The Startup’s Dedicated Accounting Computer

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accountingCS183B: How to Start a Startup is a Stanford class being taught this quarter by YC’s Sam Altman.  I sat in on one of the classes and watched the lectures on YouTube.  CS183B has me asking myself what I might suggest for anybody working on their first startup.  One idea I’ve seen that consistently works is a dedicated accounting computer.  Anybody with any business experience knows you need some system of bookkeeping. But 183B is a CS class and I’ve seen many startups just getting started that lack any system of accounting.  The founders of those startups don’t know much about the company’s income, can’t explain where money is being spent, and then wonder why the startup isn’t succeeding.  A dedicated accounting computer is worth mentioning for both practical and psychological purposes.

What Is A Dedicated Accounting Computer

A dedicated accounting computer is simply a decent used computer that runs QuickBooks, keeps the startup’s QuickBooks file, and also has any spreadsheets used by the company.  For accounting software, I personally recommend QuickBooks Pro.  The online-only software tends to not have many features.  QuickBooks Pro works offline and can export a separate “accountant’s copy” of the Quickbooks file if somebody else needs to review it.  If your startup has offices, then you can keep the accounting computer somewhere out of the way.  Its often kept on a small desk in whatever tiny office has the shelves of office supplies.  Receipts and bills can be piled up on that same desk.  Then a paid bookkeeper that also does the bank reconciliations and handles payroll can enter all those receipts and bills every couple of weeks or at least once a month.

Why Does A Startup Need One Of These

Every business of every size needs the ability to produce two documents: a balance sheet and an income statement.  Those documents are required for both tax purposes and providing to investors.  A company can’t generate an accurate balance sheet or income statement without some form of bookkeeping.  Rather than keeping the QuickBooks file and spreadsheets on the founder’s laptop, having a dedicated computer forces founders to objectively see the company financials as separate from their own financials.  A separate computer is also convenient for part-time bookkeepers and financial advisors that visit the company offices to do their job.

I’m Sure This Post Will Help Somebody

As I said at the beginning, anybody with any business experience knows you need some system of accounting.  However, I’ve met more than a few first-time technical founders over the years that are oblivious as to what their startup needs just to get started.  The benefits of having some basic form of business bookkeeping tends to be a major realization.  Setting up a dedicated accounting computer is a good idea that will help your business succeed.

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