Bootstrapping is being able to do almost anything with virtually nothing. It is the notion that you can be completely broke, with not a penny to your name, but with a goal, some creativity and a buttload of initiative, you can do anything. Money? It helps a lot, but money unto itself accomplishes nothing.
Philosophically speaking, the primary unit of currency is time. Regardless how much time you have, it is never enough and you never know how much of it you really have. Money may not buy you time, but it can buy other’s time. Thus, we are all in the business of trading our time for money, presumably on the basis that it enables us to spend more time with the things we enjoy most. That’s the “grits” in Friday’s food for thought.
It would be difficult to condense all of the principles of bootstrapping into one article, but we can cover the most important things.
The Plan – Vision/Mission: Knowing what you intend to do is critical. Every decision you make after defining your plan either advances or hinders your plan. Your plan can always change, but that should be driven by additional data and a conscious decision to adjust your effort.
Everything is in the process. Perfect the process and you get consistently good results. Focus on results will always yield results, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Mapping the process requires defining all of the things you will need to accomplish your plan, an approximate order of getting them, and research to validate that your plan is viable. Your research should also aim to define special hurdles and complications above and beyond just the things you will need to accomplish your objective.
Define your social network: Make a list of who you know and what you know they are good at and what they might be able to help you with. What do they have that you need? What can you or would you need to offer that would be of interest to them? The fundamental point is that just because you do not have something does not mean you do not have access to it.
Expand your social network: Find and interact with other people and organizations of people who have similar interests – online and offline, locally and internationally. This can be considered “integration” – becoming part of the community, focusing on people who are interested in doing things. This could be online forums with other developers, local clubs, conventions, trade shows, anywhere you are likely to bump into people who may share similar interests. That goes for LinkedIn and Facebook, too.
Build a team: A lot of people like doing things on their own. That’s fine, and sometimes you can get lucky as a single developer. Frequently though, building a product is accompanied with building a business. That usually requires money, so you want to set about getting the right people to help you generate money and share in the rewards of doing so, too. Having more people devoted to the success of one thing increases its probability of success.
Initially, your focus is on technical people and marketing people – to share in all of the other duties like customer support, social networking, content development, business or tax filings, etc. Later, as you grow, you might look at adding people for human resources, adding new business units/functions, operations managers, etc.
As a side note, building a team does not always require money, but usually does require the opportunity for it. Many countries suffer from high unemployment. What is unemployment? Not having a job? Not making money? Are commission-based sales people who do not sell anything unemployed? Are sole-proprietors who are not making money, or who are actually paying to get their business off the ground – unemployed, too? However you define unemployment – doing nothing virtually guarantees making nothing. Doing something comes with the possibility of making something.
If you have done the above, you have something already — A PLAN and a PROCESS of implementing it. That’s more than a lot of people have. If successful, you will end up with a Product (or a service). That can be considered a “groundfloor opportunity” – and there are people out there who would happily forego a high paying job they hate for a groundfloor opportunity they would love. The first five years of most business tends to be the most interesting, creative, challenging and stressful period of any business. Some people LOVE that, that’s why you see many executives develop a company from scratch into multi-million dollar companies only to jump ship and move on to something new.
The groundfloor is the front line.
The difference between your company and those getting $10 million in start-up financing is that you are scaling to growth at your own pace; while they are trying to achieve economy of scale from the get go.
Most countries have provisions for forming a variety of business “entities” – partnerships, public and non-public corporations, limited liability corporations, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, etc. Frequently, the basis for doing so is to attract some upfront start-up capital. Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are also good ways to others to invest their time or money in your effort, but everyone will want to see a good plan for a worthy project.
Additional focus on process:
Once you have a clear idea of what you intend to do, it is worthwhile to spend more time refining your idea for your market and marketability before you start development. You might decide to go with a Free App with in-app advertising revenue model, but look at other revenue-generating possibilities that you can include.
Look at business to business opportunities, cross-marketing options, commissions on referrals and everything else that can be a revenue stream.
If you are going to have a free app, you should have a mobile friendly web site, an opt-in mailing list, an online store, and something like a newsletter – for starters. Implement them one by one as your resources allow, but know and intend to implement them from the start. While you are building these things for “everyone”, pragmatically, they will be of primary interest to the top 20% of your customers, and especially to your top 4% super user segment.
The same applies to virtually every business model.
Bootstrapping is a fun process. If you had some grits you could have grits and eggs if you had some eggs.
What the heck is grits? Find out here.
Sometimes what you are looking for isn’t labeled the same way, sometimes it even looks completely different. While grits are usually white and are served for breakfast in the southern United States; they come in yellow and are served for dinner in Moldova (mamalega).
Grits and eggs is not just a breakfast, it’s a business philosophy!
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If you are needing to bootstrap your mobile apps, the following articles can provide you additional tips and perspectives to help you maximize your efforts: