Bootstrapping Secrets: 17 Ideas That Can Help Your Startup Do More With Less


Forget those venture-backed startups with more money than they actually need. I am a huge advocate for bootstrapping, but the truth about bootstrapping is that it’s tough and only the toughest can survive the process.

The good news is that if you survive the process, you are cut out for anything they could come your way. As a matter of fact, you will be better prepared to run a successful business without external funding.

–The Unspoken Truth About Bootstrapping

Bootstrapping or booting refers to a group of metaphors that share a common meaning: a self-sustaining process that proceeds without external help. And that has its challenges.

Startups that bootstrap fund the development of their companies through internal cash flow and are cautious with their expenses. Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, Oracle, eBay — were all “bootstrapped”. Other successful startups like 37Signals, Braintree, Envato, Grasshopper and AppSumo were all bootstrapped too.

When you decide to bootstrap, you commit to fund primary development and growth through internal cash flow from real-life customers. You — the founder — and a limited number of early employees may forgo paychecks for quite some time to make this work.

But to keep that strategy to a minimum, it’s common for bootstrapping companies to turn to consulting engagements, non-recurring engineering contracts, value-added reseller agreements and projected supplier contracts.

In short, “moonlighting.” These funds go toward initial growth and expansion until the company can stand on its own two feet.-Javier Rojas

The bitter truth about bootstrapping is that you will loose some friends and family. And most importantly when you have to re-architect your infrastructure to scale, you may not have the funds to do that.

The ability to achieve scale and growth is greatly enhanced by having the funds in place to focus and execute on the plan in a timely manner. A bootstrapped company can take longer than usual to hit mainstream.

Bootstrapping forces you to become risk-averse to whatever doesn’t help you prove a core business hypothesis. That’s great at the pre-seed stages, but leaves you almost no room for error down the road and certainly won’t support abnormal growth. Guy Hirsch, chief executive of SayHired.

Bootstrapping requires founders and entrepreneurs  to start selling immediately in order to survive. When the sales are not coming in, you are in trouble! But that makes you focus on making money off your business, which is what you should be focusing on.

The process of bootstrapping a startup is challenging, and bootstrapping is not for everyone. But for those who pursue it, it can lead to a great company and even greater financial rewards.

–Ideas That Can Help Your Company Do More With Less

1. Verify there is an audience for your idea first.

2. If you start small, there’s no harm in going cheap.

3. Do not use a bookkeeper or hire an accountant. It is absolutely a waste of money. Try  accounting apps like Quickbooks.

4. Learn how to execute fast (before you run out of money).

5. Don’t just hire based on skill, find out if he or she has a bootstrapping temperament. The goal is to make each employee a bootstrapper, who is willing to sacrifice and accomplish tasks with minimal resources.

6. You don’t need brand new machines. You just need something that works, you can upgrade later.

7. Find another start-up that has extra space and make a deal to use it  or rent a spot in a co-working space.

8. Only pay what you have to urgently use and what is necessary for product development.

9. Evaluate and prioritize every cost — and cut out all but the most essential.

10. Find all the useful resources and free productivity apps out there and make the most of them.

11. Use contractors as much as possible, don’t hire if you don’t have to.

12. Negotiate with your lawyers so that you don’t have to pay them until you raise seed.

13. If you hit a sales wall, encourage your staffers to solve the problem creatively — and cheaply.

14. Get creative on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Marketing happens on these social platforms for bootstrapped startups.

15. Video often speaks louder than words. Get a YouTube Channel and upload product demos.

16. Treat small-business counselors, networking groups, and other entrepreneurs as informal advisory boards.

17. Use inexpensive talent you can find on platforms like Freelancer.com once you’re ready to scale.

–Remember: its all up to you. Push ahead and make it happen.

2 Comments

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  1. Robb Gorringe

    Thomas,

    You’ve got some great tips here. I’ve seen a lot of traffic come to my website, especially from #14, which doesn’t cost anything, but time and a heart to connect with your audience. Great site you’ve got BTW.

    Robb

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