Bootstrapping Your Startup or Small Business

I spent this past weekend talking with 100 brilliant people at ORD Camp in Chicago. ORD Camp is an invitation-only unconference, loosely based on Foo Camp. During the conference, I participated, among many other things (including an awesome presentation about roasting a pig!), in two discussions about startups. Although Mike (Thoughts for small businesses and startups on raising capital) and I (Start-up Tip: Ten Suggestions For Raising Start-up Capital From Angels and Start-up Tip: When To Leave Your Full Time Job) have written and talked about startup fundraising a number of times, there’s much confusion and discomfort among some young entrepreneurs about what it takes to bootstrap a startup. The discussions from ORD Camp mirrored what I’ve heard from other young entrepreneurs over the past few years.

Part of the confusion and discomfort comes from young entrepreneurs creating overly complex visions for their startups. I’ve made this mistake too – we all tend to dream big. When you dream big, you need a lot of time, resources, and money to pursue those dreams. This is one of the key reasons why many startup dreams never get off the ground – they are too complex and expensive to pursue.

During the conference, I talked about my own experience. For nearly a year before we sought outside funding for crowdSPRING, we bootstrapped. In fact, I continued to work full time until December 2007 (maintaining an active law practice) while also working full time on crowdSPRING. I learned five important lessons during that period, as I discuss in the following video:

I know that many readers of our blog have bootstrapped or are currently bootstrapping their businesses. I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts and suggestions about bootstrapping. What worked/didn’t work for you? And if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.