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Bootstrapping to 1 Million Users

Bootstrapping to 1 Million Users

(upbeat music) – All right, welcome
back to today’s episode. I’m here with Nathan and we’re gonna talk about
Bootstrap Bill Turner. – (laughs) Yes! – Wait! No, sorry. I read that wrong, bootstrapping. – Oh, bootstrapping.
– Bootstrapping business, yes! – Oh business.
– Yeah – What’s bootstrapping business? – How was that started? – So, it’s basically starting business with your own money
– Yes – So, Nate, why would
you want to bootstrap? – Well, we decided to
bootstrap back in 2009 when we were starting the company and we stuck with that
decision ever since. And that was really because we didn’t want to
take on a lot of risks. I just feel it’s risky to go out and say, “Hey we have this
idea for this company. “Can you give us, you know, “a couple hundred thousand dollars “or something to start it?”
– Yeah – And then all that pressure… That’s, I feel really guilty if we couldn’t make a return on that. And it’s, there’s so much uncertainty back then. So, I think that and overall just not wanting to answer to the investors and kind of have them pulling the strings and controlling us. And we’d really rather
answer to the customer and whatever it is that
the customer wants. If they’re not gonna, if we can’t come up with something good enough that the
customer wants to pay for it then we’re just not
doing a good enough job. – Yeah – And so that’s really what
should gauge the business and that’s what should be controlling us not investors. – What do you think? You have anything to add to that? – No, I think that’s great! I think for us it worked out really well. It de-risked us
– Yeah – And we were able to really kinda build what we thought was the
right thing to build but that also came with – the clarity or the confidence of customers using it and you getting their feedback and know, “Hey, you know, we’re on the right path.” Or, “You know what? “Hey, you know maybe we need
to pivot a little bit here.” So, starting a business
without investment. So, you know, how did that look for us? – I think it was just a matter of us just saying, “Hey,
let’s see what we can do and let’s put something out there to see if there’s any interest in this.” And that’s really what we want to do. Not see if investors
there are just interested, but our customers’ interested. And so we basically built that
simple landing page saying, hey this is what we’re building, – Yeah. – this is about what we’re
gonna charge, the page was ugly. We found the free Google ad works like a hundred dollars free
advertising drive a little tacky-
– No way I’m paying for ’em, Right?
– Yeah, right! – And so, we did that to just see and we started some sign ups, it’s saying some people are interested. So I said, “All right, maybe
there’s something here. Let’s put in a little more work into this. At this point, all we’re risking
is our Saturday mornings. Because we had day jobs
and we just thought let’s get together on Saturday
mornings and try this, and so that was what we were risking. It’s time on Saturday mornings. This was before kids, this was we kind of had all the time we could waste and (laughs), it wouldn’t kill us.
– Yeah, yeah. So, we did that and
that was our risk there. – Nice! So what other
tips would you give people who maybe wanting to do this
without investing any money, where’s some ways they
can save their money. – Yeah, I mean one of the biggest things is to not quit your day job. We didn’t do that, right? And not, we did this for
a year or two, at least, before we actually quit our day jobs because I’ve seen people do this and it always makes me nervous. When they get these ideas they say, “Well I need all this time so
I’m going to quite my day job and go into this and hope
it works out, right?” That scared me, right, that’s risky. – Yes, absolutely. – We’d like to de-risk. So it maybe takes a little longer, but we were able to just
work on Saturday mornings in my basement, right? – Yeah! – And work over there. So keeping the day job, save some money, put some money away in advance so that maybe when you are
ready to make that transition from your full time job
to your new business, maybe we got some traction, it’s nice to have a little
money in the bank account to help supplement. If you’re gonna be dropping there, bills are gonna be tight, you’ve got that little buffer for a while. – Yeah and I think for us, we were blessed to where we were before. We were able to go down
the part-time first before we made the full jump. So we were, as we were building the business up, if you look at it it’s like a seesaw, we were kinda able to slowly
shift ever to full time and which I think was, – Those are huge. – it really went fast. – Yes, absolutely. – As what other tips would you recommend for someone who’s looking
to start a business? – Finding a good co-founder. – Can you say that one again? (laughs) I need to write this one down. – I’m still trying to
learn how to do this, but find a good co-founder. No, that is huge. – Absolutely. If finding a good co-founder, finding someone else, ‘coz
doing it alone is tough. – Yeah. – That’s (sighs) for a couple of reasons. One is just the skill sets. Usually it helps to have
someone that is opposite of you and has different skill sets. We’re pretty, we’re very different. – Yeah, I come in tee shirt. – Yeah, right. I dress
up, he doesn’t, right. – Hair.
(laughs) – Hair. That’s a good one, John, that’s a good one, fine.
