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I guess, the first thing that needs clarifying is, what is a start-up? According to Investopedia: “A start-up is a young company that is just beginning to develop. In the early stages, start-up companies’ expenses tend to exceed their revenues as they work on developing, testing and marketing their idea.”

Now that we’ve answered that question, I’ll let you know how I got the inspiration for this blog. It involved an “incident” which saw the clashing of a MacBook Pro and a cup of coffee. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending, and the MacBook Pro lived to tell another tale. I can’t take the credit for it, however, it was thanks to a call with Desi, our top-notch IT dude, who came to the rescue. But it could have been an incredibly costly accident.

As a start-up, we understand what it’s like trying to do everything as cost-effectively as possible and this is what’s inspired us to share our top-tips for maximum output on minimum budget with you.

1. IT – water/coffee damage

During said MacBook Pro “incident”, our on-hand IT advisor took control of the situation across a phone line. His advice was invaluable and saved us at least $1,000 on a new laptop.

If you spill liquid on a laptop:

  • DON’T press the on/off button. This sparks an electronic current through the machine which will be conducted by the spilled water and will cause your machine to break.
  • DO tip out the water and close the laptop.
  • Leave the laptop alone until a professional comes to fix it.

2. Marketing – free images

Not all of us have the budget to purchase the perfect stock photography or hire our own graphic designer to create infographics, banners and collateral.

We have found that you can use these tools to get your imagery for free!

  • Flaticon – this website provides hundreds of thousands of icons which are perfect for using in PowerPoint presentations. You name it, they have an icon for it in any colour you want (using hex), and a range of sizes and file types, including every single country flag in the world. But, remember to credit the author!
  • Hubspot – if you’re not already signed up to the Hubspot blog then you must. Not only do they direct you to free stock photography, there’s a whole host of useful information including how to make an awesome infographic, write engaging content and tips for successful social media marketing.
  • Google – I know what you’re thinking “state the obvious”, but if you steal photos from your average Google search to use in your marketing collateral then you’re breaking the law. A tip would be to search for your keyword, click “Images” then “Tools”. Another row of options will appear, one being “Usage rights”, click on it and select “Labelled for reuse”. Voila. Stay legal peeps.

3. Project management

In a start-up every employee seems to have a job title, but the job description is “open to interpretation”, let’s say. So many jobs, so little time. Managing your time is crucial to product development and often scribbles jotted in your notepad just won’t be enough to organise your day.

Luckily, we’ve been introduced to a brilliant and free project management tool, Trello. Within the tool you can create to-do lists, which can be annotated by all team members, and deadlines can be added, files attached, team members assigned to certain tasks and much more.

There are other project management tools out there. Cloudwards wrote a helpful guide taking you through the best virtual team software tools, which will help you decide which is the best one for your team.

4. Secure password storage

Is it just us that think using an Excel spreadsheet to store your passwords should be left in the 90s? It’s unsafe, everyone forgets where the file is kept, and no one ever updates it. Enter LastPass.

We find this online password storage extension so useful. It’s a safe place to store passwords for all online accounts you have. Which means you no longer have to use the same password for everything because you’ll know you’ll forget it if you choose something different. The sharing centre means that you can share company passwords with colleagues safely and you can restrict access too.

5. Competitions

Enter lots of competitions. If you thought your business idea was so good it needed pursuing then others must too! Get recognised for what you do and there’ll be many perks along the way.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have won six awards so far and here are some of the things tangible and intangible that we’ve gained from them.

  • Pitching practice – useful for perfecting your pitch to use on potential investors or clients.
  • PR exposure – the more you attend competitions or industry events the more exposure you’ll get and interest you’ll generate.
  • Meeting investors – you never know when or where you’ll bump into your next investor, so make yourself available.
  • Meeting clients – as above, but substitute in clients.
  • Mentorship – from the judges, to last year’s winner, there’s a huge variety of experience at competitions, and everyone wants to share their journey so we don’t all make the same mistakes.
  • Money – it’s what everyone needs.
  • Travel – global finals of the competitions can be in exotic locations, meaning you can find opportunities in international markets or just extend your trip into a holiday!

6. Incubators/shared office space

So you’re thinking, surely it’s more cost effective to work from your front room if you’re doing things on a budget? Probably true, but how easy is it to motivate yourself from the same room you watch Game of Thrones in? Get yourself down to your nearest incubator.

NOW Money set up base in Astrolabs, Dubai, in mid 2016 and the benefits we’ve had from working there have been invaluable. Firstly, human interaction on a day to day basis is essential and stops us going crazy and the added bonus is you’re surrounded by motivated entrepreneurs. You have availability to mentors, marketing experts or lawyers etc, who come in and give free advice, which would otherwise be very costly. Astrolabs hosts a lot of business-themed meet-up events too, which are free to attend (and you sometimes get free pizza).


If you’re reading this and work for a start-up we’d love to know your hacks! Please comment below if you have any other tips.

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