How bootstrapping a startup feels like

Bootstrapping a startup is like planting a seed and hoping that it will grow into a big tree one day.

It’s a constant battle between balancing cash flow and product focus.

We have been going for 2 years at Beaconmaker without any outside funding. We grew the company from 2 guys working part time to now with 4 full time employees. We have been really fortunate to work with brands like the Sydney Opera House, Australian Museum, BIG W, Central Park and many more.

Beaconmaker started from a Hackathon event organized by the Sydney Opera House. It coincided with the launch of a new technology made popular by Apple — Bluetooth Low Energy beacons. We pitched the idea of a tourist app utilizing beacons to show visitors where they are in the Opera House. From that we expanded into making audio tour apps for the Australian Museum and precinct tour apps for Central Park.

Cash is king in a bootstrapped startup. Along the way we took up some consulting gig (for cashflow) launching one of the biggest in-store bluetooth beacon powered campaign, deploying 1000 beacons into 189 BIG W stores nationwide. The campaign involved a ‘treasure hunt’ game where kids wander around in-store to look for hidden clues.

Jules Lund and family playing the game in a BIG W store

This campaign was so successful that we wanted to make a product out of it.

Today, we want to make this technology accessible and affordable to any museums/retail stores. We are calling the product Beaconhunt and it enables anyone to create an iBeacon powered mobile app without the help of developers.

In a bootstrapped startup, we are always doing things that don’t scale - we collected feedback individually from all our consulting customers before working on this new product.

We have to be really frugal and resourceful in a bootstrapped business. We do not have a bankroll of a few $M and hence, we stretch every dollar to its maximum value. We are not able to afford the latest hardware for our engineers and biggest IPS display for our designers. We had to make do.

One of the cons of being a bootstrapped startup is that it is really hard to maintain product focus. Multiple-week product sprints without any distraction is a luxury because we are constantly being pinged by our consulting customers for support requests. Getting tempted by big-ticket consulting gigs is also a slippery slope.

Last year was one of the best financial year ever for Beaconmaker and with some spare cash in the bank, we are now ready to invest some of that into products that we can sell over and over again.

Let me know what you think of our first product by signing up here!

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