Sourcing capital for your startup is never easy, especially when you are pre-product completion and before the proof-of-concept the traditional venture investors are looking for. Often, the only way to get your business from a piece of paper concept to a venture-backable business is to bootstrap your efforts, via whatever means necessary.
Below is a summary of the some of the most-used bootstrapping techniques:
1. Limit Product Scope
Always start by building a minimum viable product to get something quickly and cheaply into the market. Cut back on any unnecessary features and functionality, that add up on costs and slow down the launch. Don’t try building a “Rolls Royce” product out of the gate, when a “Toyota” will work just fine to start.
2. Personal Assets
Tap into whatever cash resources you have access to, from your cash accounts, to credit cards to home equity loans to selling other investments. The less cash you raise from outsiders, the more your personal stake will be worth, especially during the “infancy” stage of your business when valuations will be at their lowest point.
Co-founders can be a great source of cash investment or sweat equity from people who believe enough in your product to work without a cash salary. Don’t think you need to build your startup by yourself. Find others who share your dream and complement your skillsets.
4. Friends & Family
Sometimes it is easiest to raise capital from the people that know you best, and can vouch for your personal drive and skill set, much better than a stranger investor can. But, be clear with them upfront that they could lose all of their investment in a risky venture and not to invest more than they feel comfortable “gambling” with.
Sometimes, startup vendors are willing to trade all or a portion of their services for equity. This is a great way to make a $100K tech build a $50K tech build, as an example. Read my post on when it is best to trade equity for services. Even if they require cash, maybe they can spread out payments over time to help you.
6. Angel Investors
If you can uncover them, there are plenty of rich individuals looking for the next big thing. The problem is finding them.
7. Startup-Investor Marketplaces
There are some great sites like AngelList and Gust, that have created networking sites with startups on one side and angel investors on the other. Problem is getting your startup found within the clutter of other startups. Read this case study on how StyleSeek successfully raised $1MM through AngelList.
8. Crowd Donations Sites
Sites like KickStarter and IndieGoGo have even made it easy to raise capital via donations from a crowd, without giving away any equity in your business. This works best for “edgy” consumer products businesses, where donating consumers can get insider access to the first products built. Read this case study on how Pebble Watch successfully raised $10MM through KickStarter.