Funded or not, ambitious or not, I just don’t see the sense of startups having fancy offices. In the old days, as a consultant to startups and investors both, I hated walking into an interview with a startup when it was a nice office, beautiful windows, carpets, and lots of space. In the middle days, building my own company, I didn’t want to be spending on appearances when there was never enough for product development and marketing for growth. And nowadays, as an angel investor, I don’t want a company that has nice offices.
There are exceptions: some kinds of businesses need fancy offices as part of their strategy; accountant, lawyers, and some high-end consultants. Those are rare special cases. I was a successful and expensive consultant for years, out on my own, without a fancy office. I never met a client who wouldn’t work with me because my office space wasn’t nice enough. I did have at least one who selected me because (among other factors, obviously) he didn’t want to pay high-end-consulting overhead.
Another exception I always make is powerful tools. As consultant, entrepreneur, or investor, I don’t respect a company that has people working on slow computers, outdated software, or slow network bandwidth. That’s a dumb way to save money.
I just read 7 Frugal Startup Tips from Millionaire Entrepreneurs on Entrepreneur.com. It includes some great tips, like avoiding expensive office furniture, reusing supplies, being careful about space, and so forth. That reminded me.
A bootstrapped company doesn’t overspend because it can’t. By definition. It doesn’t have other people’s money. But a funded startup should spent the money on the product and the marketing. Not the offices.
I don’t respect obvious overspending. It doesn’t mean smart founders or smart investors. The best example are those absurdly expensive SuperBowl ads in 1999 and 2000. But a fancy office is right up there.