Bootstrapping: So you’ve got no cash, but you’ve got an incredible idea and unlimited grit and determination, eh? Well, reach down and grab those… er, bootstraps! (See image above, it’s the small strap that goes around your boot. I personally recommend the Frye Harness Boot. I’ve been wearing mine daily for 8 years. They’ll get you through this whole startup thing just fine.)
Bootstrapping basically means you’re going to do everything it takes to build and grow your company with the limited resources you’ve got. It’s sort of like the definition of America Culture if you want to get all flag-wavy about it.
I actually like this definition of and reason for Bootsrtapping from readwrite as well:
So, what does it mean to bootstrap a company? Bootstrapping involves launching a business on a low budget. Practically this means that you’ll outsource (most likely off-shore) your design and development, you’ll rent your servers, you won’t have an office and you’ll have no salary. Prior to launch, the only expensive professional services which you’ll buy will be your legal advice and accountancy services. Everything else, you’ll have to pick up yourself and learn as you go along.
Why bootstrap? There are a couple of good reasons a company should consider bootstrapping its market entry. The founders may believe they are onto such a good idea that they don’t want to give up any equity. Or the founders have taken on a small amount of seed financing, just enough to get them into the market. Either way, bootstrapping is a viable model.
So since I can’t convince you otherwise – I know your idea is an incredible game-changing-industry-disrupting-savior I’d better at least give you some inspiration and a few tips and tricks on how to bootstrap successfully:
On the inspiration side, check out 37signals, they’re all about the ‘ol bootstrapping, and they even put together this wall of inspiration for you to drool over here. Dig it.
Here’s an old school (2006) post by Guy Kawasaki. Solid little list of things to think about while bootstrapping.
And finally a slightly more recent post on the INC blog aptly titled 7 rules for Bootsrtapping a business.
*Pro tip: When bending over to lift (as in, yourself up with your bootstraps) remember to bend at the knee and lift with your legs, not your back.