I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

Capital efficiency taken to ergonomic extremes

I’ve heard people quip that IKEA makes more profits on startups than venture capitalists do.  In our first week at Daily Grommet I, too, took a trip to the flat- pack behemoth–and bought a couple tables and lamps.  It felt like a necessary rite of passage.  A visiting Irish college student friend volunteered to assemble them, and we were off and running.

First day of business, and last time anyone put their feet up at Grommet

First day of business, and last time anyone put their feet up at Grommet

But as we grew, we began to source all our ragtag furniture from either our basements, or shrinking startups.  Here are a few prime examples:

The chair with no back

"Spineless" --the chair with no back

The stool that is too high for a desk

"Inferiority Complex" --the stool that is too high for a desk

Chair from my husband's bachelor days

"If this chair could talk" -- a specimen hanging around from my husband's bachelor days

Finally, Joanne said quietly,

Jules we could use some chairs with backs, and the office gets really dark.  How about some lamps?

Coincidentally, my husband’s company was selling off a bunch of decent office gear.  We had access to a friend’s convertible car, and so off we went on a Sunday, to “shop” at the downtown office.  Alas, we did not plan on a heavy downpour on our endless highway travels back…the folks who got these chairs suffered kind of wet bums on the following Monday.   But I didn’t hear anyone complaining….anything was an improvement over the crazy chair that couldn’t hold its height (not photographed)–it slowly sank as you worked.

We get a lot of credit for “capital efficiency” but sometimes we can take it a little too far.

How we got our nice new/used chairs to the office

How we got our nice new/used chairs to the office

5 Responses to “Capital efficiency taken to ergonomic extremes”

  1. Dan Weinreb

    When we started Object Design in 1988 we went
    to the going out of business sale
    of Texet, a software company in
    Arlington, and got whiteboard and desks
    and chairs at great prices! Then we
    painted the office ourselves. I have
    photos of all this. It’s healthy for
    the corporate culture.

    Reply
  2. Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | LeanStartups.com

    This post made me laugh. Ever since I got into startups, that is about the only way I buy furniture (with an exception for one startup where founders insisted on new). Tables from IKEA or Freecycle and chairs from all of those porkly marketing and tech companies that have one thing in common – you can always find a foosball table (I have a theory why), Herman Miller furniture… and all of that at a “firesale”.

    Reply
    • julespieri

      What’s the foosball theory?

      We could never fit one of those in. We are living three, four, and five people to a tiny room. We actually schedule some shift work around office and computer access. It’s that tight.

      Reply
      • Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | LeanStartups.com

        Jules,
        Very familiar with packed workspaces. Workable until you hit (last time I checked) 40 employees, when Federal and other regulations kick in. At least, judging from your posts, you have female-dominated company. I remember when I joined a startup in Chicago with 20+ employees with mostly men. Add overclocked laptops, HVAC not designed to handle that much body heat, dual and triple monitors… No amount of ventilation could make it work and girls were real troopers tolerating it. That is when I had to move the company to a new office.

        Now in regards to the “foosball table theory”, I think it is worth discussing, so I wrote an article on my blog: “How a foosball table can kill your startup” – http://leanstartups.com/2009/06/how-a-foosball-table-can-kill-your-startup.html

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