Greetings once again! As the first long awaited follow up post on entrepreneurship and bootstrapping, I wanted to first address the topic of whether or not bootstrapping a startup is right for you. Many of you who know me know that bootstrapping is my preferred method of building a business. In reality, its all I know. That said, I realize bootstrapping is not for everyone.
In this post I will cut to the chase as I have written several posts on the topic in the past. The main themes are pretty direct and are based 100% on my experience. So, let’s get down to the title of this post, is bootstrapping for you?
Tenacity Required: This is not for the faint of heart.
It’s safe to say that starting a business, any business, is not easy. Starting one with limited funds makes it that much harder. That said, many entrepreneurs, like myself, go for it without raising any outside money. However, I’d like to briefly clarify what I define as “bootstrapped,” as there seems to be some fluctuating definitions out there. To me, you truly are a bootstrapper if you:
- Did not raise a DOLLAR of investment (of any kind).
- Used existing savings or your own personal funds to launch.
- Used credit cards or existing credit vehicles to fund your business (bank loans, etc)
- Sweated out the start up phase and made it work.
You are NOT a bootstrapper if you’ve:
- Raised friends and family money (No, you didn’t bootstrap, you raised money)
- Raised angel investment, venture capital or private equity money of any kind.
- You get the point…
Bootstrapping to me means five simple, yet tough words: You Are On Your Own.
This is a position that many people are not willing to put themselves in. And believe me, I completely understand why. In many cases, you need to be willing to risk putting it all on the line, which is a lot to swallow. This varies of course depending on where you are at in your life. When we started Blue Sky Factory, I was 27, single, with a very simple lifestyle, and I had the “what do I have to lose, this is the time, lets go for it” attitude. Today, I am married with a 2 year old and a mortgage. For some folks, those factors alone are enough to reconsider entrepreneurship altogether, especially bootstrapping a business.
While there may be higher risks to bootstrapping, the good news is that today you can launch a startup very light if you are doing a tech startup or web app. Look at what Graham Lawlor’s Ultra Light Startup’s is doing in NYC and Boston. This is the modern day startup ethos. You can launch light and in more cases than not, there is no need to put it all on the line!
Be Relentless: You must BELIEVE:
There is a common trait in many of the successful entrepreneurs that I know. They act as if failure is not an option. This is a simple yet very powerful trait. The BEST entrepreneurs will work at it until they get it.
As an example, when we started Blue Sky Factory back in 2001, we were a “web shop.” Which back then translated meant we would do anything (web related) if the check cleared. If we couldn’t do it, we would find people who could. We hustled and struggled our way through the pure startup phase until there was some sustainability (i.e. revenue). It was raw, but we never stopped believing and quickly pivoted into a pure play email marketing company (we don’t build websites anymore).
The point is, although at one point we had less than $100 in the bank (yes, you read that right), we kept going, relentless, where many others would have given up, we rode the fiber that held it together and moved the ideas and the business forward. Failure to us, was not an option, and it its not to the best entrepreneurs out there. In my mind all great entrepreneurs have to be optimists, all of the time. Frankly, there is no other way to be.
So, the real question to any prospective boostrapper is as follows. Even though the landscape has made the startup barriers easier and less risky, if you do kick off a real business are you in the right frame of mind, and do you have what it takes to power through the tough times with the FULL drive that failure is not an option? Simply said, are you ALL IN?
The rabbit hole on boostrapping goes much deeper, and I plan on writing more about the subject, but that’s all I have right now. Please share your thoughts, comments, opinions, etc in the comments below, and thanks for reading.