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The Ultimate Startup in the Cloud

Minimizing overhead by doing everything online

Have you ever thought about launching your own small business? You can take advantage of technology to reduce costs and streamline the process.

Promote Through Online Ads

Online advertising offers the opportunity to drive relevant customers straight to your company's web presence. For example, Google AdWords offers the ability to place ads containing links beside search results and other content based on relevant terms. You can bid against other advertisers for the same terms to compete for higher placement, and they offer an option that you only have to pay when someone actually clicks through the ad.

This is a great way to promote your offerings, because you will get people who clicked on your ad when they were already interested in, and actively search for, the related terms. With a platform that is so far above other promotion methods, you could possibly focus all of your promotion efforts on this platform, without worrying about other promotion methods, some of which may be much less effective. This is especially the case for online offerings.

Provide Digital Products

Physical goods need to be prepared, stored, and protected, physically. They also need to be provided through brick and mortar locations or delivered through shipping services. Brick and mortar locations require real estate, parking, property taxes, insurance, security, maintenance and cleaning, etc.

A web presence only requires domain name registrations, certificates, hosting platforms, and the content. Most hosts offer very easy push-button setup for at least everything besides the content. Cloud hosts provide Infrastructure or Platform as a Service (IaaS or PaaS) so you wouldn't need your own complex business computer systems. Cloud providers often let you pay per use, by subscription, or both.

There are digital goods you can offer through your web presence, to save worrying about the costs and complications of physical goods. These may include, for example:
  • Software
    • Computer software for download
    • "Software as a Service" (SaaS) that runs online
    • Mobile apps
  • Content
    (Including Educational, Entertainment, etc.)
    • Web pages
    • Music and other audio, and video - for streaming and download
    • Art and other graphics
    • eBooks and documents
    • 3D models
  • Various kinds of data for use in various software
Delivering products through the Web also goes along well with enabling your customers to pay electronically.

Sell Through Online Payment Processing

Modern payment processors such as PayPal and Stripe make it easier than ever to accept payments through the Web. They provide streamlined integrations for web sites, email, and software, including mobile apps. They make money by charging a small processing fee such as 2 to 3%, a fixed amount of a few cents, or both, for each transaction. They support all major credit and debit cards, and some even support digital currency such as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

You can develop your own software to handle selling your goods and services online using these payment processors, or you could also use third party e-commerce software. These processors can also handle functionality like recurring payments, subscriptions, and refunds. Online payments make it easy for you to earn money without working on site.

Work Remotely

Working at physical sites requires concerns with transportation, access to the sites, and maintaining mobile equipment. Transportation requires vehicle maintenance, insurance, registration, taxes, drivers (except with autonomous vehicles), fuel (or charging, for electric vehicles), and parking, unless you can deal with alternatives such as paying premium prices for taxis or ride sharing. Driving also requires dealing with things like directions, traffic, weather, construction, possible tickets, and accidents.

Remote Tools

You can easily bypass all of these complications in your startup by working remotely, over the Internet. High tech tools make it easy to create a virtual office. You can share usage of your computer with someone else through remote desktop access. You can even manage entire computers systems and networks using Virtual Machines (VMs). You can connect to others using communication and collaboration tools like videoconferencing, including Google Hangouts, Skype, and video calls through Slack.

Virtual Office

You can create your virtual office out of home offices; public places with Internet access such as coffee shops, computer labs, and libraries; or, special venues offered specifically for startups. These venues include coworking spaces, startup incubators, and collaboratives. As you can tell, some of these options are free or cost very little. For example, working in a WiFi enabled coffee shop may only cost the price of a cup of coffee.

There are also many options for affordable software for running your business. This includes paying per use or by subscription for SaaS, or using freely available software (which is not the same thing as, but sometimes includes, Open Source).

Remote Services

You could provide many services remotely, including:
  • Developing and distributing digital products (software, content, and other data)
  • Training courses and other education
  • Various kinds of remote support and assistance
  • Technical support
    • Full VM system administration
    • Other software updates, maintenance, and repairs
  • Possible emerging opportunities
    • Augmented reality / virtual reality
    • 3D Printing
    • Drones
Working remotely is especially helpful if you also conduct other aspects of your business online.

Manage Your Business In the Cloud

Besides providing your core offerings digitally, you need a way to manage every other aspect of your business. There are also software tools for business management, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) suites, which provide collections of tools intended to manage every aspect of your business. For example, ERP suites usually contain Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, to help manage relationships with customers or clients and prospects. Popular CRM tools include Salesforce and SugarCRM. There is accounting software like QuickBooks, and tax preparation software like from HR Block. There are SaaS tools to manage every aspect of your business in the cloud.

Conclusion

At least until technology advances much further, we will not be able to avoid complications with access to use some physical things. We still need some physical property and equipment somewhere, and some transportation, sometimes. You would need to plan on subtracting some money from your revenue for inevitable expenses. But, especially today with the cloud, there are already many virtual alternatives to reduce this overhead as much as possible.

To run an all-online startup, you would have few virtual office expenses (if any). All you would really need, is a small space, some basic computer hardware, electricity and Internet access, and digital work. You could pay per usage for web hosting, and maybe business management and other SaaS (or you could find software you could use for free). You could work online and provide digital products over the Internet. Then you could bid per click for ads and pay a small commission to process payments. The ultimate idea is that once you setup such a startup, you could simply lean back and start working on your computer and earning income.

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