Bootstrap your Startup. Part 3 – Don’t buy a Mac.

In Part 3 of this mini Bootstrap your Startup cost saving series of posts we are looking at hardware. 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.

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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

Freecycle

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 check back regularly. You never know a free laptop could be yours.

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

Gumtree/Craigslist 

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 a 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


eBay  

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.

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Image: eBay via pixbay
Image: eBay via pixbay

As 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 are the location options. Here you can select within how many miles or kilometres to search from a given location or change the country you are searching in. This really depends 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 amount 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.
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