Before I start, let me first bring to your notice the genesis of this blog post. Long before today, I was a bootstrapper. Although initially not by choice (of course) but by circumstances (in short, plenty of rejections). All the initial rejections help me & my kickass team to reach where we are today. Although we are by no means ready to prophesize but we surely are in a better position than we were about 10 months back. All credit goes to bootstrapping.
So thought of sharing my learnings on bootstrapping and its merits vis-a-vis raising boatload of cash early on. Here’s the tweet I shared on the same.
One day I’ll just write that why you should build your startup *bootstrapping* for first 6 months without fail. Need motivation now!
— Sampad Swain (@sampad) June 28, 2012
So how does bootstrapping helps a small team with eye full of dreams to make a better world. Here’s what I’ve learnt in the last 10 months (out of which 8 months were completely bootstrapped):
1. It helps to build the team chemistry: Your team is your biggest asset. Take it or leave it. You can’t do shit without a team – not today, not ever. A lone warrior in a startup land is a myth. No great company is built on just an idea. You need partners to execute alongside who share the same passion, zeal & dogged enthusiasm. In Instamojo, we work our ass off everyday not to fail. Now when you’ve put your skin in the game with your own blood & money, failure doesn’t remain an option. So everybody works together – stays together – fights together – brings the solution together. In short, the stick-together factor is one of the biggest asset for a early stage startup IMO which bootstrapping helps to strengthen immensely.
2. You value $$$ more than usual: Cash is king. There’s no doubt about it. But the problem is, we more often than not forget. Ask any team who raised boatload of cash early on – what do they do with that? If you were to do a poll on that, one of the most rated answers would be “hire, hire & hire few more”. Now to set it right, I’m not against it. What I’m against is wasting money on hiring bozos when a small team can pull off more than expected. You multi-task. Everybody needs to do that early on. So respect the cash *always*. Bootstrapping reminds us of the immense importance of cash-in-bank.
3. You are able to work with limited set of distractions: Bootstrapping has a interesting angle. If you’re putting your hard earned money into an idea early on, all you’ve got is your idea, hard-work & team capabilities to pull it off. It’s like your day before an exam paper. You can’t think of anything else. Your entire energy is directed towards unit direction. Bootstrapping helped us a lot initially to carve out the rough edges in terms of limiting our distractions since we knew, all we can do is “X” with “Y” amount of capital at hand.
4. You’re forced to practice the lean way of building stuff: When you’re forced to think hard about finances, you look at optimizing. So what’s optimizing for startups — a basic prototype that just works – enough to woo your potential clients/customers to trust you and use your product; enough to woo possible future investors who sees how your product works. Now that’s the lean way of building products early on. Bootstrapping suits well for such circumstances. For us, we didn’t take more than 45 days to launch Instamojo from its first wireframe. Why? Because we learnt the hard way. We spent almost 6 months on our 1st idea just fine-tuning & delaying its launch which kind off backfired for us. Lesson learnt – just give your product to your customers as soon as possible (and worry less about embarrassment). Once we launched our super alpha version of Instamojo and got feedback and criticism, we started working on more scalable & usable version and launched it within 20 days. That helped us as a team to fail, learn, iterate, execute & ship software with confidence.
5. Helps you de-focus from moving targets: If you ever meet anyone from team Instamojo, ask them about “moving targets“. We might keeel you for chasing moving targets. Just kidding. Actually our first idea didn’t take off as we wanted because of this issue. We were chasing moving targets whereas our goal should have been simple. We changed our stance when we started working on Instamojo.
In short, if you’ve a team with great chemistry with limited distractions, limited resources with laser focus – imagine how things would have been? I already know your answer I guess
Hope this post helps you. You don’t have to tell me if it did. Just out-execute failure!
Till then, stay well and have awesome fun