A startup should spend all its time innovating on your Product, GTM, or core Biz Ops (business model / moat). These things are its secret sauce. It should not be innovating on Finance tools, HR software, or Legal templates. They are critical to scaling, but they're also all solved problems.
It's puzzling. In contrast, engineers have a tremendous amount of leverage thanks to libraries and frameworks, even though engineering is more custom. Why not operators? In fact, since Finance, HR, and Legal should not be reinvented... there should be even more more Standard Operating Procedures.
There are two major reasons in our view:
- It turns out most of this is simply not written down. It's in peoples' heads, or discussed in communities of operators, or shared by word of mouth.
- To build on that, there are lots of "perks pages" that recommend every possible tool, and lots of blogs, but no "guides." Certainly nothing organized in a structured manner, with abstraction layers 🙃.
We're here to help. During the last decade, we've designed and provisioned thousands of processes, software, service providers, and templates. Turns out, Company-Building is indeed quite repeatable.
This is the culmination of that work: the canonical guide to operating a startup. Organized, comprehensive, opinionated. Welcome to Composed.
Here's a bit more about what to expect...
No BS. Executives need Executive Summaries.
We know you're busy and you don't have time to read a 2,000 word blog post to get to the punchline on every category.
Instead, we share our:
- Recommendation, with a short paragraph on why
- Honorable Mentions – vendors that you should consider
- the occasional Anti-Recommendation, along with other strong opinions
What you Need. When. Why.
Most features don't matter, so websites like G2 or Capterra often aren't helpful.
On the other hand, we've spent thousands of hours researching these tools according to criteria that matter. We distilled this down into 5: critical features; customer service; value for money; APIs & integration; scalability.
Incidentally, with some tweaks, the same criteria also works for service providers rather than software!
Not Every Part of your Stack should be Software.
Sometimes, the best software is no software. It's possible that a service provider, or a template, or a scrappy band-aid solution is best depending on your stage and needs. We'll tell you if that's the case.
Recommendations You Can Trust
During 3+ years building AbstractOps, we've helped design, build, and scale HR, Finance, and Legal Ops for 100+ companies (including some pretty badass businesses like On Deck, Primer, Maven, Airplane, and more).
Prior to that: we've served as leaders & operators at Founding through Series B; and advisors & consultants to late-stage through Fortune 500 companies.
We care intensely about you as founders / leaders at a startup succeeding, by making the right choices – for you. That's why we explain the rationale so you can see if it's the right (informed) decision.
We put our money where our mouth is: we almost always use our recommendation (the only exception is if the recommendation is a new tool and we're still on a legacy provider).
Note: Some of our links may earn us receive affiliate revenue (in addition to the discounts / credits we've negotiated for you). However, almost all vendors offer partnership programs, so our recommendation is unaffected by that; in most cases we've opted for zero or lower revenue, in order to recommend the best tool. You don't have to use our affiliate links; you can sign up directly, though you'll miss out on some credits or discounts. OTOH, we're an early-stage startup working towards profitability, and we've spent a lot of time researching/assembling this, so the support is appreciated :).
1. Operating at its best is composed of existing pieces (lego building blocks), rather than necessarily making something new.
2. A company's back-office is only noticed when it breaks, and the best operators are always composed when they're fixing something breaking. Many (but not all) of the best operators are a type S (in contrast to founders who are often type I, sales who are type S, or engineers who are type C).
3. Building & scaling a company -- like any meaningful endeavor -- balances structure & creativity, like a well-told story or a balanced piece of music.
A Bit of Humor and the Occasional Bad Pun
Because, why not.
I mean even "Composed" is a pun that's average, at best.
Ready? Check out Composed below!
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