Starting from scratch: 2007 vs 2016
Every season, for me, it’s like starting from scratch again. — Usain Bolt
I started my first company in 2007. It’s been almost a 10-year journey with many ups and downs along the way. I had the chance to meet incredible people and do great projects, I have also learnt many things down the road, often by trial and error.
Reflecting back on my first steps ten years ago, I can't help to notice that a couple of things were a bit different than today.
Office & Infrastructure
We borrowed an office from my co-founder’s uncle, we hired an Internet service provider, got a phone number, put on some minimal furniture and went to work. God, I remember how we struggled with our first coffee machine 😊. Every bit of those things are very exciting when first starting, however, they make you lose focus from what's important and provide false clues of progress. While having your own place is really cool it also comes with some burden: paying expenses, a cleaning service, connectivity, office supplies, furniture, insurance, repairs, etc.
Today there are many options for shared workplaces like WeWork in the US and AreaTres and Urban Station in Buenos Aires. Working remotely is culturally now much more acceptable, along with plenty of tools like Slack, Trello, Skype and Hangouts to coordinate distributed teams, making it easier to postpone spending energy on a physical place from day 1.
If you wanted to host your app in 2007 you could use some of the available hosting services by that time with limited customization, but if you needed full control you had to buy a server, install everything on it and then rent a space at a data center for a total of thousands of dollars. Alternatively, you could just put a computer at the office risking power and network outages.
Today there are many options to get a server instantaneously at a fraction of the cost through Amazon, Rackspace, Google Cloud and many others. You can start with a small server paying by the hour and then increase your spending as needed. Many people call this "The Cloud" :)
Network & Landscape
During 2007, the investment activity was much lower than in the last years. Twitter had just 1 year old and Facebook 3 years old. The iPhone was not still invented, and mobile was in the single digit of Internet traffic.
There wasn’t any accelerator or incubator program in place. Today Nxtp Labs, Wayra and others help entrepreneurs to connect much faster to a network of hundreds of other entrepreneurs and investors to get advice and capital, bringing more transparency to the deals and helping with the education of all parties.
Legal and Tax
Most of the first-time entrepreneurs I talk to ask me about the same things: When should I incorporate? Where? How do I invoice clients? How much will I pay in taxes? The cheapest thing for the long term is to get good advice from an accountant and a lawyer, the problem is that when you start you don't know the right questions to ask. I recommend not spending lots of money on the legal structure before you really know what you need.
This part haven't changed so much in the last 100 years :), though lately some governments are trying to speed up some processes.
I would like to see more advances in payments and the simplification of legal stuff. Many startups like Stripe (https://stripe.com/atlas), Coinbase, LegalZoom, are challenging the bureaucracy imposed by a lagging tax system, legal and financial regulations but I feel they end up fighting against a system that is not willing to change so easily.
Best of luck.