One of the great things about starting a new business today is that much of the infrastructure you need to get off the ground is available as a monthly service. At Teqlo we control our costs by leveraging this as much as possible, in fact outside of payroll our single biggest expense is a T1 line, our datacenter is 3 servers, and the only administrative employee in the company is me. Of course we can’t grow indefinitely by these means but we’ll get pretty far along before we need to burden ourselves with additional G&A expense.
Let’s start out with technology infrastructure. I mentioned we have 3 servers and they support our development work, but we are using S3, Strongspace, and Bingo for online file storage. There’s a lot to be said for managing your own storage array, and we still do that for our mission critical operations, but why invest in a second storage system to do backups when you can use S3? Why manage shared file systems when you can dump all your work files in Bingo and give everyone a drive letter for $16 a month total? We currently in process of expanding into a colocation facility to accommodate the backlog of user demand we have for beta accounts, but at this point the colo model is well defined and highly reasonable in terms of cost.
Email is another big admin burden for small companies and as I have written about before, expect to see more moves by Google and others in this space. We are pretty much already using gmail for work email, although I will say that they did give me reason for pause when they deleted 60 inboxes recently and gave a pretty lame “gee we’re sorry” explanation. I’m less concerned about data loss because I use Apple’s mail app against Gmail so I have a full offline copy of my inbox, I am concerned about the relatively cavalier attitude they had about the whole episode.
We didn’t have a phone system until recently and while tempted to install Asterisk we decided against it for the simple reason that it would be $3k to buy a new server to host it on and then we still had to manage it. Instead what we signed up for is a great service from Thinking Phone Networks and I have been very impressed with their performance. For the cost of initially buying the Polycom handsets and $25 per user per month I have a fully featured hosted VOIP system that not only gives me all the cool features of the handset but also delivers my voicemail as email attachments (BTW, I would have killed for that feature alone while at SAP). At some point the economics will turn on us but that is when I can invest in a solution built on Asterisk and the single biggest expense in my current setup is the handsets, which will work with Asterisk as well.
The HR space has a long tradition of providing turnkey services to small employers, and we currently use TriNet with great satisfaction. At some point we will grow into a dedicated HR capability, but not for managing the transaction side of payroll and benefit but for providing a greater array of services to employees to assist with their development, and of course for recruiting as well. Until then, TriNet will do just fine, but I am watching the PEO space with great interest and one company in particular, Quickstart Global, is taking offshore development to a whole new level by not only managing the process but setting up the organization, the facilities, recruiting and contracts, and of course, all the payroll transactions for about $1,500 per month per employee.
I think we can grow to about 30 employees before we have to significantly alter the way we are doing things now, and that translates into significant dollar savings that we are able to apply to engineering resources.