What Are The Unique IT Needs Of Startup Companies?
We’ve had great working relationships with a number of startup companies, and we’re often asked by prospective clients what’s unique about IT for startups. Here are some of our thoughts on this:
Scalable Business Model
Startups have business models that require them to ramp up or down in response to rapid changes in user demand or, as the case may be, venture capital funding. When this happens, HR and Operations can really have their hands full expanding or downsizing the team, or even the office environment itself.
In such cases, working with an outside IT vendor can bring distinct advantages, both from a financial and an operational perspective.
For example, a startup will often grow rapidly following a VC or angel funding round. When this happens, the founding team can really be over-extended as they attempt to on-board a group of new hires. In such a case, it can be helpful to bring in a third-party IT team to help set up the workstations, configure the network and provide access privileges, and then scale service back appropriately to provide basic desktop service on a limited basis.
Not all IT vendors can provide this kind of adaptability. Ideally, however, you’ll want to look for a company that’s experienced in all stages of the startup growth cycle, from launch, to expansion, maturity, and acquisition. That way, your vendor will know how to help you keep costs down and scale their services accordingly.
Working with a flexible, scalable IT vendor can make for better budgeting. In the past, clients have brought us in for projects such as office moves or Exchange migrations, and then contracted us for 1 or 2 days per week of onsite tech support. This kind of arrangement enables startups to set an IT budget around a per-project or part-time need, while benefiting from reliable and consistent IT service from a vendor who is familiar with their environment.
If you’re a startup and you’re beginning a relationship with an IT vendor, be wary of long-term contracts that might lock you into terms that will not necessarily be agreeable in the future. At the least, you should agree upon a future timetable for you and your vendor to evaluate, and possibly negotiate, the contract. As one example, we schedule quarterly meetings with our long-term clients, to be sure the contracted terms are still appropriate for the business environment. We find this benefits our clients as well as ourselves, since nobody ends up in an agreement that doesn’t suite the workload.
Micro and Macro IT Services
Most early or mid-stage startups don’t have enough IT tasks to keep a full-timer busy. At the same time, the issues they do have are a mix of basic desktop support (usually for the non-technical staff, such as HR or Marketing) or more complex technical work, such as IT planning or Linux system administration.
When contracting with a third-party IT services provider, it is worthwhile to look for a team with a diversity of skills, so you can tap the talents of different experts. In this way, your vendor can serve a variety of specialized IT needs, including onsite helpdesk administration, network administration, remote troubleshooting, strategic IT infrastructure planning, or system administration, depending on the month or the projects du jour.
Diverse Operating Systems
Another unique element of IT for startups (and increasingly, corporate environments), is a diversity of operating systems. As quite often is the case, the techie founders might work in Linux, while the marketing people love their Macs and the programmers are on a mix of Macs and PCs. It can be a challenge finding an IT consultant or employee who can move fluidly across operating systems. In such a case, working with a IT service provider whose team has expertise in Mac, PC and Linux can really benefit the startup.
It’s a well-known fact that the culture of startup companies can be markedly different from your average corporate office environment. Startups look for techies who fit comfortably in with their team.
When hiring or bringing in a vendor or contractor, you’ll be examining the prospect’s attitude, style, and communication skills. Techies in startup environments must think quickly on their feet, take criticism or instruction easily, and pivot quickly when change is required. A sense of humor and collaboration skills can be better than gold.
We work hard to keep all of these areas in mind when we place one of our team members in a startup environment. There must be a good fit in order for us to to prove our reliability and establish an enduring vendor-client relationship.
Plug-N-Play Cloud Solutions
Another question to ask your potential vendor is, “What kind of partnerships do they have?” At LimeTech, we partner with a number of vendors who enable us to provide cloud services to our clients. For entrepreneurs embarking on the launch of a startup company, there are advantages to considering an all-in-one cloud solution that includes cloud file sharing, cloud email (Exchange) and a cloud-based VOIP phone system.
This kind of solution can be rapidly deployed and enables easy collaboration from multiple locations. This can also be a great way to get your operations launched without facing the expense of server procurement and infrastructure maintenance.
Not all business environments are the same. Why would anyone hire an IT vendor that’s going to offer a cookie-cutter solution? Your options should match your unique technology environment, which might include a great cloud service, a hybrid solution, or a nuts-and-bolts infrastructure paired with plain vanilla support.
Finally, be wary of IT vendors who push solutions just for profit. Your vendor should take the long-term approach and only recommend what’s going to suit your unique business goals.
Give us a call anytime for a free consultation! 800-344-9018
At LimeTech, we currently provide IT services and cloud-based solutions for startups and growing businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are also available to provide consulting assistance and remote support for companies outside of our immediate region. Here are the local communities we currently serve:
- San Francisco
- San Leandro
Flickr Photo Credit: I.C. Ligget