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By Paul Lamb

I laughed when reading a recent article in the Economist claiming that angel investors provide over $250,000 for a startup company, on average.

For my own Internet startup I spent a whopping $250, not including sweat equity. Rather than invest hundreds of thousands, if not millions, creating all the necessary online bells and whistles from scratch, I opted instead to become an Internet scavenger. Yes, I borrowed the latest and greatest freely available online tools, letting some much smarter people do the work for me.

Yet my fully functional website meets all of the expectations of today’s discriminating online customers, including features like blogs, podcasting, video, and social networking tools – I even integrated a free voice mail and fax service so I don’t have to pay for a telephone line.

The very generous folks at Google have a wonderful feature that allowed me to build and host a website for nothing. Other large Web companies offer low cost hosting plans and simple Web page designers for non techies. Trust me, I am no computer programmer.

The business that my wife and I started, called beabetterpartner.com, offers an offline and online toolkit to help busy couples improve their relationship in a fun and interactive way. All of the products offered on the site are printed, shipped, billed, and inventoried without charge through a third party vendor. We simply do the creative work, and the back office is handled seamlessly by some really hardworking cyber fairies that we never see or hear from.

Our web traffic monitoring, membership sign-up, and monthly newsletters are automated functions of yet another vendor that charges us a handful of dollars a month. All in all, we use eight different outside Web tools that basically run themselves and require very little setup or maintenance.

Even our legal protections are free – via a Creative Commons license that is easily downloadable from the Internet and can be displayed prominently on your Website or blog.

Our global headquarters consist of a cramped home office with a view of our deck. Our executive team includes myself, my wife, and an ageing Beagle named Spartacus who handles corporate security.

From soup to nuts, the do-it-yourself era of Web 2.0 is happy to make a business person out of anyone with some good ideas, a broadband connection, and a way to get heard through the clamor of other consumer created content. In our case we went from the idea stage to launch in less than nine months.

Thankfully, almost gone are the days of endless investor coddling, patent and copyright filing, facility and overhead investments, and overpriced sales and marketing departments.

All you really need are a couple of hundred bucks to purchase a domain name, get a business license, and buy some office supplies.

So I say to all of you angel investors: You can keep your $250,000. If my business fails I can always write and self-publish a book on the experience and sell it online…and it won’t cost me a dime.

Here are some useful tools:

• Web page and website development toolkits:
Microsoft Live Office
Google Page Creator
Yahoo Small Business
Customer Relationship Management & Email Marketing
Constant Contact
Yahoo Small Business Email Marketing
Online Faxing:
Faxzero
eFax

• Online Voice Mail:
K7.net
Lazer Voice Mail

• Customized Online Merchandise
www.cafepress.com
www.customink.com/

• Online Publishing
www.lulu.com
www.blurb.com
www.iuniverse.com

Blogging Tools
www.blogger.com
www.vox.com

• Social Networking tools for small business
www.ning.com
www.onesite.com

• Podcasting
www.odeo.com
Audacity


Paul Lamb is the Principal of Man on a Mission Consulting.
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