizer and editor you download onto your device and it works with your folders to help arrange your images. It's now by Google but first evolved as a startup image programme.

Image: Picasa screenshot by http://screenshots.en.sftcdn.net
Image: Picasa screenshot by screenshots.en.sftcdn.net

Through Picasa, you can also add effect edits to your images but the primary function of the software isn't really image editing as such. Still, it does come in really handy if you have got a library of photos you want to get organized and timed down to size ready to upload to your blog or various social media.

For now, you can also use Picasa Web Albums if you want to upload your images to the cloud. However many tech bloggers concur that this will soon be integrated with the new Google Photos service. These both hinge on you having or creating a Google account.

I'd recommend Picasa if you are already in the Google-sphere and need to get your images in order.

Cost: Free (possible charge for premium storage)

Download atpicasa.google.com

I hope that has given you a few ideas about image editing and storage for your startup. As you can see you can spend very little if anything at all and produce some great quality images, edits, and projects.

Part 3. Don't Buy a Mac

In the last part of bootstrap your startup tips, we will look at how to get your hands on some hardware for next to nothing.

How can you save some cash on the bits of kit that any startup can't live without? While you might not be able to get all you require for free there are plenty of ways to save money where it matters with just a little thought and planning.

Use what you already have

Image: 1980's computer by freestockphotos.biz
Image: 1980's computer by freestockphotos.biz

I know that sounds a little obvious but a lot of people will crave shiny new stuff when starting a business of any kind. I had a few urges to run out a buy a new laptop myself when founding a startup a few years ago and it is easy to get sucked into the consumer culture of 'new is best'.

However, I did manage to avoid splashing out on a Macbook and so should you if possible. At least in the very early days when cash is tight and funding is scarce using your existing laptop is fine. I found I benefited from the workout of lugging my 15" Acer laptop to and from my shared workspace. Plus the added bonus was it was so old that no one was interested in stealing my laptop in a room full of sparkling Apple products.

Cost: Free

Cheap upgrades?

When sticking with your current kit, you might be able to save your startup business money by upgrading it. If it's possible to crack open the case you could add some extra memory or a better graphics card. The exact possibilities very much depend on how old the machine is or even if there are any slots left to plug in some more RAM.

I'm not the world's most technical chap so I'm not going into specifics here but the best thing would be to find someone local who is. You don't have to run into the nearest computer shop with your machine but ask around among friends, on Facebook or even your workplace. Someone always knows someone that's good with computers, this very often lands on me despite telling people I know nothing, the curse of wearing glasses!

Cost: $0 to something



If you are starting from a point of absolute zero equipment wise you are going to need a cheap way of acquiring some to keep your finances bootstrapped. I would always recommend freecycle.org as a great place to start. It's a global community of people that have things to give away on a local level.

bootstrap your startup
Image: Free stuff via Flickr Frank Hebbert

The viability of this will really depend on where you live but I've personally had great success with the system in London. You can use the site to find your local group but the local groups use email to post offers and request things. I found the best way to stop an overload of unwanted messages was to create an email account just for freecycling things. It also works best if you offer some things first, this could be any unwanted items from a book to a bookcase, but it's always best to give before taking.

Just as a word of caution, you are dealing directly with the people offering things and this can be rather unreliable at times. Patience is the key and checks back regularly. You never know a free laptop could be yours.

Cost: Free, just a little time and effort required!
Website: freecycle.org



Being based in the UK I am more familiar with Gumtree.com but both are online classified advert listings sites. They have grown to cover lots of services and items for sale and have expanded across many different  countries. Their success is down to one simple fact, it is free to list items, therefore attracting anyone with stuff to sell.

Image: Stuff for sale via pixbay
Image: Stuff for sale via pixbay

If these sites cover the city or area you live in then they are well worth a look for getting some cheap tech to help you bootstrap your startup. People are always upgrading their own tech and this is the first point of call for many people looking to get a few pennies for their old tech.

The best part is that the items can be very local and people are often open to offers if you can provide a quick sale and cash on collection.

Just as a side note - never use these sites to send money to someone for items that they promise to post. There have been many scams reported were users have lost money and never received anything in return with no way of claiming anything back. It's always best to call the seller first to find out more about the item and check everything is legitimate.

Cost: Free to use
Website: gumtree.com or craigslist.org


I'm sure we have all heard of eBay, the online auction site for buying and selling pretty much anything. It can be a great place to pick up some tech for your startup but the main trick here is searching in the smartest way.

Image: eBay via pixbay
Image: eBay via pixbay

Like the items you will be looking for could be expensive to post you will want to look for ones you can collect. To do this click on 'advanced' next to the search bar at the top of the homepage. This brings up a host of options for smarter searching which come in very handy if looking for a local item.

