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Five things startups should not skimp on March 31, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in start-up, startup, startups.

The WSJ recently noted something that developers have known for a long time, that bigger monitors increase productivity:

Researchers at the University of Utah tested how quickly people performed tasks such as editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets while using different computer configurations: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and one with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch screens.

This got me thinking about other areas where buying “cheap” can be a false economy:

1. Large monitors. As noted above.

2. Comfortable ergonomic chairs. Your team spends most of their working time sitting in these chairs. If they are not comfortable, they won’t be in those chairs, and thus they won’t be working!

3. High Quality Speaker Phones. Conference calls are a part of doing business. If the people on the other end of the line can’t hear all the speakers in the room, you risk losing the nuances of the communication.

4. Experienced Law Firms The big silicon valley law firms are constantly involved with negotiating financings, venture debt, acquisitions and other legal matters on behalf of startups. They know which terms are “market” and not worth fighting over, and which are out of the ordinary. Firms that don’t have the same volume of deal flow often want to fight every point. While their zeal on your behalf is commendable, in the end they usually end up with “market” terms but take longer to get there. That results in higher legal bills for all parties, and greater conflict between partners where it wasn’t necessary.

5. Administrative Assistance. At some point making entries into Quickbooks, figuring out which insurance plan to sign up for and finding the cheapest airfare to LA for that conference become a poor use of founder’s time.

What are some other areas that readers think startups should not skimp on?


1. Alex Iskold - March 31, 2008


We are 5/5 if you count top mac equipment for monitors.

I would also add that bookkeeper and accountant are essential.

2. harsh shah - March 31, 2008

Free lunch. 😉

Just another perk for retention and recruiting.

3. Sidney Price - March 31, 2008

Business Mentors and Advisers
Free Food 🙂

4. vanguyafo - March 31, 2008

Hiring smart people who can think of how to drive traffic to the site or drive revenue growth!

5. vanguyafo - March 31, 2008

Get Ikea furniture!

6. berlin - April 1, 2008

“We are 5/5 if you count top mac equipment for monitors.”

and fire or give marketing 101 lesson for employees like this guy.

7. MikeD - April 1, 2008

I would say…a full fridge of caffeinated beverages, a decent coffee machine that doesn’t force people to go out. And the single most important thing I have found to actually attract good developers from other companies (believe it or not) a Dog-friendly office policy…you heard it right.


8. Tilo - April 3, 2008

I never thought it’d be true…but dog-friendly (in NYC – a huge plus), a fridge full of caffeine drinks, lax arrival time in the morning (as long as they stay long enough to finish work). What a difference that makes!

9. Keeping Good Counsel « Adventure Capitalist - April 4, 2008

[…] firms, Lightspeed Venture Partners Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners posted recently on five things that startups should not scrimp on. I agree with most of his recommendations, but one area where I have no equivocation is around […]

10. Tiffany Jonas - April 8, 2008

Professional design! All right, this is coming from a designer… but as a consumer, too.

During the past few weeks I received two direct mail pieces from new small businesses. One was printed beneath a very well-executed logo on professionally designed (and professionally printed) letterhead; the other consisted of a series of blurry product JPGs printed on someone’s desktop printer beneath a header set in Comic Sans. (Comic Sans – a cartoonish font.) Which one screams out “fly by night”? (Or “not willing to invest in their business/maybe not willing to invest in a quality product…”) Purely from a consumer standpoint, I became a client of the first company but I threw away the direct mail piece of the second.

These examples involve direct mail, but I see the same thing on the web, in ads, etc. also. It’s rather heartbreaking because I’m a big fan of entrepreneurs and want to see them succeed. First: make sure you have a profitable business model (very key!). Second: invest in it. Most of the time it takes money to make money.

11. Five things start ups must spend their money on : Tips from the T-List - April 14, 2008

[…] Ventures has an interesting little post on the Lightspeed Venture Partners blog called “Five things startups should not skimp on“. Read his post for the full details but his top five things not to save money on […]

12. no-thanks - April 18, 2008

“Experienced Law Firms”

Because after all, it is important that the entrepreneur will cave quickly on that 4x preference with full participation.

The “experienced law firm” knows that the entrepreneur will only come to them a few times and the VC firm will come to the law firm many times.

What better way to get that repeat review stream than to soften up the entrepreneur, with the woeful “there is nothing you can do about it? that’s just the way it is?”

After reading about Wilson, Sonsini … (“an experienced firm”) I will take my chances with the “inexperienced law firm” that knows their job is to defend their client’s interests – not soften them up.

thefunded.com exists for a reason.

13. Gerald Buckley - April 22, 2008

Mr. Liew –

Tiffany touches on it… I’ll shout it from the rooftops… Branding!

Image is **almost** everything. It facilitates trial of products/services. It’s the envoy toward that crucial next step of adoption. If you hoist a shoddy looking brand up in front of your audience you might as well tell them, to their faces, you don’t care if they try your stuff or not. A lot might look past a crappy image and enjoy a GREAT online app. There ARE some who will judge the book by its cover. Why chance that?

I talked with the owner of Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe at a meetup for entrepreneurs (they’re HQd here in Tulsa) and he said they went HIGH END on the logo and brand development and further suggested everyone should do same if they’re serious about their offering. I totally agree, branding and user experience are not the places to skimp.

Gerald Buckley, Tulsa

14. David - April 25, 2008

Interesting..I was just at a talk given by Guy Kawasaki and he downplayed the branding angle. Worry about the product/service first was his message and of course threw out the “putting lipstick on a pig” analogy.

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