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Bootstrapping a Company to
$1 Million a Year
Do you really want
to do this?
Really?
REALLY??!?!
Risks
1. Burning all of your savings and failing
2. Wasting the some or all of the prime of your life
3. Giving up your sa...
Rewards
1. Financial Independence
2. Complete freedom of time
3. Giving up your safe and well paid job and benefits
My Philosophy
1. Pay it forward
2. Learn to take punches and take the high road
3. Discover your personal weaknesses and b...
Is Bootstrapping for you?
Central Question: “How much money will it take to build a
company that actually makes money (or ...
Why I bootstrapped
1. Was able to build MVP myself
2. Rejected by investors
3. Wanted to retain control
Why I bootstrapped
1. Was able to build MVP myself
2. Rejected by investors
3. Wanted to retain control
What I didn’t know...
What we’ll cover
1. History
2. Acquiring Initial Customers
3. Corporate Organization
4. Software Stack & Tools we use
5. L...
How did this happen
And how can this happen to you?
First Attempts
NetFlix for Nintendo Games
Way, way, way ahead of it’s time
Failure
Lessons Learned
1. Record keeping and Backups are important.
a. 7 year olds keep sloppy records.
b. Other 7 year olds will...
BookTraderOnline.com
Online Book Trading Website for College Students
Failure
Lessons Learned
1. Timing is a factor (don’t try to raise money during a
financial collapse)
2. You can’t just “build it a...
TelexMed
- The “napster” of medical photography
- Uninsurable
- Almost exited to a Pharmaceutical company
Failure
Lessons Learned
1. Legal Due Diligence is boring and lame…but worth it.
2. Having 3 part time founders probably won’t work...
SnoRhino
- After market ski chair lift attachment to make
snowboarders more comfortable
Failure
Lessons Learned
1. Having 1 part time founder still isn’t good enough.
Everyone needs to be all in.
2. Founders should com...
Custom Software Consulting
- Contractor for Adobe Marketplace
- Made a Digg/Reddit clone for a private NGO
Tie
Lessons Learned
1. Work on projects that further your goals
2. Make sure your customers can and do actually pay you
(how t...
Great Dental Websites
- Favor for my Dad
- Uncles want in
- A few colleague referred
- First real customers
- Traction
- Q...
Planning
Funding & Runway
- How much $ do you need to save in order to launch?
- Will you be able to make money right away?
Funding...
Planning: Quitting your job
1. Me: Company revenue = 50% of annual salary
2. Me: 50% salary nest egg saved
3. Me: Consulti...
Planning: Rough Business Plan
Original Plan
1. Build a software platform for making DIY locally optimized
small business w...
Revised Rough Business Plan
1. Build a software platform for making locally optimized
small business websites to be primar...
Find Mentors &
Network Yesterday
- One of my biggest mistakes
- Identify your weak points and seek mentors
- No matter wha...
Finding Customers
1. Picking a niche
2. Figuring out what the niche really wants
3. Our unsuccessful attempts to expand be...
Beta Customers
1. You owe them services provided at low profit to at-cost
or for free (Acquire at any cost)
2. They owe yo...
Learning when to say no
1. You don’t have to build everything your customers ask for
a. You will get awesome ideas
b. You ...
Real Customers
1. Should come organically from referrals
a. Constantly get testimonials, and ask and ask again
2. Competin...
Marketing to Communities
The 4 Laws
1. Don’t think of it as marketing
2. Be present and be useful
3. Never, ever, ever, ev...
Partnerships
1. Our success
2. Our many failures
Thoughts on “launching”
• Get early feedback
• Get your customers to pay something even if it’s a
trivial amount.
• Focus ...
Hiring
Hiring
Getting People to work for you with little $
1. Use part time contractors
2. Gradually expand hours and scope of work
3. P...
Hiring a first FT Employee
1. Why go FTE at all?
a. IRS
b. Quality / reliability
2. Qualities to look for
Culture
Corporate Culture
1. What you create will highly impact the type of employees
you want to attract and retain. Always keep ...
Our Culture - Based on my experiences...
1. Low supervision
a. Requires diligence
2. Customers/ Service prioritized
a. Eve...
Corporate Culture Influences
1. Ricardo Semler - SEMCO (Brazil)
a. How company should be organized
b. Transparency
c. Mana...
Getting Feedback from your team
1. Borders on insubordination
2. Decisions and process are very transparent
3. Big decisio...
Software & Tools
1. Custom CMS Software Platform (Open Source Stack)
2. Teamwork PM (Project Management)
3. Google Apps (e...
Biggest Failures
1. A few hiring decisions
2. Numerous failed partnership attempts
3. Wasted feature development
4. It too...
Best Moves
1. Keeping focus on our Niche
2. Relentlessly keeping the customer first even when
we lost money
3. Believing i...
Stats & Charts
Accomplishments
1. Nearly 400 clients in 3 countries
2. Very diversified revenue stream
3. Company has already passed esca...
Headcount
2012
1. 5 contractors
2015
2. 11 FTE
3. 15 Contractors
Challenges Ahead
1. Better financial modeling and planning
2. Improving our own marketing
3. Expanding to different vertic...
Twitter: @jeffgladnick
email: jeff@greatdentalwebsites.com
Thank You!
