There’s something really magnificent in funding your own business that most entrepreneurs will agree with. To start with the definition, bootstrapping is the way to grow your business without (or with very little) external investment or venture capital. A bootstrapped business is one that relies on the owner’s personal savings and limited revenue for any sort of financial support, in order to operate and expand. Although it is difficult, it surely is gratifying. In fact, some business owners are major advocates of bootstrapping as they cherish the lessons learned from the struggles and challenges they faced on the way to financially drive their enterprises from scratch, on their own.
Owning a business brings in a feeling of joy as well as stress; in the beginning, you will have only questions, doubts, and fears, which will slowly fade away once you start thinking with logic and clarity! At least, with bootstrapping you can do away with worries like a pile of debt, investor-related stress and payback to banks. It frees you from preparing investment pitches and delivery processes. Moreover, being self-funded reduces the risks of business loss tremendously.
ProMobi Technologies came into being as a company in 2014. The company founders dreamt big about taking it to great heights but began with small, calculated and practical steps. The company started off as an outsourced product development company focused on building software solutions for other start-ups and mid-sized companies. But at its core, ProMobi was conceived with the aim of building world-class B2B SaaS products from India.
ProMobi first gained financial strength and support as an outsourced service company. Once it had produced enough funds to bootstrap its product, it began building its first product in late 2014 and named it as MobiLock Pro – an Android kiosk lockdown solution (Currently Scalefusion). We chose Android as we belonged from the market background specific to Android management and we knew the technology well, we understood the market demands and customer pain points vividly.
It took us a lot of efforts and sleepless nights to study the business use cases, understand the customer pain points and evaluate our market opportunities. While funding our own business, we were cautious, informed, practical and realistic, and so we thought it best to keep our services run in parallel with the product (to maintain the necessary cash-flow). However, today the focus is more on the product.
Bootstrapping doesn’t only give you a feeling of self-sufficiency and pride but it’s pragmatic too! The entry level today has become easier for aspiring entrepreneurs, thanks to the emerging cloud technologies that have greatly minimized the IT infrastructure costs.
We surely had confronted our share of chaos and confusion and challenges around people, processes, technologies, and expectations! But at the end of the day, we pulled our socks and started anew with added courage, for it takes a lot of perseverance to build a company from scratch. Bootstrapping own product has nevertheless taught us some valuable life lessons but we knew that success always comes with a price..you just need to know how much of it are you ready to pay!
The following points will vividly talk about how bootstrapping worked for us and why we believe they might work wonders for others too!
1. We leveraged our domain expertise to start the business: We always found it the best option to start a new business around the business domain where we have gained experience and expertise as it will be more than risky to venture out on unknown lands when it comes to bootstrapping a new product. The business owners and the team were well adept with industry knowledge, market insights and technical prowess around the proposed product, solution or service that they want to turn into a business idea. We always thought it ideal to leverage our existing forte than plainly following just an intuition.
2. We did set our priorities and reduced overhead costs: In our initial days of bootstrapping, nothing meant more important than establishing the product and hence we had to play safe with the finances. To start with, the decision makers did away with the temptation of a spacious office in a posh location with fancy employee facilities. We constantly kept a tab on overhead costs in the early stages and gave priorities to expenses made towards customer acquisition, marketing, and product development. We realized that it is essential to take mini steps within our financial capacity than taking a huge plunge without much planning and made sure that the bank balance is never compromised! Also, we have always maintained our emergency fund.
3. We steered clear of any credit card debts: Bootstrapping your business or product signifies that you are about to take up a lot of responsibilities and ownership about the product, the employees and their expectations, bills and operations, stakeholders and the overall business returns. We definitely made some sacrifices, but in the midst of all these pressures, credit card debt is the last thing you would want to worry about. Our business owners have shown the much-expected resistance towards this ‘buy now pay later’ trap. Uncontrolled credit card bills would not only have ruined our personal finances but would have also taken a toll on our newly bootstrapped business.
4. We built an MVP and added constant improvement: We followed the idea of first building a Minimal Viable Product to solve the core business problems of our target customers and then kept improving the product with customer feedback, market demands, and technological innovations. We eagerly interacted with our existing customers and understood their growing business needs and requirements and this gave us a clear direction and roadmap to develop our product step by step without any guesswork or unpredictable blunders. We believe, it is always advisable to listen to the actual customer requirements and blindly follow a specific industry hype. This way we stayed relevant yet powerful, stable yet scalable.
5. We followed a realistic budget to check our expense: Bootstrapping our business meant taking on multiple responsibilities and this invariably required us to be watchful and sensible about our expenses. We learned that sometimes when you start finding success, in the beginning, you might feel tempted to try out your luck in other business domains, but it’s crucial to be patient without letting your guard down at this point. So, we first established the outsourced service-based business to a point where it became strong enough to bootstrap the new product (MobiLock Pro that is currently Scalefusion). Hence, we sorted out our budget considering our present options, business demands, and future challenges and this helped us to develop a much-needed business survival mindset.
6. We found a team and empowered them to do the best: We made sure to work with the best people around with perfect attitude, acumen and industry expertise. We are rather fortunate to have a bunch of teams who are not just passionate about their work but are also empathetic towards customer concerns and are driven by an unlimited hunger to excel every day with enhanced performance. The company founders were the superb enablers but the employees are the real achievers who have driven the product to where it stands now. The founders made sure to keep the employees happy and they, in turn, kept the customers satisfied with top-notch services. This created an ultra-positive and transparent office culture that automatically helped us retain the best minds as they grew along with the product with an added sense of fulfillment and pride.
Bootstrapping your business is all about being financially responsible and self-dependent, which means you need to observe and obtain economic discipline, hard and smart work and consistent team performance. It’s about justifying every business move, assessing every expense and reviewing every decision, and always having an alternative solution. Funding your own business makes you adept in finding creative, unconventional and constructive solutions to complex problems, which enhances one’s decision making aptitude with enriched resourcefulness – designing a concoction to establish a successful company.
Sonali has an extensive experience in content writing, marketing, and strategy and she has worked with companies where she was involved in the 360-degree content production and editing. An avid reader and animal lover, she loves to cook, take care of her plants and travel.