Basic Essentials Every Lean Startup Office Needs

When it comes time to launch your lean startup, you and your employees will need a comfortable, functional work environment to conduct business in. There are a lot of considerations to make, depending on the industry you work in.

Lean startup office

There are common items that most businesses will definitely need to get started. While there are also plenty of traditional considerations that have been recently outdated by technological advancements and other changes occurring in the modern workplace.

Here’s a short list of things you’ll definitely need to consider outfitting a professional work environment with – without killing your budget:


You can source furnishings for your startup office almost anywhere. If you’re looking to get it done on a budget, I’d recommend your first stop be the nearest IKEA outlet. Walmart is also a good option. You’ll have to assemble items yourself too, or find a friendly family member, friend, or employee who’s handy with such things.

Both offer functional, modern furniture that’s mainly made of press-board (read: cheap) materials that will stand the short-ish test of time until your business starts to thrive. If, on the other hand, the biz tanks in a year or two’s time, you won’t have a mess of expensive wood furniture and $500 chairs to try to recoup your investment on.

Sure, you’ll have to assemble the equipment yourself, but we’re talking about furnishing the office on a budget – premade furniture does cost more. You could easily save thousands going this route as opposed to buying high quality premade furniture.

Go this route unless you have a better discount furniture retailer nearby, or you can find a great deal on Craigslist or Kijiji, like an office clearance auction or similar.

  • Desk: It doesn’t really matter what you go with here. A single conference table will cost a lot less than several smaller desks, and will create more of a familial work environment. L-desks are also a good option if your employees need more isolation while they work, while also maximizing floor space if you have lots of corners in the office. Look for models with cable management features to reduce wire clutter.
  • Chairs: I recommend going hardcore ‘bootstrapper’ here and foregoing chairs, which will cost at least $60 each for cheap models, instead doing the popular IKEA standing desk hack. Chairs will shorten your employee’s lifespans anyway, and more than likely kill productivity too.
  • Shelving: Lining free wall space with shelving will help to keep things from piling up around the office. Shelving, like wall shelves, shelving and drawer units, storage cabinets – whatever catches your eye. Shelving is cheap and functional.


We always want to go digital all the way, but it seems that pen-and-paper is still playing an important role. No matter how cutting edge your startup is, you still need office stationery. Fortunately, you can always save on stationery by buying no-frill stationery and buy it in bulk.

Then there are also bills to file, and other documents to keep. There are cheap box files that can pretty much help you organise your heap of paper documents well. You can always turn them into digital forms, but that’s later when you have the resources to do so.

Box files


You can save a ton of money just buying one or two common desktops everyone can use and encouraging everyone to bring their own equipment to work. We are putting together a lean startup, after all! All the big companies, including major PC and device manufacturers like IBM, all encourage employees to use their own devices. Most employees feel more comfortable using their own stuff anyway.

Read through this Quora discussion to see how real managers and employees sit on the issue.

Electronics and devices will be your biggest investment if you don’t go this route, and there’s no good reason not to. Even if you’re worried about security, you have to consider that with thumb drives and other removable media, and the use of public WiFi connections and cloud storage and collaboration software, distributing your own equipment will never offer a bulletproof security advantage.

Buy or lease a quality all-in-one printer that won’t let you down and that doesn’t cost a fortune for cartridges. Also, forget the dedicated fax machine; that’s what fax software and all-in-ones are for. Otherwise, the 90s called and they want their fax machine back!


Don’t go cheap on your Internet connection. There are far too many ISPs to make one recommendation or the other. But, at minimum, you need a 30mbps or higher connection, with a decent upload speed and more than 250gb bandwidth per month – minimum. Adjust your plan as needed on the fly to save on overages.

A landline is still a good idea for your main business phone number. Spend a few hours shopping around for the best deal, especially where long-distance is concerned. Encourage everyone to use their own smartphones and offer a reimbursement plan if they have to use it as part of their job.

Office plant

photo credit: Darren Shaw / Flickr

Air Quality

I won’t delve too much into improving air quality in your office. Check out this Wikipedia article on plants that freshen the air up. Some are cheaper, some more expensive. There are dozens of variations of English Ivy and they grow big and don’t cost much at all. Palms, ferns, lilies and aloe vera plants are also very inexpensive.

Air filters are also a good idea for smaller offices, but might not be an affordable option if the office space is bigger. This buy can save you a lot of sick days ($$$) if one or several of your employees are allergy sufferers and the building is older (eg., old insulation, mold, dust and other contaminants).

Choose a model made specifically for allergy sufferers and make sure to weight the sticker price of the machine with the price of replacement filters for long-term money savings.


There are a ton of things you might see missing from the list above. Chime in with your suggestions in the comments, if you see something missing that the majority of startups cannot live without.


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