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio
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Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio

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Jeff Gladnick bootstrapped a Hybrid SaaS/Agency company, Great Dental Websites with no outside investment and grew annual revenue to $1MM/yr. He'll share the great decisions he made as well as the terrible ones, the software stack he used and the strategy to acquire the first 200 customers without spending a single dollar on marketing.

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Boostrapping a company to 1 million in revenue - Denver Startup Week Presentatio

  1. 1. Bootstrapping a Company to $1 Million a Year
  2. 2. Do you really want to do this?
  3. 3. Really?
  4. 4. REALLY??!?!
  5. 5. Risks 1. Burning all of your savings and failing 2. Wasting the some or all of the prime of your life 3. Giving up your safe and well paid job and benefits
  6. 6. Rewards 1. Financial Independence 2. Complete freedom of time 3. Giving up your safe and well paid job and benefits
  7. 7. My Philosophy 1. Pay it forward 2. Learn to take punches and take the high road 3. Discover your personal weaknesses and build support structures to deal with them
  8. 8. Is Bootstrapping for you? Central Question: “How much money will it take to build a company that actually makes money (or breaks even)?”
  9. 9. Why I bootstrapped 1. Was able to build MVP myself 2. Rejected by investors 3. Wanted to retain control
  10. 10. Why I bootstrapped 1. Was able to build MVP myself 2. Rejected by investors 3. Wanted to retain control What I didn’t know then but know now… 1. Keeps you scrappy and disciplined, especially with money 2. Drastically better options later if you DO raise money
  11. 11. What we’ll cover 1. History 2. Acquiring Initial Customers 3. Corporate Organization 4. Software Stack & Tools we use 5. Looking back - Good & Bad Decisions 6. Future plans
  12. 12. How did this happen And how can this happen to you?
  13. 13. First Attempts
  14. 14. NetFlix for Nintendo Games Way, way, way ahead of it’s time
  15. 15. Failure
  16. 16. Lessons Learned 1. Record keeping and Backups are important. a. 7 year olds keep sloppy records. b. Other 7 year olds will lie about misplacing your merchandise 2. Shut down gracefully, however, it’s unlikely you’ll be sued as a 7 year old
  17. 17. BookTraderOnline.com Online Book Trading Website for College Students
  18. 18. Failure
  19. 19. Lessons Learned 1. Timing is a factor (don’t try to raise money during a financial collapse) 2. You can’t just “build it and they will come”
  20. 20. TelexMed - The “napster” of medical photography - Uninsurable - Almost exited to a Pharmaceutical company
  21. 21. Failure
  22. 22. Lessons Learned 1. Legal Due Diligence is boring and lame…but worth it. 2. Having 3 part time founders probably won’t work. You need to be all in.
  23. 23. SnoRhino - After market ski chair lift attachment to make snowboarders more comfortable
  24. 24. Failure
  25. 25. Lessons Learned 1. Having 1 part time founder still isn’t good enough. Everyone needs to be all in. 2. Founders should come from different backgrounds (maybe not all 3 engineers) 3. Spending TOO MUCH on legal fees and IPs is bad too 4. Someone must become a master of sales, this won’t just happen
  26. 26. Custom Software Consulting - Contractor for Adobe Marketplace - Made a Digg/Reddit clone for a private NGO
  27. 27. Tie
  28. 28. Lessons Learned 1. Work on projects that further your goals 2. Make sure your customers can and do actually pay you (how to collect money)
  29. 29. Great Dental Websites - Favor for my Dad - Uncles want in - A few colleague referred - First real customers - Traction - Quitting the job
  30. 30. Planning
  31. 31. Funding & Runway - How much $ do you need to save in order to launch? - Will you be able to make money right away? Funding sources - Savings - Consulting services (try and pick things that can be partially re-used for your startup if possible) - Grants (University, StartupChile, State Gov, Kickstarter)
  32. 32. Planning: Quitting your job 1. Me: Company revenue = 50% of annual salary 2. Me: 50% salary nest egg saved 3. Me: Consulting on side for 6 months or 4. Key initial customer acquisition But you may want to form your company while you have a job
  33. 33. Planning: Rough Business Plan Original Plan 1. Build a software platform for making DIY locally optimized small business websites 2. Build such an amazing piece of software that it practically sells itself! 3. Use Dentists as beta group 4. Expand to every group 5. Cash out
  34. 34. Revised Rough Business Plan 1. Build a software platform for making locally optimized small business websites to be primarily built by an agency 2. Build an agency 3. Use Dentists as beta group 4. Expand carefully to select groups under right circumstance 5. No exit plan
  35. 35. Find Mentors & Network Yesterday - One of my biggest mistakes - Identify your weak points and seek mentors - No matter what your business is you need to network
  36. 36. Finding Customers 1. Picking a niche 2. Figuring out what the niche really wants 3. Our unsuccessful attempts to expand beyond our niche
  37. 37. Beta Customers 1. You owe them services provided at low profit to at-cost or for free (Acquire at any cost) 2. They owe you feedback and referrals a. Check your assumptions b. Adapt & Refine 3. Thank people for feedback and take it with humility 4. Call your customers from time to time, at random, with no agenda
  38. 38. Learning when to say no 1. You don’t have to build everything your customers ask for a. You will get awesome ideas b. You will get terrible ideas 2. New features/R&D work should fit your long term goals 3. This is an art
  39. 39. Real Customers 1. Should come organically from referrals a. Constantly get testimonials, and ask and ask again 2. Competing on price - probably a bad idea 3. Work hard to keep and acquire customers. Be Awesome. 4. How we got our first real customers...
