How Freecycle helped me bootstrap

How Freecycle helped me bootstrapI have a confession to make. Thanks to having worked for only customer revenue funded startups, I have become somewhat of a frugal nut. I love free stuff and I cringe at paying asking or retail price for anything. Anytime I pay MSRP, I feel like I have committed a sin. Whenever I would run operations in a startup, my most common response to many purchase requests was:” and with what revenue are we going to pay for that?” To me (and many others) cash is king, queen, emperor, and the whole darn extended dynasty. The only way I like cashflow in our books is incoming.

Though being that frugal of a S.O.B. is not easy, there are many more resources available now than they were when I started my career. Today I want to sing my praises to the Freecycle Network. If you have a huge ego and have an issue with used stuff… you may want to just move on to another article. For those of you who don’t know what Freecycle is, it is a network of e-mail lists and sites where people and organization give away for free or look for “stuff”.

To give you an understanding of how much generous folks participating in Freecycle have helped me, let me share with you things I have gotten off Freecycle: office supplies, whiteboards, tables, chair, storage cabinets, servers, printers, software, and various tech items. I estimate I did not have to spend in the area of about $20K-$30K, thanks to Freecycle. Sometimes we simply had no budget for a particular resource, so Freecycle helped us bootstrap. One particular case I remember very fondly. In one of my ventures I needed two servers for the office file serving, web development, and CRM. I quickly blasted out an e-mail to Freecycle network, though I thought it was a far shot. Same day I got two e-mails back. Both were from IT managers who had older decommissioned servers sitting on their shelves they did not want to trash. I quickly picked those up and found them both to be in a great shape. Yes, it did take me extra half day to clean them, update the firmware, find the older drivers, and purchase some extra memory and drives (which were dirt cheap on Ebay). But at the end I had two workhorses ready to save my day.

Now, please don’t misconstrue that I treat Freecycle in a “take only” manner. I believe in an environmental sustainability, conserving resources (which consequently also conserves the cash), and keeping my goodwill balance always in the positive. I have spared the landfills of boxes and boxes of computer components, PCs, furniture, books, etc. One man’s trash is sometimes another man’s treasure.

What is your favorite bootstrapping resource? Yes, I do plan an article on singing my praises to the opensource software.

Photo credit: John Flinchbaugh

About the author:
Apolinaras “Apollo” Sinkevicius is a business operations leader with 12-year track record of helping companies manage growth, build diverse teams, harness technology, and get a lot more profitable. He is usually brought in to build new or improve older business processes, provide structure to a rapidly growing business, and create higher level of predictability for the executive team.To learn more about Apolinaras “Apollo” Sinkevicius please visit his site TheOperationsGuy.com
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