The Bootstrapped Founder

Welcome to The Bootstrapped Founder, home of 📕Zero to Sold: The Bootstrapper’s Compendium, the Bootstrapper’s Bookshelf, the Bootstrapped Founder Podcast, and the Bootstrapped Founder Newsletter.

You can find the following series on this blog: The Emotional Journey of a Bootstrapped Founder and Tales of a Bootstrapper.

You’ll find my most recent blog posts below.

Making Tech Choices: Don’t Add Risk to an Already Risky Business

Reading Time: 7 minutes As technical founders, we’re supposed to choose the technology that works best for us and our business. But we often let the cargo-culting around the newest, hottest tech stack get to us. Many technical founders see a new startup as an opportunity to figure out a modern tech stack. That is a dangerous move. Not … Continue reading Making Tech Choices: Don’t Add Risk to an Already Risky Business

Surviving a Recession as a Bootstrapped Business

Reading Time: 13 minutes Just a few weeks after the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, the first SaaS businesses are reporting cancellations. The bootstrapped SaaS world may not be affected by the pandemic as much as other industries, but we are already seeing second-order effects appearing. For example, you may not be affected by the temporary closure of bars … Continue reading Surviving a Recession as a Bootstrapped Business

How to Release as a Bootstrapper: Often, Early, and Safely

Reading Time: 11 minutes We had “Software is never finished, only abandoned.” While this is true, it doesn’t tell us anything helpful. So let’s rephrase this into something we can act on: “Software is never finished, only released.“ Let’s talk about releasing your product, and what makes this process special for bootstrapped founders. In most cases, technical founders will be … Continue reading How to Release as a Bootstrapper: Often, Early, and Safely

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Minimum Viable Product

Reading Time: 9 minutes Leonardo da Vinci supposedly said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” This is definitely true for software as well. The only antidote to abandonment is to put your work in front of other people, even when it’s not perfect yet.  The startup industry has coined the term of the MVP, the Minimum Viable Product, to … Continue reading The Do’s and Don’ts of the Minimum Viable Product

The Myth of The Finished Product

Reading Time: 11 minutes Before the internet made transferring large amounts of data cheap and easy, software used to be distributed on CDs or DVDs. For any given application, there was the “Golden Master,” a final version of the software, ready to be copied millions of times. These days are over. Every day, millions of software updates get dispatched. … Continue reading The Myth of The Finished Product

Solution Validation Doesn’t Happen In a Vacuum: How to Talk To Your Future Customers

Reading Time: 7 minutes As entrepreneurs, we are good at coming up with ideas. We envision solutions to the problems that trouble the audience we have chosen to help. We think deeply about a problem, mentally shape a product, and see how much it would benefit the quality of life. Then we get to work and build the prototype, … Continue reading Solution Validation Doesn’t Happen In a Vacuum: How to Talk To Your Future Customers

Make It Sell Itself: On Referral Systems

Reading Time: 12 minutes One year into running FeedbackPanda, we released a referral system. It was an immediate success, and it stayed that way ever since. When we sold the business, around 40% of new signups came through our referral system. Immediately after turning on the user-facing parts of the referral system, we started seeing results. Our social media … Continue reading Make It Sell Itself: On Referral Systems

Problem Validation: Making Sure You’re Talking To The Right People

Reading Time: 8 minutes “Talk to your customers,” they say, “because that’s the only way to build something people want.”  The collective wisdom of the bootstrapper scene is not wrong. But talking to your customers is only half the truth. It’s just as important to speak to the right kinds of customers as it is to ignore the rest. … Continue reading Problem Validation: Making Sure You’re Talking To The Right People

Finding the Most Painful Problem in a Market

Reading Time: 10 minutes When you’re looking at a niche market, you will find many people having a large number of problems. However, people will only pay money for a tiny subset of those: the excruciating problems. You can solve many problems but still fail to build a business if you’re solving the wrong ones. Your chances of success … Continue reading Finding the Most Painful Problem in a Market

The Power of the Niche

Reading Time: 9 minutes If you were to found a company that makes and sells beer today, you would probably start a craft brewery. You’d start a small operation, find the people who enjoy your product and slowly expand your business. You would not try to compete with Bud Light and Heinecken for shelf space. You would prefer to … Continue reading The Power of the Niche

Do You Need a Co-Founder?

Reading Time: 8 minutes Building a business alone can be daunting. You might lack a few skills; in fact, I am sure you do. There is a lot to learn when you start a company, and you will never stop running into unexpected challenges that require the acquisition of new skills and knowledge. So, should you find someone to … Continue reading Do You Need a Co-Founder?