Scroll down the page and you will see - delivery options - check the box marked 'collect in person'.

Just below this is the location options. Here you can select within how many miles or kilometers to search from a given location or change the country you are searching in. This really depends on how far you are prepared to go to find a bargain but don't forget to weigh the transport costs against any savings made on postage.

The real beauty of searching eBay this way is that collection only items have a far greater limit on the number of potential buyers compared to items that are sold with shipping. Happy searching.

Cost: depends on items purchased
Website: eBay.com

I hope that gives you a few pointers in the search for free and low-cost tech for your startup.

Bonus - Remember that is also worth having a look at refurbished products direct from retailers if you are looking to save some money on nearly new products. Apple sell refurbished products via their site for example apple.com/specialdeals.

Hope you like this huge blog post and get some tips on how to bootstrap your startup in an affordable way. Please make sure to share your ideas and tips that you use to bootstrapping your startup.

Should a startup focus on scaling or launching?

Scale your startup?

In the early stages of founding a startup there's a whole ton of stuff that you need to think about. It can be easy to get way laid by minor concerns and you might begin to loose focus on the bigger objectives. Yes a nice looking logo is important. But when you are starting from zero and no one knows who you are, what you stand for or promise to deliver/produce it matters little.

So let's take a step back and think about things through a wide angle lens, looking at the bigger picture. Where should your valuable focus and energy be directed in the early stages of starting up? Should you be getting your product to market as quickly as possible or should you be concentrating on scaling?

What is scaling?

Let us first look at what scaling means before we decide if it is to be our main focus at startup. Put very simply scaling is a process that enables the business to expand rapidly.

Scale your startup?

Think of any global business. Okay we can use everyones favourite example of McDonalds to see how scaling works. It was Ray Kroc who first started the franchise system the business still uses to this day back in the 1950's. This has enabled McDonalds to expand rapidly and successfully across the world into hundreds of different countries and thousands of locations.

If Ray had attempted to personally oversee the construction, fitting, opening and running of each new restaurant in the chain he would have been a little tired to say the least. It would be totally impossible for an individual to keep on top of everything as the business expanded. By creating the franchise system for burger restaurants Ray Croc could empower other people to start and run an a copy of an already successful stand alone business.

McDonalds is the classic example of scaling, the process that enables a business to expand rapidly with a proven formula and automated systems.

Scaling or launching?

This is the golden question and the answer is very simple. You can't scale successfully unless you know something works. You can't know if something works or not unless you have tested or launched it.

Image: Analytics via Pixabay

You need to know that there is a market and a demand for your product or service. By establishing this early on you can save a lot of wasted time and effort putting systems in place that enable you to scale.

So launching should take priority of scaling when starting up but it is good practice to be thinking about scaling to asses the potential the startup holds. Systems can be built into a startup so that when the time is right you can begin to scale but it must be proven that there is demand first to avoid a massive loss of time and money.

So how do you work out is there is demand for your offering or ideas?

Start local and test

Get your product or service out to the market at the earliest opportunity. That sounds like hard work early on but could be as simple as starting a Facebook page and inviting friends to join to gather some feedback on your ideas. Make sure you reach out to friends of friends and beyond as close friends can be overly supportive just because it's you and give a distorted source of feedback.

Test your startups potential

You need to establish as early as possible if there is a demand (market) for what you plan to give the world. Starting locally can be a great way to do this, particularly if you are producing a physical product. Even if your offering is online you can target local cafes, libraries or anywhere people are likely to have time to absorb some information about your exciting new thing.

Gather feedback, get opinions, have people use your service/product and get them signed up to future news and updates. Start to build a little testing base of people that are interested and excited by what you have to offer even if it is no more than an  idea.

If you really can't find anyone who shows much interest of the feedback is on the negative side, be sensible and head back to the drawing board. Just be thankful that you've saved time, effort and finances by not perusing your initial startup idea.

When should your startup scale?

It is a tricky question to answer in a one size fits all manor. Every startup will have different requirements and signs that is has reached a point when it can begin to scale. There are some indicators that tech gurus and investors alike would look for in a pre scaling startup.

Finances ready to scale?

Is there sufficient funding in place or available to enable the business to begin scaling? It will take money to actively acquire more customers and expand the operation of the business so it is essential that this capital is in place or accessible beforehand.

Backend/Automated Systems
Are the systems that work behind the scenes in place and ready for an increase in volume? As an example you need to have a robust payment processing system that could handle thousands more transactions that is currently does. If any part of an automated process fails you could easily loose customers and fail to successfully scale.

Dream team
Is there an amazing team in place ready to take the startup to the next level? It's a tricky balance of timing and skills to get great people on board just when you need them. Hire too early and your wages bill could damage your growth but hire too late and you could struggle to cope with a rapidly growing customer base. It's essential to have the right skills within your team to enable smooth scaling and avoid knee jerk decisions.

