You’ve read some articles about nomads running their business from a beach? You enjoyed books about startups? You think that the time is right to bootstrap your own startup? Then you’re at the right address.
In this post we’ve summarized the most important lessons learned during the early stages of startups for founders who bootstrap their business with their own means. Some of these lessons might come as a surprise, so keep reading!
Set your expectations straight
Websites like Indie Hackers, Product Hunt or Hacker News make it seem like every entrepreneur builds a 1M$ business overnight. Despite these magnificent stories, the reality is quite different: 90% of startups fail sooner or later and those other 10% rarely succeed overnight. Building any business is hard work and takes longer than you’ll expect.
Bootstrapping and running a startup sounds easy if you read The Lean Startup or other books discussing startups. On the one hand, the theory (iteratively growing your business) is easy, but practice, on the other hand, is a lot harder. We easily lose the customer out of sight and start thinking in solutions. Before you know, you’ve spent a month developing an ‘MVP’ (Minimum Viable Product) that nobody wants.
And that’s just one of the many bad days you might experience. You’ll be disappointed that nobody uses your product, you might be angry at a random person who destroyed your idea or you will have days without any energy whatsoever. But when you become 100% customer focused and provide value frequently, in return you will receive delight, gratefulness and heaps of energy so that you can create even more customer value.
Validate your startup idea
The internet contains countless websites of bootstrapped startups that never saw a single customer. A lot of code has been wasted on a problem that nobody had, or a solution nobody wanted to pay for. If only there would be a better way to not waste precious coding hours.
Well there is! It’s called validation and 70% of startups never bother to do this step properly. Just like we all did at one point, they think that their idea is valuable and that anything but writing code is a waste of time. Books like The Mom Test only talk about customer validation for good reason. It’s so easy to lose the customer out of sight.
With small experiments, you can validate that your customer really has a problem worth paying for. During your early experiments, you could already deliver a service to your customers without writing a single line of code. Are you building a post card printing company? Just print them manually, add a stamp and put them in the mailbox.
As soon as you find a worthwhile customer problem, you can build an MVP for that specific issue (and nothing else). As Toon (creator of Validat.r) famously said “There is always a more minimal MVP”, so also you can reduce your first product version. Don’t add nice to haves, stick to the core product. Consequently, when you reduce development time you can get your product faster to your customer and start receiving payments – the true validation of your business idea.
If you reached this point, you already outperformed 70% of startups. Congratulations! However, the battle isn’t over yet. From this point on there are many paths you can take. Do you want to stick to a one-person business? Is competition breathing down your neck? Is it easy to copy your solution?
The answers to these questions will determine how fast you should scale up your bootstrapped business and how you should act next. By now you’ll have a decent amount of customer insight (something your competition might lack) and it will allow you to make decisions more confidently.
Whether you decide for the riskier or the safer approach, you should always keep your customer central. When you found your most loyal customers, allow them to iteratively co-create your future product, let them test early versions and encourage them to promote your product!
Get help to bootstrap your startup
There is so much content out there that you might get lost. Luckily Validat.r will soon provide its services to help solo founders bootstrap their startup and increase the chances of success.
Validat.r helps you stay focused on your customer’s problem and ensures that your experiments stay small and your validation velocity is high. We keep you motivated so that you can continue where others threw in the towel.