So You Got an Offer: How to Do Due Diligence on Your Potential Acquirer

Reading Time: 11 minutes There is almost no better and, at the same time, terrifying feeling than when you receive an email from someone who wants to acquire you. There was great joy when that happened to us at FeedbackPanda. Immediately after, we started to think about the level of risk we were about to expose our company to. … Continue reading So You Got an Offer: How to Do Due Diligence on Your Potential Acquirer

Your Initial Pricing Will Never Be Right, But Try Anyway

Reading Time: 6 minutes When you’re just starting, finding the right pricing model for your young business seems very hard and almost entirely arbitrary. That’s because, at such an early stage of your business, it is impossible to find the “correct” price for several reasons. At the beginning of your business, revenue serves one purpose before any other: validation. … Continue reading Your Initial Pricing Will Never Be Right, But Try Anyway

Churn, Retention, and Revenue: What Makes Customers Stick Around and Why That’s Important

Reading Time: 7 minutes Retaining a customer is easier than finding a new one. You already have an open communication channel. They’re already interested in hearing from you. You also know their behavior patterns, and you can infer how much and how effectively they use your product from your metrics. On average, a 5% increase in customer retention leads … Continue reading Churn, Retention, and Revenue: What Makes Customers Stick Around and Why That’s Important

Continuous Validation: Staying in Touch with Your Market

Reading Time: 7 minutes I first felt that we truly had a validated business when we had our very first yearly subscriber. That level of commitment for a young product such as FeedbackPanda two months into our existence showed us that people wanted what we made and were ready to put their money on it. However, validation is always … Continue reading Continuous Validation: Staying in Touch with Your Market

Too Many Eyes: Why Bootstrapped Companies Stop Being Transparent (Eventually)

Reading Time: 5 minutes When Buffer started being radically transparent, the entrepreneurial community was enthusiastic. A brighter future of collaboration, shared learning, openness, and lifting the disadvantaged was on the horizon. Revenue, Salaries, Compensation: everything was made public for everyone to see. Recently, Buffer closed off its public revenue dashboard. Other bootstrapped companies such as Transistor.fm have gone through … Continue reading Too Many Eyes: Why Bootstrapped Companies Stop Being Transparent (Eventually)

The Bootstrapper’s Plight: The Social Headaches of Building a Business

Reading Time: 6 minutes Many founders choose to create a lifestyle business. They have read the 4-Hour-Workweek by Tim Ferriss and now want to build a company that can sustain a life of travel, enjoying the world, and spending time with their loved ones. Gone will be the days of overtime, the excruciating commutes, the pointless teambuilding weekends. Well, … Continue reading The Bootstrapper’s Plight: The Social Headaches of Building a Business

Finding the Critical Problem: How to Work on The Right Things

Reading Time: 9 minutes You start a new business that solves a problem. You create a unique solution to help your audience deal with a pain they’re feeling. Yet the company fails to take off, even though you have a good solution and excellent marketing material. People don’t want to pay for it. Why is that? I believe that … Continue reading Finding the Critical Problem: How to Work on The Right Things

How to Do Maximum Customer Support with Minimum Effort

Reading Time: 8 minutes When you are running a bootstrapped business, you have to do everything. Building the product, dealing with financials, marketing your solution. And then there is customer service. People are reaching out with questions. Sometimes they are frustrated because they have a deadline. Sometimes they want to chat. In any case, it will eat up your … Continue reading How to Do Maximum Customer Support with Minimum Effort

The 5 Books That Helped Build and Sell a Bootstrapped SaaS in Under Two Years

Reading Time: 11 minutes When I started out my career as a bootstrapped software entrepreneur, I wish there would have been something like The Bootstrapper’s Bookshelf. All I knew is that there were a lot of books about the wild world of Venture Capital and how to structure your startup so you could get some of that juicy venture … Continue reading The 5 Books That Helped Build and Sell a Bootstrapped SaaS in Under Two Years

Real and Imaginary Responsibilities of a Bootstrapped Founder

Reading Time: 8 minutes As a founder, you will encounter many expectations. Founders have to have a mission. They have to care about their customers genuinely. A great founder is a leader, a visionary, an expert. Sometimes you just want to be you — the entrepreneur who had a good idea for a business and then worked on it … Continue reading Real and Imaginary Responsibilities of a Bootstrapped Founder

From Founding to Exit in Two Years: The FeedbackPanda Story

Reading Time: 2 minutes In 2017, my partner Danielle was teaching English as a Second Language online to Chinese children. She was working 12-hour days teaching while I was working as a Software Engineer for a German company in the IoT space. After teaching, Danielle would work for two extra hours to write Student Feedback for the parents of … Continue reading From Founding to Exit in Two Years: The FeedbackPanda Story

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