– But you got it there. – Yeah. So that’s a big thing. It’s just the differences
and finding someone that does complement your skill set. And I think there’s probably a little bit of emotional element to it, too, like you need to have, know
someone else’s counting on you to push and do your work, and just know that if you do, something’s taking a while or if there’s any kind of
discouraging part of business, you know someone else is in it with you. – Yeah, it’s like that
healthy accountability. – Yeah, yeah, exactly, it is. And it keeps you going. ‘Coz otherwise if you’re
going by yourself, you might just say, “I’m done. “I’ve been goin’ at this some, “we still don’t have a customer.” You want to give up, but it’s just nice when there’s someone else with you. – Absolutely. – Another one, I think charging
money to customers, right? – Whoah, wait a second. No, really?
– Yeah. – Yeah, charge money, charge money. – It’s very controversial. – Yes. (laughs) So how
many times did we see this. This is what’s in all the news. This is what’s frustrating, I think, a little bit, is to watch these tech
trons and these bugs, I think they’re covering
all these stories, obviously the big ones
are Facebook or Twitter, something like this where they’re
not charging money, right? – Yeah. – ‘Coz everyone thinks they
can just do this big thing and charge for adv, eventually
charge for advertising or something like this and they got all these users,
they have all these users and they’re gonna raise money and say, “Look, we’ve got all these
users and it’s this weird thing “where no one’s actually making money.” – Right, yeah. – And quite often those things fall apart. – Yeah, you’re just
burning investor money. – You’re just burning
investor’s money and it’s, it’s just a risky thing,
it’s a hard thing to do because if you get so many people, but actually it’s a
lot easier is to create something of value you can
charge especially to a business. So if you go to a business and say, “Here’s this thing. “It’s gonna help you be more efficient, “save money and it doesn’t cost that much. “Here is how much it costs.” Or maybe it does cost
a lot, that’s fine, too if you wanna do that! But either way, charge into
a business is way easier that trying to charge
something to a consumer. Consumers don’t typically
want to pay for things, they want everything to be free. Businesses understand if
they want something good it’s probably gonna cost money. – So finding a way that
you can help a business be better, be more efficient, is a way that you can make money
and you can start with one, you find one company that will
pay you for something, right? I remember the day we
launched and we were like, “Is anybody gonna buy?” Right?
– Yeah. We were working on this for a year. We had beta users but then we said, “All right, we need to know
will people pay for this?” It was a scary moment
and we flipped the switch and then we said, “All right,
if anybody wants to continue using it’s $10 a month”, right? – Yeah! – $29 a month, then I
think we had $49 a month, there’s something, – Or $79, – Something yeah, a couple
different moments early on. And right away that day
we had someone sign up for $29 a month. – Yeah! – And we were like, “Whoooaah!” So, it’s working, right?
– Yeah. Someone we don’t know,
someone that we didn’t know. So, definitely recommend charge money. – Yeah, totally. I think it’s important to, if you can, build something that you are gonna use and that you are gonna benefit from, too. – So, another thing, I think this is just being super productive, right? – Yes. – So what are some ways you
found to be super productive in order to work, I mean
we were just working with Saturday mornings,
how did we do it back then? – I think you had to know what were things that you could work on, and then you had to pick the best one. You had to prioritize your day, you had to figure out what is something that is going to have the highest in bet? – There’s a million
things that could be done. – Totally. – But it’s about picking the right thing. – Yeah. – This can based and back to that time. – And then structure your day and that’s what even
movin’ forward into now, where it’s more than
just Saturday mornings. We’ve got weeks dedicated to it and you still you have that list of tasks, you’ve got to prioritize your day, you’ve got to figure out what’s gonna have a big impact in a long term? What’s something that I need to get done to maybe unblock somebody else, – Yeah. – or just what is the next
in planning that I need to do so that when we, two months down the road
or two weeks down the road, we don’t get to another time where we got nothing to work on so, it’s really about figuring out what are the right things
to work on for today. And then when you are just
really dedicating your time to getting that done. We’ve seen a couple
different ways of doing it, there’s the Pomodoro Technique that some of the guys use here where they really just give themselves 25 minutes of hyper-focused time with small breaks in between. Then there are sorts of other variations that we do here, too, where we really just
once we start something we wanna work through and finish it. – I think it’s cool to me if one benefit of not taking money is
you don’t have to spend all your time going up with
presentations for investors. – Yeah. – And that’s like a whole job. A lot of times we would, a CEO of a company spends a
lot of time doing (laughs) is for the investors, right? But instead, we’re just focuse on the product, right? – Yeah. ‘Coz that’s the
thing to us that we identify as the most important thing is let’s work on the product there, let’s, at the time when
we were first starting it was that but now it’s
also other things with, let’s make sure we create great videos, let’s make sure we create great overall customer support experience and all these different things and just focus on that
