Monday, February 4, 2013

How to Outfit Your Lean Startup Home: Tables You Can Write On

So, I may have mentioned we like whiteboard. We have lots of it on our walls. But when four men try to save STEM students from an unfurnished apartment in Texas, some other amenities needed. And how, one might ask, does one affordably create surfaces on which one can put computers and mac and cheese?

First, let's tackle the coffee/living room table. It's a small table that you want to put lots of stuff on, but it's low near couches.

One thing to remember is that furniture for accelerator tenants must be short-term; getting rid of a table is sometimes more annoying than getting it. So we added the constraint that it must be almost totally disposable.

For strength in compression, one really cannot beat carboard boxes. Corrugated carboard is absolutely wonderful for holding stuff up. Also, it's cheap as can be. So we took a couple boxes as our base, which are light and sturdy. The actual surface we felt like making reasonably usable, so we took a sheet of plywood and an equal-sized sheet of faux blackboard, then glued them together and sanded the edges. You'll probably need to weight the top part down while the glue dries if there's any warp at all.

Cheap blackboard table
Perfect size for playing Settlers of Catan.
Protip: One could use chalk on this table and draw things. We don't, because it also makes a mess. But one could. If one were so inclined.

But making notes on table is really useful. It's what glass tables are perfect when you have an idea. And, running a lean startup, we have lots of ideas and random code things of which we'd like to keep track.

Also, we needed a dining room table. Back to the local Home Despot.
Panelboard on a shelf at Home Depot
Thrifty indeed.
An unfinished hollow door will run you about $25. With a few 2x4s cut to the right lengths and a couple braces, you can make sawhorses to the right height (or you can buy the sawhorses for a little more). 

Take the door and an equal-sized sheet of panelboard. Score both surfaces aggressively (carve little nicks into each... you can do this with the coffee table above, too). Then use a lot of glue and put them together. You will almost definitely need to weigh the top part down with every heavy item in your startup home to prevent warping. 

Protip: Gallons of juice and 2-liters of soda are good for this.

Once the surfaces take, you can sand the edges down. Also, thanks to the opposing tensions created by the warping, your table is now almost totally indestructible.

Lean startup whiteboard table
Clementines containers are also valuable structural aides.
You can also write on it.

Fastfig's awesome whiteboard table
We really cleaned the table for this photo.
Now you have a solid, stable surface for anything from dinner to house parties hors d'oeuvres for guests, and you can write on it! Thanks to the panel board, it's very easy to clean, as well (a little Windex and it's amazing how new it will look). One of the best uses is that a team can gather around the table and everyone can see and contribute to things like wireframing. Since we've made the table, we have not stopped using it, and the whole thing cost under $50.

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