9 Ways to Decrease Your Chance of Bootstrapping a Successful Company


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The more I learn about startups the more I realize that one’s chance of succeeding is a continuum rather than some kind of binary state.

In other words, when you read a blog post that talks about “X Ways to Succeed with Your Startup” what they really mean is “X Ways to Potentially Increase Your Chance of Success With Your Startup. But the second title is too clumsy so we bloggers abbreviate.

With that in mind, I’ve had this list sitting around for a long time, debating the best way to present it. The problem with this kind of list is that some people read it and see they are doing some of the things I’ve listed and they panic. This panic results in a need to rationalize their behavior and convince themselves they are not travelling a path to certain doom. Who wants to admit that?

But that’s not the point this list. As you read it keep two things in mind:

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Ten Highly Successful Bootstrapped Startups


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This is a guest article by Saba Younus. Saba currently works as the operations manager (Sumo) at AppSumo. When she’s not working to create the best experience for each and every user, she spends her time scouring the web for juicy details about the startup world.

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Who says a bootstrapped startup can’t succeed?

A lot of entrepreneurs think they need piles of money to make their startup a success, but that’s not always the case. Here are 10 bootstrapped companies that did it on their own with no outside funding.

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Lessons Learned from a Software Developer’s First Attempt at Launching a Startup

This is a guest article by Karl Falconer. Karl is a software engineer with more than 10 years of experience who specializes in agile web development and web services integrations. He authors a software development blog at http://www.falconerdevelopment.com/.

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There comes a time in a software developer’s career where they reach a crossroads and ask themselves, “What next?  What should I do next to keep my edge?”

When I arrived at this crossroads, I did not feel challenged by the software projects I was working on and began seeking something new. After much internal debate, I made the decision to step out of my comfort zone and shift my from the hard skills of software development to include more soft skills like marketing, and business development, with the ultimate goal of starting a software company.

Throughout 2010, I studied the ins and outs of launching a product by reading books and blogs and talking with friends and colleagues. I paid particular attention to articles about failure, so I would not make the same mistakes with my own product. In midsummer of 2010, I began work on my first product, which would later become MicroMaximus.

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Why Making Something Customers Want Isn’t Enough


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In his essay How to Start a Startup, Paul Graham famously stated there are three things needed to create a successful startup:

  • To start with good people
  • To make something customers actually want
  • To spend as little money as possible

This list is pure genius. However, over the past several years running my own businesses and working with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I’ve found a fourth ingredient that’s necessary for a company to succeed:

Customers must give you more money than what you spend to acquire them.

I realize this is an obvious statement. But here’s the kicker…

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How Can Software by Rob Better Serve You?


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I posted last week about the enormous value of the information I received from surveying my DotNetInvoice customers through survey.io.

Today I want to ask you the same 7 questions, but in reference to this blog. Your answers will no doubt shape the future of what happens here.

You can answer anonymously at:

http://survey.io/survey/6c630

Four Things I Learned From Asking My Customers


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Survey.io is a tool that helps you edge into customer development. It’s a free tool put together by Sean Ellis and Hiten Shah as a way for product owners to easily survey their customers using pre-written questions.

You enter your product name and voila – 8 questions that Sean Ellis has used many times to achieve his massive successes with companies like DropBox, Xobni, LogMeIn and Lookout.

I’ve had this on my to-do list for DotNetInvoice since Survey.io launched, but wanted to wait until our QuickBooks integration launched, which finally happened last month. I was further spurred into action at MicroConf; one of the key takeaways from the conference was that I need to be talking more to my customers.

So two weeks ago I dove in head first and emailed the survey to all of our customers. The results were surprising…

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Choosing a Domain Name When YourApp.com is Taken


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A reader recently emailed with the following question:

I am working with my business partner on building a web application and the domain name I’m looking for is already registered.I have done a ton of searching on the web, including forums like OnStartups and can’t seem to figure out which way is the best. Everyone seems to have contrasting opinions.

I am thinking of other ways to register my applications domain name, and I thought of a few possible solutions:

  • www.my-site.com
  • www.mysiteapp.com
  • www.mysitehq.com (I saw that 37signals uses this for some of there web apps and liked the idea)

I was wondering if you thought this made a big difference or not.

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You Can’t Make Money Charging $1 Per Month


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I recently received the following question from a reader:

[When we spoke at a recent conference] I had been thinking of a $1/month price point [for my product aimed at teachers] to make it a “no-brainer,” and you strongly advised against it, suggesting $5-7 at a minimum.  Are you concerned at all about the fact that teachers could continue using the existing work-around solution? I wonder if I provide enough value to rationalize $5-7. Maybe it would be better for me to find more ways to add value rather than lower my price point?

My Response
Trying to make money selling an app for $1/month is crazy unless your market is gigantic and you have the expertise or the funds to reach them (and even then, support will kill you).

Let’s look at some numbers:

  1. If your goal is a meager $2k per month you need 2k customers.
  2. To begin, that’s a lot of non-technical customers to support for that little money. You’ll still be working a full-time job at that point so it’ll be nights and weekends. Not cool.
  3. To get 2k customers with a 1% conversion rate you’ll need 200k unique visitors (total, not monthly). If you crank really hard on promotion and word of mouth I can imagine you’ll ramp up to 1k-2k uniques per month. Even at 4k per month you’ll be waiting a long time to hit that 200k mark.
  4. These days I’ve been advising people to go up-market and try for $30/month and $50/month price points. What can you build that people would value that much?

In your case you have a hard pricing constraint because teachers don’t have a lot of extra cash lying around to spend on software. But I don’t see any way a niche product can work with a price point of $1/month. Even at $5-7/month it’s going to be extremely difficult to build revenue beyond a few thousand dollars.

MicroConf: Things That Rocked and Things That Could Have Been Better

MicroConf Speakers
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Anytime you spend 3 months planning an event, whether it’s a wedding, a product launch, or a conference, you need a post-mortem. A time to reflect on things that went right and things that needed work.

This post is my post-mortem for MicroConf 2011, which took place last week in Las Vegas, NV.

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“Startup Wisdom” Ebook from Hiten Shah, Noah Kagan, Patrick McKenzie, Myself, and others

Hot off the presses, download a free copy of this 52-page ebook for the price of a Tweet (or a share on Facebook). Visit www.MicroConf.com to make it happen.