Getting Started with Bootstrapping Your Business

Posted on June 1, 2008


Traditionally, angel capital became known as “angel capital” because they were the first investors – the “pre-seed” funding, but with deals becoming more numerous and requiring more stringent expected ROI requirements, the entrepreneur in need of $50K or $100K in seed capital is left to bootstrap their business. If you are looking for that first installment of seed capital, here are some concrete ideas to consider.

  1. Attend local start-up events. Get out and meet people. Yes, you’ve heard this time and again. Check you calendar. When was the last time you attended an industry event? If it’s been more than a month ago, that’s too long.

    Here in Silicon Valley, I’ve been a huge fan of the Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs (SVASE). You probably won’t find funding at one their events, but you will surely uncover great ideas from their guests, panelists, and speakers.

  2. Keep a regular blog. You don’t need to divulge company secrets, but keeping a regular blog provides you with some very tangible outcomes. First, a blog provides a written history of your idea’s development, so if you meet a potential investor or partner, you can show them your progress over time, not just where you are at the moment. It shows the outsider that you can keep a commitment to yourself and are able to communicate effectively with the outside world. Or perhaps a potential investor will find you when they are out searching for projects.

    Second, this helps you to see your own progress. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to feel discouraged when you’re developing a new technology or innovation. You can’t always look back at the end of a weekend grinding away in your garage to see your progress. A blog enables you to see your accomplishments over time – everything from setting up an LLC to installing and understanding some new project management software to jotting down thoughts or ideas you’ve recounted from meetings and events you’ve attended.

  3. Ask for advice and then listen. At a recent SVASE event, one of the panelists mentioned (to paraphrase) – “If you ask for money, you’ll get advice. If you ask for advice, you might get some money.” As an entrepreneur, you need to learn how to take constructive criticism and listen. Listening skills are the foundation of good sales skills, and enables you to improve your idea without taking the criticism personally. Remember Dale Carnegie’s book – “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” And if you haven’t read this book at least once in the last three years, then good back and read it again.
  4. Ask for referrals. Memorize this line – “Thank you for your time and your advice. Do you know 2 or 3 other people that I can talk to for their advice as well?”
  5. Carry a 5” x 3” Memo Book. These are about $1 at the local Walgreen’s and fit in your back pocket or jacket pocket. Great for writing down ideas that you get at the spur of the moment, or for jotting names and phone numbers of people you meet.
  6. Stay positive. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” (Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, in “A League of their Own” in response to Dottie (Geena Davis) saying she’s quitting the team because “it just got too hard.”)