Bootstrap is a situation in which an entrepreneur starts a company with little capital when he or she attempts to found and build a company from personal finances or from the operating revenues of the new company.
Not all startups have the luxury of getting investors right off the bat—sometimes it takes bootstrapping a business by funding it out of your own pocket.
While this is a way to start a company, bootstrapping is more difficult than it might seem. First-time entrepreneurs often have trouble getting funding without first showing some traction and a plan for potential success. Bootstrapping a business is a lesson in hard work and flexibility, but ultimately it can help accelerate a company’s success.
From our experience, we’ve pulled together our top 10 tips for surviving the bootstrapping journey
- Pick a co-founder wisely (if choose to)
Having two perspectives heading the company can be critical. When bootstrapping
the vast majority of the work is done internally, so co-founders need to complement each other’s skillsets. If you’re good at different things, you have a better shot at being able to do everything between the two of you, keeping expenses low.
- Design a business model that generates cash quickly
Not all businesses are equally ripe for bootstrapping
. The most successful bootstrapped companies have a business model that generates cash as quickly as possible. Without any cash inflow, you’ll burn your reserves before gaining any real traction.
- Watch inflows and outflows
Spending out of a personal bank account is sloppy and risky—instead, fund a bank account specifically for the business. By creating a separate business account, you can track and learn what adds cash and what diminishes cash from the business. Watch your cash like a hawk, daily.
Without a salary, you won’t have money to spend—so don’t expect to live a posh life when first starting your company. Consider every purchase and only spend what’s necessary.
- Don’t outsource job that you can do
When bootstrapping, hiring out for a job you could do yourself is an avoidable expense and a wasted organizational learning experience. For example, I delivered lunches myself for three months before hiring our first driver. This saved us $1,200, which may not sound like a lot, but it was actually 12% of our capital.
- Nothing is impossible to learn
If you don’t know how to do something, learn it. What if you don’t know how to code? learn to code yourself, and program a website in just a few weeks. Building your own code would allow you to iterate quickly because you would know the technology inside out. Don’t be afraid of learning new things; you’ll be surprised by your abilities.
Being fancy doesn’t always get the job done. Pick functional over posh office space. Print free business cards. Consider refurbished computers instead of the newest MacBook Air. Use a free banking service. Saving on little things goes a long way.
- Invest in your website domain and incorporating
Incorporating and securing your website domain are major exceptions to the "price over quality" rule. Regarding your domain, don’t think you can buy it later once you have more traction. It turns out that once you get traction, the price increases exponentially. Buy the domain outright from the beginning, and start building brand equity around it from day one.
- Be discerning when chasing revenue
Remember, your goal is to get as much traction as possible to raise a big round. While you chase revenue, you will randomly encounter tricky opportunities that achieve a significant bump in growth at the expense of modifying your operational model or product offering. Evaluate these opportunities before jumping on them: Seize them if they’re aligned with your long-term goals, and decline if they’ll become a huge distraction from achieving further growth. At an early stage, what might appear to be a revenue touchdown may distract you from building a real replicable business.
- Don’t take “No” for an answer
When you’re so small, vendors and suppliers won’t want to work with you; it will take a personal touch to get what you need. Work to build personal connections with partners that may help your business in the long run. This may help obtain the resources your startup needs to get moving, at a price that won’t break the bank. Don’t be afraid to share your story and appeal to people’s human side. To succeed as a bootstrapped startup, you have to persevere for the answer you need.
a business is difficult, but it’s by no means impossible. With the right amount of hard work, collaboration, and passion for your company, it’s almost easy to give up a chunk of your personal life today for the sake of your future. Ultimately, bootstrapping
is making an investment in yourself that will pay off for you in the long run.