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F|R Crib Sheet: 15 Sites to Cut Your Startup Operating Costs

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Clever founders always eke the most out of every buck. But economic conditions being what they are, even the best bootstrappers could use a little extra help.

By now you’ve probably heard of web sites like, GasBuddy and MSNAutos, which help consumers find the cheapest fuel prices at gas pumps in their geographic area. Such “cost-optimization” sites are now proliferating across all sorts of verticals directly relevant to your most basic startup operating expenses. We’ve assembled a list of a few we like that can help you shop for everything from health insurance to web hosting to wireless service plans and more. [digg=]

If you’ve discovered, or possibly even built, additional tools for cutting commodity costs, please add them to our list via the comments section.

1. Phone Service/Wireless Plans

Carriers make it hard to do head-to-head comparisons of their plans. will help you find the cheapest plan for your immediate needs, and then monitor your usage pattern over time to continue to match your needs to the carriers’ constantly changing service offerings. Like many sites included here, BillShrink (funded by David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners) is designed for consumers, not businesses, but as co-founder Schwark Satyavolu notes, startups find it handy, too: “The vast majority have fewer than five employees so they use family plans or extended family plans that go up to 10 lines, the very same services consumers use.”

Also try and, which does energy expense management as well (more on this below).

2. Credit Cards

Many founders bootstrap their operations in the early days using credit cards. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as you do lots of research up front and remain extremely vigilant about managing your accounts. Credit does a nice job of winnowing down and showcasing the many different small business credit-card offers out there.

And in coming weeks, BillShrink plans to add a credit card service that will, like its wireless service, marry your borrowing patterns to the best-available credit card offer. Whether you carry a balance or pay it off, BillShrink will assess your “cost of ownership” on each card, and rank them for you. Stay tuned.

3. Insurance Plans

Most offers you custom quotes for all kinds of insurance, including health plans, liability policies, even directors’ and officers’ liability coverage. See the left column of various listings, go to Group Health Insurance and in the search field use the tab for Professional Scientific and Technical Services., another Bessemer-funded site, is directed at helping consumers source insurance plans and physicians, and generally get more out of their health care expenses. Its tab for small businesses is where you can also get quotes for group plans.

4. Web Hosting

We found this category to be particularly tricky as there are so many different kinds of hosting (shared, dedicated, co-location, etc.). One choice is, an independent site that, despite a cluttered home page, has a simple field where you can enter your parameters and get a quote. Also check out its Guide to Budget Web Hosting.

For comparison shopping, simply displays a list of competitive offers.

There are fewer optimization resources for co-located hosting, but one that came recommended is, a discussion site where you can ask questions in topic forums, get tips, even special pricing from vendors. Note, however, that the rules strictly prevent lead generation or advertising.

5. Storage and Remote Backup

Founders tells us this is even harder to source than hosting, but we suggest you try

6. Office Supplies

You want 24-inch LCD screens to prompt your developers’ creativity? aggregates and publishes the best prices for office wares from a range of retailers including Wal-Mart and aggregates content from the aggregators, including FatWallet. Penny-pinching expert Schwark Satyalovu of BillShrink built this site, also. “I bought ALL of our office equipment, including our computers, LCDs, projectors, printers, by finding the best deals on these sites — including 24-inch LCD screens — for only $299.” They’re no longer quite that cheap, but still not bad.

7. Electricity & Other Utilities

Everyone will tell you that the first thing you need to do is get an energy efficiency audit, where someone looks at your electricity usage profile and recommends ways to save. “You may be tempted to switch to solar power,” says Hannah Russin, of, which specializes in turnkey solar systems for homeowners. “Solar is a years-long investment. It’s not a good idea for a startup if you don’t know what your income stream will be in five years.”

Instead, hire someone to do an electricity audit for you, such as Silicon Valley-based

Even better, do your own “usage overhaul.” Russin highly recommends the blog Michael explains a few electricity myths, offers up explantions as to why your bill is so high, and shares tips on how you can to cut down on your electricity bill, including mandating that your employees kill their screen savers. (Active screen savers mean your computers never actually sleep.)

Earlier we recommended, which offers wireless and energy expense management. For straight cost comparisons on your power vendors, also check out, which serves many geographies.

37 Responses to “F|R Crib Sheet: 15 Sites to Cut Your Startup Operating Costs”

  1. There are many of us: “Small Fry” seedling startups, (barely) bootstrapping, re-mortgaging, selling our assets, moving out of incubation (from nice cheap offices), back into our bedrooms… that really appreciate every bit of advice we can get. ;-)

    People may also like this from Calacanis,

    which also caused a stir when Duncan Riley wrote about it:

    What about all the events that we just cannot afford to attend? Could there not be free tickets for select startups? I guess you guys streaming as much as you can via Mogulus really helps us overseas, and not fortunate enough to be based in SF/SV, to stay in the loop.

  2. i’m sorry this looks like a plug for this billshrink site,
    solar power? why write about it if you acknowledge its unrelated and since when startups have problems with power bills

  3. Every startup should be using slicehost for developing their web app. I’ve tried lots and slicehost can’t be beat by stability and what you get!!!! I am a customer and absolutely love them!!!

  4. To add to the list of useful tools, the Financial Modeling Guide ( provides free tutorials and downloadable spreadsheet templates to help startups and business owners with their business plans and ongoing financial management.

    There is also an active community of over 4,000 finance professionals, entrepeneurs, and academics where you can ask finance and accounting questions, and get quick and unbiased feedback.