I started Raizlabs 10 years ago with no investors. Entrepreneurship is hard regardless of the funding mechanism, and being bootstrapped is no exception.
I’ve learned a lot along the way, from chasing press to adjusting to growth spurts, and I’m thankful and proud of how far we’ve come. But, like a mountain climber I’m always looking for the next peak.
Over the years, I have advised and brainstormed with entrepreneurs about their ideas and plans for the future. I thought I would share some food for thought:
- Think about WHY you want to set off on this journey.
Money, power, and success are nice, but they may take a while. For some companies it doesn’t happen at all. It took me five years to make anything close to what I was making before starting Raizlabs. I’ve learned that if you don’t have a purpose to your mission, or meaningful vision, it’s easy to lose steam and motivation. It can be easy to lose sight when things get difficult, but if you build a strong foundation with a clear purpose, contagious culture, and meaning behind the products, a fire will burn and continue to burn that you won’t be able to escape.
- Bootstrapping is not about hype.
For the first few years I chased press. I tried to be the latest Slashdot, Digg, and TechCrunch story. It worked — kind of. We got press, but it turned out to be noise. Your traffic numbers would spike on Tuesday, but by Friday you had the same numbers from last week. It’s not about fleeting numbers or hype, it’s about creating and growing your value over time. You’re better off constantly improving your company 1/2 a percent each day, than spiking the charts every now and then.
- Growth is hard and doesn’t get easier.
Every growth transition has created new problems and new things we needed to learn. Companies don’t scale like technology scales. We can’t just add a couple servers. A company with 5 people is an entirely different company than one with 20 people. In fact we’ve found that many of the tools and systems that worked really well had to be thrown out every time the company doubled.
- People are the key to long term anything.
In the early years, I spent a lot of time thinking about ideas and opportunities. I believed that the merit of a good idea could overcome product obstacles, financial obstacles, and other tangible pain points. The expression of building a better mouse trap couldn’t be more wrong. It’s not about building a better mouse trap. It’s about having a team that can both build a better mouse trap and a team that will help you knock on doors.
- Listening is harder then doing.
Lots of time and energy is spent executing ideas, building technologies, and pushing for new features or false deadlines. A fraction of that time is spent listening to the true problems. This can be said internally within a company, as well as with our products and clients. I’ve found that dedicating more time understanding the problem produces vastly better solutions. Frankly, there are many billion dollar companies that fail to listen.
While we’re rounding out year 10 for Raizlabs, we’ve enjoyed looking back on the distance we’ve covered, and anticipating what’s ahead. With a clear company vision and impactful values for “why” we’re building software that shapes the world, I’m thankful for the team and culture we’re continuing to build upon, and I can’t wait to push the envelope even more.