There's a lot of debate around how you should fund your startup. Raising venture capital is the clear choice for those looking to pickup tech-blog coverage, but is it the best way to fund your startup?
We asked 21 successful startup founders to share their insight on bootstrapping, and this is what they said.
"Bootstrapping is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It's not going to lead to success overnight. But charting your own path, putting your own dent in the universe, is worth the wait."
--David Heinemeier Hansson, Partner at 37Signals
"Some of my best startup lessons were learned when I had a bootstrapped company. Constraints often drive creativity--and being capital-constrained helps you figure out how to be resourceful. Turns out, whether you have millions of dollars in the bank--or almost none, resourcefulness is a useful skill."
--Dharmesh Shah, CTO and Co-Founder at HubSpot
"Bootstrapping has different constraints than being a funded company. If your competition is funded, you cannot outspend them on features, you cannot hire more people or buy more paid advertisement than them. Your advantage is profitability and profitability gives you time, a luxury funded companies do not have. With profits, you can take your time, ignore silly trends and focusing on being around in 10 years."
--Allan Branch, Co-Founder at LessAccounting
"People get caught up in the dream of massive outcomes, like being worth $1B or causing 1B photos to shuffle about on AWS. But you spend 0.001% of your life living "the outcome," and the rest building up to the outcome. True happiness and fulfillment is realizing that the journey is the important thing. Bootstrapping is the clearest, safest, simplest, least-risky way to that fulfillment."
"Because why would you trade the 1 boss you have today for a half-dozen bosses (investors/board) who'll have far more control over you?"
"Bootstrapping is an investment in control. As a bootstrapped founder you may not have much cash at your disposal, but you sure do control how you spend what little you do have! Once you get the company off the ground, that control translates to a lot of power to craft a vision for your business that suits you, your aspirations, and your timeline."
--Collis Ta'eed, CEO of Envato
"Bootstrapping makes you solve real problems for real customers that are willing to pay you money. Might not be the coolest approach but much more rewarding and creates true value."
--David Hauser, Co-founder of Grasshopper
"Bootstrapping is great because it lets you control your destiny. You can do a lot of great things when you aren't restricted by giving your investors a return as soon as you can. You can still raise money down the road if you want, but you have a higher probability of creating something more meaningful that lasts if you aren't participating in the early-stage startup scene."
"Bootstrapping always made the most sense to me. Since I already have most of the core skills I need, why not leverage those and build it myself, rather than seek investors and hire a bunch of people from the get-go.
Plus, I never saw the logic in starting a new business and immediately going heavily into debt. I always believed in aiming for profitability from day one, and let my customers fund the growth of my business."
--Brian Casel, Founder of Restaurant Engine
"A lot of people start companies because they want to be their own bosses. Then the first thing they do is go out and look for investors. This makes no sense to me: if someone gives you money, you report to them. Bootstrapping is hard, slow and doesn't apply to all situations, but it gives entrepreneurs total freedom and control over their own destiny."--Giacomo Peldi Guilizzoni, CEO of Balsamiq
"Bootstrapping is more difficult on the front-end, but more rewarding on the back-end. What you lack in initial funds, you gain back in ultimate freedom. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those that need autonomy."
--Bronson Taylor, Founder of Growth Hacker TV
"When you're self funded you think very carefully about whether you really need that new tech, new chair, new benefit. By bootstrapping we've had a healthy governor in place for each decision we've had to make. External funding is a strong brew that I'm afraid we would have imploded under."
--Nathan Seidle, Founder of SparkFun
"Bootstrapping puts you in the drivers seat, and offers many benefits to those looking for more freedom. You are not beholden to anyone else, which offers the enviable ability to grow your company the way you want. If you got into entrepreneurialism to escape a life of being told what to do by others, then bootstrapping is without a doubt the way to go."
"I hate to use the buzz word, but minimum viable product (MVP) costs you next to nothing using the right tools, or having chosen the correct co-founders who complement and extend your skill set and reach. Choose both wisely!"
--Mark Forrester, Co-founder of WooThemes
"Our grandfathers didn't call it bootstrapping. If your grandfather built a business he did it by finding a need, filling it well, and keeping a small margin for himself. He didn't give as many of his products away as he could with the idea that someday he'd figure out how to ask for money. He didn't need the blessing of a VC to chase down his dream. That's just asinine. 'Bootstrapping' is just building a real business from your revenue. Build a real business."
--Brecht Palombo, Founder of Bootstrapped With Kids
"Keeping 100% of your company's shares and profits and not having to answer to anyone for anything... Why would you do it any other way?"
--Sean Hammons, Lead developer of Clicky
"Getting a customer is your number one priority. Ask for the sale early and often. This is a surefire way to build your brand and your bank account."
--Tim Conley, Founder of MarketingForFounders
"The best reason to bootstrap a startup is that you are the master of your own destiny. You never have to worry about what an investor thinks of what you're doing or be forced into doing anything you feel goes against who you are."
--Mike Taber, Founder of SingleFounder.com
"Bootstrapping is like constructing a parachute while you’re in free fall. Terrifying and, if you can pull it off, the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do."
--Dave Gorum, Creative Director at Carbonmade
"Most people start their own company so they can have more control over how they spend their time. The moment you take investment, you're handing your calendar over to someone else. Living on your own agenda and not being answerable to others is a freedom only bootstrapping can truly provide."
--Dave Greiner, Co-founder of Campaign Monitor
"Bootstrapping your business is a lot like backing yourself into corner; it's not comfortable, but it forces you to get up-close-and-personal with your customers and the problems they face daily, providing you with valuable customer feedback, insights, and validation that the problems you're solving, through the products and services you bring to market, are in fact the right ones, giving you the confidence to optimize and scale your business if and when the data validates your assumptions, at which point external investor capital may be strategically necessary to accelerate growth."
--Robbie Jack, Founder of WPGrid