Launching A Business In The Cloud

I started writing this in early July...and just now finished it.  So some of the temporal references are a bit off.


I've built most of the operational plumbing for a small business over the past few weeks...and I've done it all without installing a single piece of software or building a single MS Office document.  (OK - except for an overly-MBA'ed financial model in Excel.) 

Here's the playbook for launching a lightweight company in the cloud:


I showed my friend Tristan an early (and hideous) mock-up of Argyle's website one afternoon in the Kenan-Flagler cafe.  After a quick look, he replied with three very wise questions:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. Don't you know the best time to change directions in an IT implementation is at the beginning of the project?
  3. Will you please let me show you Squarespace?

I was on the cusp of a custom-built disaster...and Tristan intervened just in time to introduce me to the best web app I've used in a long time.

Except for the images I bought from iStockPhoto and a few blurbs of custom CSS and HTML, Squarespace elegantly powers every pixel of  Point and click, drag and drop, save and close - it could not have been easier to put together a polished, professional website.  All for ~$30/month.

I can't say enough good things about the service.

(Note - Tristan works there now.)


Admittedly, is waaaay more than I need at this point.  However, it is very helpful for getting out of spreadsheets, formalizing processes, and taking baby steps towards becoming a data-driven company.

I paid $99 for a year's worth of Group Edition - which includes a handful of users, several helpful Google integrations, and more than enough functionality to keep me going for a long time.

I haven't done it yet - but it is (kinda) easy to integrate a web form to dump contact data directly from my site to my CRM.

Accounting/Billing - Quickbooks Online

While it isn't the prettiest application, Quickbooks gets the job done.  As far as I know, the online edition offers the same functionality as the installed edition. There are some other apps that offer similar services - Freshbooks is probably the most popular - but QB is the most comprehensive.

They also offer a merchant account service that is a little pricey, but integrates nicely with the service.  It is a little clunky billing customers, but I don't really have the volume to warrant an upgrade.

Operations - Google Apps

I run my email, my calendar, and (most of) my documents through Google.  Extremely easy and beautifully functional. 

I can't imagine why any small business would deal with the hassle of hosting their own productivity services when - after some easy DNS changes and a quick set-up - they can run it all through Google for free (in most cases) or cheap. 

The integration makes it an even bigger no-brainer.