You’d find many of the articles on bootstrapping ridiculous in the Indian context. That’s because we have a totally different set of problems. While there are lots of people who talk for and against this model, here are a few tips from my bootstrapping experience at Profoundis, our one year old startup.
The basics of bootstrapping is simple – Earn money, spend less.
Choice of product
This is the very first consideration if you want to bootstrap. Not all products can be bootstrapped. Focus on those which has a definitive business model and can generate money before day zero.
Outsourced services, training, talks
Get a part of your company to focus on services to bring you enough money to survive. Services is not just about money. I have seen many cases when a service project gives better insights into the problems which can later evolve into a product. On the flip side, you have to be extremely careful to keep the service track completely independent of the product track. You do not need the same person to be working on the product and the services; services has this dirty suffocating power to kill the product.
Conducting training and workshops is another good way to generate income. Our first bulk income came from a technology workshop we did at Intel. The three-day workshop ran the company for 2 months. Apart from the money there is one major advantage to this – Hiring. Workshops are the best ways to hunt for talent.
Find customers before you build
Validate your idea with your actual potential customers and convince them to fund the development of the product. Do a customer to customer mini crowdfunding campaign. Offer them discounted pricing, premium features, dedicated support or whatever makes them feel good to fund you in advance.
Alternate funding sources
There are many alternate funding sources which include governmental funding and collateral free, interest free loans. These might be a bit difficult to crack, but gives you peace of mind and full control over your company for at least an year.
Another funding source can be the competitions and startup challenges that come with hefty price money. Crack one and its good money and great PR.[Recommended Video: Constructive Ways To fund Your Startup] [Recommended Read: 5 Ways This Startup Funded Itself : Employees $ Included]
Do it yourself; put extra hours
The golden rule in spending less is no rocket science. It is as simple as ‘Do It Yourself’. At Profoundis, we made everything by ourselves – from the logo and the website to the PR notes and prospect lists. Yes, the quality of content might be less than what you can do if you get professionals. But it’s ok. You can always get professionals in once you start generating income.
A complete team
To do anything by yourself, you will need a complete team. Without a complete team built up, it will be close to impossible to bootstrap. Do not even try.
Specialized services – Get a lot of friends who trust you
Get a lot of friends who will help you with things that you cannot do by yourself. These are the ones who trust you and believe that you will be a success some day. We have been blessed by a lot of such folks who helped us in various aspects from branding to marketing without asking for a single penny. But take care not to exploit these and do remember to give back in what ways you can. See this as a barter system.
Team – Internships, stock options
Maintaining the team can be the biggest expense. Convince people on less salary against the rosy future of your company. Get interns from colleges who will wok for free or minimal amounts (interns can convert to great team members too).
Office – home, incubators and co-working space, larger companies
DO NOT spend too much on office space and furniture. Work from home, find a co-working space, get into an incubator. Keep your expenses to the bare minimum on perishable stuff.
Try to get to startup outreach programs of larger companies. Many a times it can get you a working space and facilities along with the other advantages.
Hosting and web infra – hunt for free credits
Hosting and web infra are other expenses. Hunt for startup packs of the companies or talk to the service providers to convince them to give you discounted pricing or free credits. This works. We have run on free credits for more than 1.5 years now and are still running.
Travel – travel cheap, crash in friends’ places, always think twice , make the most out of each
Plan your travel better. Travel only if necessary. As Mukund from Microsoft once said, he used to get all his clients to come to him for meetings. Travel only if necessary and while you travel, do it cheap.
Overheard somewhere: Travel in general compartments in the trains sitting by the toilets. If you are not successful, no one will ever know about it. If you are a success, that makes a great story later. 🙂
Recommended Read: How To Bootstrap Your App Startup With Zero Investment