  40. 40. Marketing to Communities The 4 Laws 1. Don’t think of it as marketing 2. Be present and be useful 3. Never, ever, ever, ever sell anything 4. Manners matter - always take the high road Be patient, it takes time!
  41. 41. Partnerships 1. Our success 2. Our many failures
  42. 42. Thoughts on “launching” • Get early feedback • Get your customers to pay something even if it’s a trivial amount. • Focus groups can take you only so far - money is the true vote of confidence. • Launch to public when it’s “good enough” • Avoid failure to launch
  43. 43. Hiring
  44. 44. Hiring
  45. 45. Getting People to work for you with little $ 1. Use part time contractors 2. Gradually expand hours and scope of work 3. Personally supervise everything to ensure quality 4. You and your team MUST do a good job on the first crop of customers. Failure is not an option. 5. Some of your contractors will eventually become FTE 6. Trading services with customers and other companies
  46. 46. Hiring a first FT Employee 1. Why go FTE at all? a. IRS b. Quality / reliability 2. Qualities to look for
  47. 47. Culture
  48. 48. Corporate Culture 1. What you create will highly impact the type of employees you want to attract and retain. Always keep this in mind. 2. Plan for the future 3. Identify and promote employees who best embody culture to leadership
  49. 49. Our Culture - Based on my experiences... 1. Low supervision a. Requires diligence 2. Customers/ Service prioritized a. Even for rude customers 3. Plan for the future 4. Identify and promote employees who best embody culture to leadership 5. Lead by example as much as possible
  50. 50. Corporate Culture Influences 1. Ricardo Semler - SEMCO (Brazil) a. How company should be organized b. Transparency c. Management Style and who makes decisions d. How work is done or not done 2. Tim Ferriss a. More freedom of how work gets done 3. Past places I’ve worked a. Avoiding the bad, keeping the good
  51. 51. Getting Feedback from your team 1. Borders on insubordination 2. Decisions and process are very transparent 3. Big decisions discussed as a group 4. Veto power reserved but seldom realized
  52. 52. Software & Tools 1. Custom CMS Software Platform (Open Source Stack) 2. Teamwork PM (Project Management) 3. Google Apps (email, file sharing) 4. Slack (chat/comms) (alernatives...Ryver?) 5. FluentStream (VoIP) 6. Chargeover (billing) Xero (accounting - myeh) YOU CAN NEGOTIATE
  53. 53. Biggest Failures 1. A few hiring decisions 2. Numerous failed partnership attempts 3. Wasted feature development 4. It took us 3-4 tries to get an efficient billing system
  54. 54. Best Moves 1. Keeping focus on our Niche 2. Relentlessly keeping the customer first even when we lost money 3. Believing in the platform and forcing adoption 4. Realizing the need to build a hybrid SaaS-Agency Model 5. A few hiring decisions 6. B2B instead of consumer focused
  55. 55. Stats & Charts
  56. 56. Accomplishments 1. Nearly 400 clients in 3 countries 2. Very diversified revenue stream 3. Company has already passed escape velocity 4. Continued revenue growth and expansion 5. Our software platform has matured considerably
  57. 57. Headcount 2012 1. 5 contractors 2015 2. 11 FTE 3. 15 Contractors
  58. 58. Challenges Ahead 1. Better financial modeling and planning 2. Improving our own marketing 3. Expanding to different verticals 4. International Expansion 5. Expanding our offering to include more “agency” services 6. HR & Staff issues 7. Changing our Name?
  59. 59. Twitter: @jeffgladnick email: jeff@greatdentalwebsites.com Thank You!

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