Innovative Ways to Bootstrap and Scale Your Startup
The funny thing about calling a small business a ‘startup’ is that the word means a lot of things. There are startups that are populated by a single person; startups that have 5 employees — most of whom are ‘cofounders’ — and startups that have over 100 employees. In fact, some startups are contained within a corporation — and some corporations incubate startups.
One of the primary differences between these varying levels of startupedness is capital. Cash is king when you’re trying to launch a startup or keep one going. The more money you have, the more you can spend on hiring quality people, product design, functionality, testing, marketing, systems… It’s a long list.
If your startup is on the small-to-medium end of this spectrum, otherwise known as an “SMB,” we have some ideas and resources that may help you save some dough and make some inroads that will help your startup grow faster
Barter and trade
One of the most useful and helpful ways we’ve been able to scale as a small startup is through barter and trade. We’ve done cash and trade deals with vendors for things like videos, our website, marketing, and promotion. As an event-based startup serving the tech community, we rely on our relationships with other community- and tech-based businesses who share our values and operate in the same circles.
If you barter or trade services with other businesses, remember that reciprocity is key. Don’t expect something for nothing — and always try to offer more in return than you’re being given. Our experience has been that generosity always comes back threefold.
Another big help in this area for us has been being a member of BizX. BizX has created a cashless system of trading goods and services between members. You can use BizX to pay for business needs ranging from printing, hospitality, and dining to employee perks, construction and advertising. Its even possible to buy art for your office (when you get to that point) on BizX. Of course, there are probably other good options similar to BizX, but they’re the service we use.
You’ve probably considered getting support from Angels, Venture Capitalists, or through more traditional financial avenues — but here are some resources you may have overlooked:
- Peer to Peer Lending — Get a 3 or 5 year fixed rate personal loan from strangers at Lending Club or Prosper for up to $35,000.
- Microfinance — Get a small business micro-loan from Seattle Microfinance, Kiva, Microplace, Accion, or Grameen America.
- Crowdfunding — Get funded by your friends, family and other business and social networks. Great ideas inspire others to want to be a part of your success. You probably know about the biggies — gofundme, Kickstarter and IndieGogo. There are many othersincluding 40Billion, Microventures and FundersClub for startups
- Family Funding — Get funded by those who love you, but do it in a professional way that won’t ruin your relationships with them. Use VirginMoneyUS or LendingKarma to make the transaction and commitment legal with clear terms and conditions.
There are only so many hours in a day — and running a business takes 26 of them. It’s important to recognize when it’s time to hire for the tasks that are better done by others. Some companies are bootstrapped with a $5,000 seed — where others are bootstrapped with $100,000 or much more (some people even get small, million dollar loans from parents to start their first business).
When you don’t have the reserves to hire full-time employees, hire paid interns and professional freelancers (this does not mean “free” — that’s called a “volunteer” and they’re pretty wonderful when you can find them).
Most freelance positions can be filled with quality candidates at Upwork (formerly ODesk and Elance), Toptal (developers and designers), 99Designs (basic design work, such as logo design) Freelancer, Peopleperhour (developers, designers, SEO), Freelance Writing gigs (writers), guru, or Craigslist. There are others, lots of others — so ask around to get some insights on the pros and cons of each.
Running a business is an exciting endeavor. New challenges and opportunities present themselves daily. It’s good to be prepared for the expensive ones. Hopefully, some of these resources can help you and your company be prepared to move forward with a solid foundation, master the difficult moments, and manage your growth successfully.
We also recommend you come to New Tech Northwest events and meet other startup founders. It’s nice to meet someone else who is learning to juggle.