What is a bootstrapper?

A bootstrapper is someone who uses his own time, money and resources to get a business launched and be successful – whether it is a small one-man shop or a big multi-million dollar company. Bootstrappers believe totally in the viability of their businesses and their ability to execute – otherwise they wouldn’t be doing what they do. After all, they’re risking their own money!

Some folks have emailed me asking how I’m funding Mobiusly and the products we are planning to launch in 2009. The answer is by bootstrapping. Here at Mobiusly, I’m funding the entire operation with no outsiders. Instead of raising finance from angels, venture capitalists, friends or family, I’ve decided to put my (and my wife’s) savings into it. It’s not because I couldn’t raise the money, it’s because I don’t want to raise the money.

That’s crazy you say!

Maybe, but there is a method to my madness. Raising money with outside funds may be appropriate for some businesses, but I don’t think it is right for Mobiusly. If I was starting a company which required lots of initial funds (eg massive infrastructure, marketing, people, tools etc), then I wouldn’t be able to bootstrap.

The good news is I’m not building that type of company

Mobiusly is a micro-ISV. We’re small and lean but super agile. We’re completely virtual and operational costs are low. We don’t need common office space, so we don’t have to worry about rent. We don’t need a shop front as our services are all Internet based. We don’t need to run massive advertising campaigns – we’re hoping clever use of blogging, Twitter and other social media outlets can get the word out as effectively as a 20 second slot during prime time tv. We don’t need to hire developers to get things done. We write our own code.

So why bootstrap?

The obvious answer is because we don’t need the money. We’re doing fine on our own, despite the current lows in the global economy. The less obvious answer is because we like to embrace constraints.

When you have less money, you have less bull-crap. We don’t have 10 people in meetings that last for 3 hours. We don’t spend 2 months writing design documents before we start coding. We don’t go on expensive trips to meet clients or chase a sale. We don’t need to appease investors.

Instead, we meet for 5 minute sessions when needed. We think about a problem, quickly discuss options and then implement solutions. If they are not right, we see that early so we can explore alternatives. We don’t try to chase after the expensive corporate enterprise clients who are hard and expensive to win over. Our products focus on small to medium sized companies and consumers.

We could have that 3 hour meeting, take our time with documentation or go on expensive trips. But we don’t, because we don’t have the size or money to do so. Instead we embrace our constraints and organise our teams and processes in ways that make us effective, responsive and agile. We cut through the red tape and bureaucracy – something our bigger competitors cannot do. We’re quicker to innovate and we do so more often.

Because we don’t have investors, we don’t need to answer to them. We don’t have to write a business case or go through an approval process in order to get funds released from the finance department. Instead, if we see a product or feature worth implementing that obeys our credo and genuinely helps our customers, we go ahead and just do it.

We’ve got what our bigger competitors don’t

Our competitors boasts expensive offices and their sales people wear expensive suits. They have teams of hundreds of developers, designers and business analysts – all cranking away at their keyboards. Tap. Tap. Tap.

By constrast, I do product design, write code, create graphics and work on the marketing myself (at the moment). We will also answer all support questions and emails ourselves. We like to think we’re more personable and pleasant to deal with. Also, because this is our business and our money, you can count on us doing our very best to make sure you are happy and you get what you need.

If you have to boil things down to a few words, we have a small and agile team, who can innovate quickly and often. We don’t have red-tape to slow us down and we cut through the bureaucracy to get to the underlying problem. We don’t have investors, so we can make decisions quickly. We have low overheads, so we can take risks our competitors dare not.

Ok, so we are the underdog. But don’t we all love rooting for the underdog? Check back soon for our first product announcement!

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13 Responses to “Bootstrapping Mobiusly”

  1. Dave Cheong says:

    Check out the healthy discussion thread happening over at Hacker News re the merits of Bootstrapping:

    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=406002

    Thanks folks for commenting.

  2. The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (December 26, 2008) « The Product Guy says:

    [...] The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (December 26, 2008) December 26, 2008 — Jeremy Horn Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you. On Starting Up… http://www.davecheong.com/2008/12/22/bootstrapping-mobiusly/ Mobiously, one bootstrapper’s journey. [...]

  3. Jeremy Horn says:

    Great story. As the current economic climate worsens I think we can expect to be seeing more entrepreneurs following your lead. I am recommending this article to my readers…

    http://tpgblog.com/2008/12/26/the-product-guys-weekend-reading-december-26-2008/

    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy
    http://tpgblog.com

  4. Dave Cheong says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    This is definitely a time to invest in ourselves and innovate within our businesses so we are ready to compete in the next boom.

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

    dave

  5. Fatima says:

    Sounds like my kind of work, when do we start? ;-)

  6. Lee Wilkinson says:

    Hey,
    thanks for the inspiration dude.
    All the best with your ventures
    Lee ( a fellow bootstrapper)

  7. Dave Cheong says:

    Hi Lee – thanks for the feedback. Just wanted to say good luck with your own business also.

    dave

  8. chris says:

    Bootstrapping is a great way to get a business off the ground without having to give away a large chunk of it. There is some great advice in this presentation I came across: http://cli.gs/g3BA9v

  9. Nolan says:

    I somehow stumbled on your site, and I am totally impressed. If you were in America, I would tell you that you symbolized the “American Dream”.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and hard earned experience. Those two things are priceless. So I am always eager to learn from peoples lives.

    As I am young, the topics you write on are all things I aspire to accomplish someday. And a day that will be.
    Thx,
    God bless

  10. Chad says:

    Good Luck.

    Although I can’t but help notice this. You claim that “I’m funding the entire operation with no outsiders.” but then in the next line, you say “I’ve decided to put my (and my wife’s)”…

    How does your wife’s saving count as yours ? Whether you admit it or not and whether she likes it or not, she is certainly “invested” in your idea / venture !

  11. Dave Cheong says:

    Chad,

    Well that’s true but my wife is also a Director (50/50) of the company, so it’s safe to say “we” are funding it with our own money.

    dave

  12. Reid says:

    Hey, waiting for some new articles ;] 120/yr was the goal right? (The quality of your articles are fantastic and enriching too!)

  13. Dave Cheong says:

    Reid,

    Ok, ok, ok… My biggest hurdle is this blog which is something I really like to keep going, yet it competes ferociously with my time.

    Another post in the pipeline.

    dave

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