Is the actual product or service you are going to scale ready for the potential customers? All obvious bugs should have been ironed out through constant testing and iterations to get to a point where the offering is robust enough for a wider market. Any weaknesses will rapidly be exposed with increased volumes and it will be a much bigger task to fix them.

7 Benefits of Blogging For Your Startup

blogging for your startup

In a world full of startups it is becoming increasingly difficult to be heard and attract attention. Nowhere is this more apparent than online where thousands of established sites sit high on any Google search regardless of the topic. So if having a startup landing page alone won't cut the search engine mustard, blogging for your startup can often be a great place to start in turning things in your startup's favor.

Blogging for Startups

Here are some great reasons you should be setting up a blog regardless of the stage you have reached with your startup.

1. Convey your startup's personal message

To stand out from the crowd with your ideas, product or service you need to convey your core message. Anyone taking an interest in your startup needs to know why you are best placed to deliver what it is you are promising to the world. As in any area of business, there can be many companies providing a very similar end product but you might have a personal preference in terms of the 'brand' you use.

A blog can help you communicate your own story and how life has led you on a journey that moped you into the perfect person to deliver your service/product at this exact moment. Spread this message throughout your blog posts to really flesh it out and give people something to believe in.

2. Seek and find partners or teammates

A blog that tells a story about you and your startup can be used as a call out to the wider world for like-minded folk. You might be brilliant at coding or producing flyers but there are so many plates that need spinning all at once the chances are you will need a little help sooner or later.

blogging for your startup

If you can get your blog posts shared in the right places you could find that help quicker than expected. A blog post can be read at any time of the day or night and is a little less dependant on the right place, right time element than networking for example.

Leverage the blog to let others know what you are looking for to help build the ideal version of your startup and reach out to others for ideas, skills or help. You never know where it could lead.

3. Feedback from potential users

A blog can also be used to reach out and engage with potential users. Even before you have built or served anything or one you can gather feedback about your ideas. In the long term, this could save a lot of time and money being spent in the wrong direction.

Why not ask readers what they would prefer, what they might change and what problems or issues they have that need solving. Comments left on blog posts can be used to collect valuable information and gather the thoughts of your potential end users.

4. Attract potential investors

Just as I mentioned using a blog to attract people to your team you can leverage your posts to attract investment. Seeking finances and pitching to investors can be one of the main areas where many startups fail. A well-written blog can explain clearly the finer details of your ideas and vision which can be browsed through at an investors leisure.

Equally using a blog to back up what you are conveying at a pitch or whilst out networking is a very useful tool to reinforce your message.

5. Boost your SEO and ranking

As I mentioned at the start of the post, being found online is becoming increasingly difficult. Amongst the many, many startups coming into existence each week around the globe, there is a constant race for rapid growth, expansion, and attention.

Connecting online
Image: Networks via Pixbay

Blogging for your startup can help massively in terms of getting noticed online as it gives you many pages of content specific to your project and ideas. As Google constantly updates its algorithm it gets harder to really know what works best to boost sites up the rankings and onto the top of the search results. However, the general consensus amongst those in the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) know seems to be that Google is increasingly prioritizing fresh and relevant content. A blog then is the perfect way to provide uncle Google with a healthy supply of up to date content and interactions to help boost your place in its rankings.

It's worth mentioning that the benefit will only be felt if the content is well written and original. If blog posts are deemed to be repetitive, thin on content or copied then it can count against you in the rankings. In the worst case, spammy posts can be banned by Google or other search engines altogether and you will have a hard time being found online. So do post wisely.

6. Develop your voice and brand

Having a blog is also an ideal platform to help develop your image and define who you are online. Just through the process of blogging for your startup you can adopt and adapt a style that is unique and will help shape your brand.

Get your voice heard

By sitting down and having to think about what you want to say to the world and how you will say if you are forced to find your voice. It could be that you need to review your approach. For example, a startup I was part of was connected to public transport in London. There are many frustrations with the system and as a Londoner, I was keen to highlight these to users. However once reviewing some posts later on this came across as whining and negative, not exactly the image an exciting startup should be projecting.

7. Be social via blogging for your startup

For startups creating a buzz on social media is key to getting noticed. Blogging for your startup provides you with a wealth of content as I've mentioned which is perfect for sharing across social platforms. In doing so you will gain valuable practice in using social media to your advantage as a startup.

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc are great fun to use as an individual sharing pictures of cats but they need to be used in a different way when pushing out your message to the wider world.

By starting with some basic blog posts you will learn the best ways to schedule, publish and promote your posts to create maximum engagement and buzz.

Related: Also check out Ultimate Startup Marketing Checklist.