Lean Founder

Semi-autobiographical, in no particular order, being a #LeanFounder:

You don’t need that new laptop, a refurb will do, but your current laptop is fine until it dies.

Plain eggs on toast is cheaper than eggs benedict, and better for your waist.

Walk whenever you can.

Traveling for a meeting? Make the rest of your time there count.

Don’t travel at peak times.

Don’t go to every event, meetup, or conference.

You will be paid the least, and probably last.

Make breakfast at home, include lots of fruit.

Swim, ride a bike, and do Yoga, Pilates, or Taichi.

Sleeping on friends floors is cheaper than renting an appartment, but not as good for your sanity.

Take at least one day off a week.

Stop drinking lager, it’s more expensive than Ale or Whisky, and it’ll only give you a hangover.

You don’t really need that premium Spotify account.

Keep on top of your accounts, keep them simple.

Actually learn how to make Ramen.

Ask for help.

Answer others calls for help.

Listen to everyone who offers advice, but make your own decisions.

Stay hydrated.

Don’t buy Photoshop, Pixelmator is like a modern Photoshop 4.

Don’t buy Microsoft Office, you can get it for free from Bizspark.

It’s not about you. But your startup is a reflection of you.

Don’t expense everything, when it comes from your pocket you might reconsider that taxi ride.

You don’t need expensive business cards, order a small run of Moo cards. Iterate.

Understand your termsheet, it’ll save you in the future.

Understand your cap table.

Know when to say ‘fuck it, I *do* have time for this [important personal thing]’.

Design your own logo, you might surprise yourself.

Don’t get held up by pixel perfect design.

You can iterate your copy.

Leave your admin till the evenings, spend the time you have with your team on product.

Carry a toothbrush and a spare shirt.

Use coffee shop loyalty cards.

An employee will cost you 20% more than you planned.

You don’t need an Aeron. Yet.

Cut your own hair. Or don’t cut it at all.

Pay your bills as they arrive. Letting them stack up isn’t good for anyone.

You can buy your Apple Care anytime in the first year. Wait.

Keep that FaceBook tab closed.

Don’t be concerned with inbox zero, it’s replying that’s important.

Do your VAT (tax) returns quarterly.

Sublet office space or desks, better still join a coworking space instead.

Have an occasional luxury.

Github, Dropbox, Google Docs, and Skype are your friends.

Keep your email short, your time, and theirs, is scarce.

Get to the point.

If that meeting opportunity happens, jump.

Know your shit. Read everything you’ve written, and read it again. Then write it again. Have answers. Be considered.

Use your competitors’ products. This is free research. They are learning and experimenting for you.

Use your own product. Otherwise WTF?

Have a note for everything. Organise and reduce these. Every thought was generated for a reason. Track this.

Have a spreadsheet for everything. They are guides. Know your numbers. Iterate these. Model scenarios.

You do have the time, stop watching reality TV and soap operas. In fact, sell your TV.

Make sure people remember you. Put a real photo of your actual face on your card.

Failing is an option, but not an aspiration. Understand why you failed. Don’t do it again.

Use that free Google Adwords credit they send you. A/B test. Learn what converts. Test your branding and messaging.

Start reading financial blogs.

Stop reading Reddit.

Learn your stakeholder’s vocabulary.

What do your stakeholders drink? You’ll know if you’ve spent time getting to know them.

Blog or tweet about what you learn and you’ll learn even more.

Spend time with other founders. Only they will understand what you’re going through.

Keep your shoes clean.

Be as transparent and upfront as possible, then you can have proper conversations rather than games of guesswork.

Your lawyer and accountant have a lot of knowledge, but you can help them learn too.

Hold on tight.




  1. Excellent list.I’ve only been running a consultancy start-up – not a “proper” start-up; but I’d like to add this advice to yours.OpenOffice is cheaper than getting sucked in to Microsoft Office. So is Google Docs.Using Linux will save your sanity and your wallet.Don’t be afraid to ask for more money – it’s easier to be negotiated down than to negotiate someone up.Do offer discounts to charities. On a practical level, it looks good on your “clients include” – on a personal level, it makes you feel great.Get a good accountant. Find every single tax break you can.Insist on payment by bank transfers. Cheques are a pain in the arse and you’ll forget to pay them in.If someone is late paying you – be friendly at first, it may be an honest mistake.Work out how valuable your time really is. If you’ve spent 3 hours researching to reduce your broadband bill by £2 per month – that’s probably not very cost efficient.Back up everything. Test your back ups.

  2. Thanks. Try to remember all the ground-breaking and insightful advice and tips you garnered before you started your start-up, but don’t get consumed by them to the point that you fail to be original.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *