Bootstrapping, the process of starting a company with only personal savings has been the means of financing early-stage startups for a long time. Several household unicorn brands in the tech sector like Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and X.com (now Paypal) were once bootstrapped by their founders before going the VC route.
So why bootstrap? Bootstrapping is defined as a situation where a founder starts a company with funds that aren’t from external investment sources. This medium of financing provides a clear road map to achieving growth without external capital.
Unlike the venture capital route, it allows early-stage startups to make autonomous decisions on critical issues aligned to the founder’s goals and objectives.
In modern times, bootstrapping has been made easy and cost-effective due to the fast-paced tech industry and globalisation of the internet.
As far back as the early 2000s, bootstrapping a startup meant you needed in-depth technical knowledge around tech-stacked tools to build key company assets like websites and databases, and also, lots of money invested in your marketing efforts through traditional channels like television, radio and print media ads.
The growing demand for technical know-how in business meant the tech hub needed a revolution to make bootstrapping lean, cost-effective and founder-friendly once again.
This led to the introduction of web-based bootstrapping communities, where founders shared their bootstrapping journey and no-code tech tools they used in scaling their businesses.
Bootstrapped communities grew in popularity as they became resourceful to many founders around the world, helping fellow bootstrappers find success in their journey, as well as attracting more and more people to this path of entrepreneurship
In this piece, I introduce founders to some of the best bootstrapped tools, blogs and communities helping SMEs with resources to scale their businesses.
Product Hunt is a community-based review website for founders, marketers, and makers to share and find new products and ideas. Product Hunt allows startups and makers to introduce new products or services for honest reviews and votes on its platform.
The product with the most votes or reviews debuts at No.1 indicating the prospect of a successful project launch.
Indie Hackers is an online community platform where founders of successful SaaS businesses share their stories and sometimes even revenues transparently, and where entrepreneurs can come together to share their experiences, give and receive feedback, and rely on one another for support and share their thoughts on industry trends.
This is a very popular community where founders grow their networks or find useful resources.
Growth hacker is a community-based platform for accelerating the experimentation process of growth marketing.
Within this community, lots of founders and marketing specialists share in-depth knowledge of tools and strategies used in improving and expanding their growth.
Reddit is an online forum platform where people go to discuss pressing issues of their interest. People create subreddits (i.e. communities) to discuss and explore issues within the startup scene, SaaS funding, and many more.
There are lots of subreddits helping bootstrapped founders with useful resources. Examples of subreddit communities for founders are r/SideProject, r/Startups, r/Entrepreneur, r/Indiebiz, r/Smallbusiness, and r/Growmybusiness.
Remote tools is a blog based resource tool for discovering top tech products and startups. The platform also updates people on changes on their favourite tech tools and helps them navigate through their favourite apps.
Founders can visit this platform to learn about new SaaS tools and how to use them.
The WanderingEntrepreneur is run by the founder of Grovia (acquired by Acceleration Partners), Ian Brodie, who now works part independently and part for the AcqCo.
He writes from experience about how bootstrapped founders can scale without the help of institutional investors while living a rich-in-experiences lifestyle remotely on the road.
Founder resources is a curated list of resources and tools that help founders on their journey to build a successful business. This blog has lots of resources related to the landscape of bootstrapping.
The website is built by entrepreneur and investor Maximilian Fleitmann. It aims to provide a step by step resource guide to founders in the startup journey.
The Bootstrapped Founder
The bootstrapped founder is a blog curated to empower founders and creators who want to build calm and sustainable businesses around the world. It was founded by Arvid Kahl co-founder of Feedback Panda.
The blog gives insights into the bootstrapping journey and the founder's mental health which he believes to be an often-neglected facet of the bootstrapped journey.
Webflow is a no-code content management tool used in building websites. It's grown to be one of the popular web design tools amongst founders.
Unlike other content management systems, this platform lets you finalise web design projects faster without forgoing quality and reducing the time between version iteration and client approval.
Webflow is a fairly cheap platform with a pricing plan as low as $12 for a custom domain and $0 for a subdomain to create web designs.
Memberstack is a no-code membership platform serving as an authentification integration for any website.
More specifically, it allows web developers to easily allow their users to create accounts, log in, access gated content and even pay a monthly subscription. It seamlessly integrates with your website design to match your branding.
Memberstack has a fairly cheap pricing model starting from $25 a month and an unlimited trial period for beta testing until your website is ready to go live.
Hubspot is an all-in-one free and easy to use customer relationship management tool, for SMEs to leverage their marketing efforts. It is a cloud-based CRM designed to help businesses market and sell more effectively.
Hubspot integrates all social media platforms to a single chat interface where all messages can be read and replied to. It can be used for marketing automation, lead generation and much more.
Hubspot’s pricing may differ based on your needs but as a bootstrapped startup you could make use of their free tools. You may also note that as your needs begin to grow the tool becomes fairly expensive.
Zapier is an iPaaS platform for workflow automation. The web-based tool allows end-user integrations between apps and moves information between them automatically, so people and teams can focus on their most important tasks.
Their pricing starts from $0 (freemium) and goes up to a company plan of $599. Many founders can take advantage of their freemium plan until they begin to see exponential growth in their operations.
In conclusion, bootstrapping a business is not a simple journey for all founders to embark on in a fast-paced innovative world. But through communities founders can share their experiences and explore old and new tools to scale their businesses.
Further resources: Investopedia, StarkFlow, Cloudways, iPaaS comparisons
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