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What You Need to Know About Bootstrapping

Honeybadger is proud to be a bootstrapped business. We like that we've maintained control of our product vision. But it's not an easy road. Here are a few things you should know.

A great product idea always starts with pain.

At first, the pain is annoying. Maybe you severely dislike a tool's functionality. Or you keep building the same process over and over.

Then one day, the pain is intolerable. You want to create the solution that will make it go away for good.

Congratulations, you are now an entrepreneur. Except you have to figure out how to make time to build your product idea...and fund it.

We Bootstrapped Our Business. But There Are Disadvantages

We at Honeybadger went through the same process and opted to bootstrap our business. While we are grateful we own our company outright, it's not an easy road.

Here's a breakdown of three situations you might run into if you're thinking about self-funding your product idea...and how to overcome them.

1. Bootstrapping slows down your product development cycle

You can start building your product. But you're still balancing your day job to support your lifestyle. As a result, you're overextended and won't be able to give it up until you have your first customer.

How to make it work

If it becomes difficult to keep your day job, build a consulting practice. You generate extra income and have the flexibility to create your product in your off-hours. Think of it as an insurance policy in case your product idea doesn't take off.

FYI: Starr, Ben, and Josh were consultants by trade before starting Honeybadger, so talk to them about how they balanced their work. They might even make introductions to some potential clients if you ask nicely ;).

2. Bootstrapping forces you to hire slowly

At some point, you may decide you need some extra help. But you have to figure out who is willing to pitch in, for the right price. If not money, are you willing to give up ownership of your company?

How to make it work

Use contractors for short-term projects with specific deliverables. As for long-term product vision, talk to people you've worked with at previous jobs. If they're not the right fit, they might know someone who could be.

Hiring is hard to get right, so don't rush the process. Honeybadger was fortunate to have three co-founders from the beginning. It gave them many years of success before they felt the need to bring on their first hire (Me!).

3. Bootstrapping makes you work multiple jobs.

So you went out and made some hires! But you're drowning in extra duties as assigned: legal, customer support rep, sales, accounting. Product development is still slow, despite having extra help.

How to make it work

Delegate. Decide who will work on what. Make sure to establish standards on how each person receives feedback about their work. If it makes sense, share one or two duties amongst all.

At Honeybadger, the guys split up development duties but share customer support. Have you ever submitted a support ticket to us? Chances are the person responding is the one who built the infrastructure in question. It's a good day when they can deploy a fix within an hour if need be. #bootstrapgoals #nottheframework

Are you ready to take the plunge?

Terrified to get started? Don't be. Successful products take time and a lot of iterations to get right, whether you bootstrap or not. Take a deep breath, start building, and show the world what you got.

Want to see more articles like this? Let me know at sophia@honeybadger.io!

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Sophia Le

In her free time, Sophia cooks plant-based recipes, frequents yoga class, and will never say no to karaoke. She blogs about her attempt at work-life balance at sophiale.com.

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