instead of these investors. – Yeah. We’re buildin’
presentations for the customer, – Yeah, right! – not for investors. – Right, exactly. – I think another thing ,too, is really guard yourself
from burning yourself out. – Yeah. – So you’ve got to know when
to stop on certain things, you’ve got to know when to take a break. You need to structure
your day in a sense that, and really burnout I guess
is really more than a day, – Yeah. – it takes a little while to get there. But you need to structure
yourself in a way that you’re not allowing
burnout to happen. Really have those, the clearly defined lines
of this is personal life, this is work life and
then personal life back at the end of the day. Really, if you can kind
of keep the structure and you know when to turn things on and when to turn things
off can really prevent you from getting into a burnout phase. – Yup. That’s why we do
the 36-hour workweeks. – So, you’ve hit a wall, what are, you’re stuck on something, what are some ways you
can get past that wall? – Anytime you’re starting the business you’re doing unchartered territory, right? – Yeah. – It’s something you’ve
never done before, right, that we never done this before, we never started a company before. We never started a software company, we never started anything, right, and times are always
changing and it’s just, it can be a little overwhelming
trying to figure out what do you focus on, what do you work on, what marketing tactic should you try, how much effort should
you put in your product, should you hire people? All these things, there’s all these decisions, all these unknown things, you’ve got a million ways
with the company, right? – Yeah. – It’s really helpful to have someone to lean on and to ask, whether that’s some kind
of mentor that you have. – So do you have tools
that you or services that you have used? – At the time we didn’t
know a whole lot of other. At the start we actually did
find a good Meetup to go to and meet a couple of people
which was really helpful. – But even that was in D.C. – In that was in D.C. Since then the bottom
work scene has picked up and there is some more going on and there’s so many
podcasts now, too, to learn, just absorbing this
information from podcasts. Lots of great podcasts out there like Intercom runs a great podcast, Seeking Wisdom, there’s tons of different
podcasts out there, tons of startup podcasts. Just look for ’em, check ’em out. – Time Limit. – Time Limit! That’s a good one. There’s even services like Clarity where you can actually
if you get a Clarity, you can actually look up different people, successful entrepreneurs
who’ve been there and done that and you can actually call them, and they have different rates. You might have to spend
a couple dollars a minute to talk to them. – Right. – You might have to spend
a couple hundred dollars for a phone call but a
couple hundred dollars to talk to someone who’s
been there and done that and built the same kind of business you’re trying to build is so valuable. And there have been times we’ve done that, should we do this kind of thing, should we do that and give us some advice or something like that. – And their wisdom is worth so much more than what you’re gonna pay for. – Oh yeah, it’s way, I mean you’re talking about
a couple hundred dollars that could shift your business and you’re gonna be talking about a couple hundred thousand
dollars or something more. It’s a big deal, it’s a big deal. It’s totally worth it. So definitely try and
learn from other people. And I think also the other thing is really try to make
sure you build something people really want. – Yeah, definitely. And if you can build
something that you want, I think that’s even, that’s the pinnacle, right? – You’re your own customer. – Of building something yeah
‘coz you’re your own customer. That’s, if you’ve seen
the TeamGantt stories of how we started, we really built this for us. – ‘Coz you know we went
out there and looked and couldn’t find anything out there to solve what we were looking for, so we tried to build it, we knew exactly what we wanted. And of course, we talked to
other people along the way and they pointed out things they wanted that we didn’t think of and
so we do change our product and now we rely extremely
heavily on input from customers and potential customers. But yeah, that’s a huge thing and it doesn’t take a lot of money to start a company nowadays. – No, yeah.
– I mean servers are cheap. Back when we started we were paying, – I think we evade, like our first year or whatever was free. – It was free? (laughs) – Because of live ferferocans that we had. – From those website design? – Yeah. – And so, I mean free to $10 a month, – Yeah. – You can start online business. – Yeah. – I mean we put maybe a hundred
dollars into the company for maybe some real basic
legal setup or whatever, we’ve since spent quite
a bit more on legal fees (laughing) but back then to start, I mean seriously, – It’s not much. – we started a company for a hundred bucks and we had our laptops and that was it. – Yup.
– So, it can be done. It’s more about sweat equity
and it’s putting in the time and putting in some weekends and doing that to get started. – Yup. – So, keep the day job, build a, build something that ideally business wants to pay for and find a way to market that efficiently, whether that’s social media, whether that’s SCO, whether that’s blogging, whether that’s video, whether that’s, whatever it is, there’s different ways
and it’s all different. Email, marketing, all
these things are different and its different for every business but you gotta try, you gotta figure that out. That’s a tricky thing
but figuring that out there’s ways that can
be done without spending a ton of money if you have a good product. – Well, cool! Thanks for checking in with us today and we hope you have a
great rest of your day!

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