Examples and Tips on Bootstrapping your Business Successfully

Bootstrapping means setting up a business without external help. According to Wikipedia, the term is often “attributed to Rudolf Erich Raspe’s story The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, where the main character pulls himself out of a swamp by his hair (specifically, his pigtail), but the Baron does not, in fact, pull himself out by his bootstraps.” What are examples of successful bootstrapped business and tips? Read further.

20 examples of successful bootstrapped businesses

Sutralite wrote an article on the top 10 Indian startups who successfully bootstrapped:

Using proprietary trading algorithms and an indigenous platform for quantitative trading, Acceltrade is one of those tech startups that have chosen to focus on the finance sector. Its revenue generation model is quite unique too.

Based right across the street from the SutraHQ in Lokhandwala, BrowserStack offers innovative solutions for cross browser testing. It is fast catching up with the developer community worldwide. No mean feat, that too without any external funding.

What started out as an initiative by a teenager to get some extra pocket money, FusionCharts now has more than 21,000 customers and 450,000 developers. Cofounder Pallav Nadhani could well be the poster boy for aspiring bootstrapping entrepreneurs.

Goosebump is an award-winning eCommerce site based in Mumbai that sells pickles online. Without any external funding, this bootstrapping Indian startup has made a name selling pickles to a populace that was brought up thinking only grandmothers makes it the best!

Setup in 2001 by Varun Shoor with the aim of offering a better customer support experience, Kayako has come a long way. With a customer base of more than 30,000, this Indian startup successfully bootstrapped without external funding to become one of the leading developers of help desk and customer support software.

Taking the concept of local ecommerce to a new level, LocalBanya went live in May 2012. Touted as Mumbai’s first online supermarket, LocalBanya has a huge catalog of grocery items and has a cult following amongst Mumbaikars.

Mangosense is a Pune-based startup that has an innovative offering called as Mangoreader. One of those truly innovative Indian startups, their mission is to make books more fun for kids by making them very engaging.

Setup by alumni from IITs, ISB and Stanford, MindTickle blends social tools and game mechanics to allow users to create interactive learning experience from their existing online training content.

Starting as a design agency, Synage pivoted and become a web technology company in 2007. One of the first in India to launch a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) product, DeskAway, this Indian startup has received a lot of awards for their creations.

Wingify is a bootstrapping Indian startup that is on a mission to develop world’s best technology in web analytics and optimization. And it seems they have already achieved that goal with their product – Visual Website Optimizer!

SoftwareByRob has another list of 10 successfully bootstrapped businesses which are:

Goldstar is the world’s largest online seller of half-price tickets to a broad range of live entertainment.

Carbonmade helps over 100,000 people create online portfolios that require zero HTML skills.

Litmus is an email marketing tool allowing 30,000 customers to test their designs in all major email and mobile clients.

Github is used by nearly a million people to store over two million code repositories.

FastSpring is an all-in-one e-commerce, merchandising and fulfillment solution to sell digital products online with over $45 million in revenue.

SparkFun is an online store for electronic bits and pieces that brought in revenue of over $10 million in 2010.

Grasshopper is a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs, allowing 100,000+ small businesses to create a more professional image.

Clicky is real time web analytics running on over 350,000 web sites.

WooThemes is a one stop theme shop of designs and cutting-edge commercial themes for WordPress.

AppSumo is a daily deals website for the coolest web applications in the market, bringing massive savings to over 200,000 happy web geeks.

7 great tips to bootstrap your business according to TFESS:

Test the Market
Before you spend money on anything, you should talk to potential customers about their level of interest in your product. Ask them how they would use it, what features they might like to see and how much they would consider paying for it.

This will help validate your model and justify spending the time and money to build your company. It will also help determine which functionality you need immediately, versus what can wait until you gain more traction.

To bootstrap, you need to be as efficient as possible. That could mean doing small, inexpensive marketing tests until you find the best results. When designing your website, first add the most important functionality in order to get a product to market, but to minimize your later work, make sure to consider additional features.

Keep the Team Small
A large team could drain your cash more quickly than any other expense in your budget. Until you have a positive cash flow, only hire people you absolutely need. If necessary, give current team members multiple job functions, and offer stock option incentives instead of cash.

Using interns at your startup is a win/win for both parties. The intern gains valuable experience working at a startup and you get support at little to no cost. Since the team is small, the intern might have more influence than they would at a larger company, becoming involved in many aspects of the business

For your startup, interns provide free or inexpensive labor that leads to quicker profitability.

Hiring a PR firm can be very expensive, and there is no guarantee that they are going to get you featured in a magazine or blog. Try outsourcing your press releases, but contact reporters on your own. Find stories and outlets that are related to your project and come up with a simple pitch for a story idea.

Use the free service MediaSync to get a reporter’s email address and contact him or her directly. Reporters are interested in hearing from the CEO of a company, and if you have a good story idea, they will respond. Help a Reporter is another site worth mentioning — reporters search for experts like you to quote in their stories. It never hurts to make yourself available.

If you don’t have the capital to hire an employee on a short-term project, consider outsourcing the work. You can easily outsource your web design and programming, but you will need to weigh the pros and cons of not having that person on-site.

Some websites that can help in your search for off-site talent include Elance and Freelancer. On these sites you can either post your project and have people bid on it, or you can search through the talent and contact potential candidates directly.

Social Networks
Use Facebook and Twitter to connect with your customers. Both are free networks that you can use to promote your business to a broad audience. Become the expert in your field and blog on your website or other sites related to your industry. This will keep customers coming back often, meaning higher potential for sales.

Additions by me

The tip that I would add to this is to have a multi-disciplined small team, so that you don’t need to outsource core-elements of your business. This multi-disciplined team can also improve the rate of success due to different angles, thinking and what more.

The tip that I can add to test the market, according to the “Lean startup” book and insights, test your product in two weeks and service in four weeks.

Fail early, fail fast and fail often.