The Military Strategy “Bellum se ipsum alet” applied in Startups

Warfare Tactics

  “Bellum se ipsum alet” is the startup equivalent of Bootstrapping. The Latin phrase bellum se ipsum alet describe the military strategy of feeding and funding armies primarily with the resources of occupied territories. The phrase was  coined by Roman statesman Cato the Elder, is associated with the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648).
The strategy Includes :

  1. Understanding the most resource rich and strategic locations.(The Beach Head ,Mountain top ,Vantage Points,Oil fields etc )
  2. Choose the perfect Time to attack.
  3. Attack and grab the territory with stealth and speed with zero or minimum damages.
  4. Use the resources of occupied territories to fuel the war and expand into new areas.

“Bellum se ipsum alet”(Bootstrapping )in the context of entrepreneurship means starting a business without getting funded by investors or by means of capital in exchange of a liability,shares or board seats etc .Bootstrapped startups fund the development of their company through internal cash flow,and ,are deliberately slim  with their expenses .(,Otherwords with the resources of occupied territories and resources. )

Following are some of the compelling reasons that make bootstrapping the ultimate Startup Warfare Tactic :

1) Bootstrapping promote conducive situation for prototyping and experimentation to find what really works and what not .This will help us to pivot adapt and change our ideas .Founders will not get external pressure to deliver ,so they can use the time to refine their products in real conditions .As Steve Blank said “Startup is a search for repeatable and scalable business models”. 

“Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots” (And opportunities ,Blue oceans etc)Sun Tzu 

2) Startups can grow by reinvesting profits in its own growth if bootstrapping costs are low and return on investment is high. 

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” ‘
Sun Tzu

3) Bootstrapping approach allows owners to maintain control of their business and forces them to spend with discipline.

“One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.”Sun Tzu

4) It allows startups to focus on customers rather than investors, thereby increasing the likelihood of creating a profitable business. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. ”Sun Tzu 

5) Bootstrapping help us avoid the trap of scaling up too fast, too early without making the foundations strong .Allocating resources beyond the essentials on growth before nailing the product/market fit or what Steve Blank calls “Repeatable and scalable business model”.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”Sun Tzu 

6) Bootstrapping will keep us away from limelight and media attention .This helps maintain the secrecy and avoid attention from big players  and strategic competitors .

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
Sun Tzu 

7) Bootstrappers are experts in Guerrilla warfare. Bootstrapping will force us to improvise and innovate. When we know no help is coming for us ,we will improvise with Gorilla Tactics. Guerilla strategy aims to magnify the impact of a small, mobile force on a larger, more-cumbersome one. 

“Make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.” Sun Tzu
“Great results, can be achieved with small forces.” Sun Tzu

8) In bootstrapping “SPEED of adaptation” is the ultimate weapon ,which the funded startup may not enjoy because of expectations and officially communicated goals,ideas etc .A bootstrapping startup can find an idea ,validate the product in the real world; adapt and change swiftly.

“If quick, I survive.If not quick, I am lost.This is “death.” Sun Tzu

9) Bootstrapping facilitates  the Paul Graham strategy of “Doing things that does not scale ”. Its importance lies in the learning experience we get by exposing to the diversity, building of mental models and reference data points for adequate adaptive responses in the future.

“Do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat” Sun Tzu 
“The end and aim of spying in all its five varieties is knowledge of the enemy; and this knowledge can only be derived, in the first instance, from the converted spy. Hence it is essential that the converted spy be treated with the utmost liberality.” Sun Tzu 

10) Only one thing matter in a startup.That is a Product Market Fit with a Repeatable And Scalable Business Model.Big pockets allow us the opportunities to enjoy the Peripheral Vanity like a fancy building ,media glare etc .All of which may ultimately dilute our focus on the customer and the product market fit .(These may comes under what Lean Startup guru Eric Ries calls vanity metrics.)

“No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.” Sun Tzu

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