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Ask HN: How to Bootstrap a Startup Effectively?

Title is self-explanatory

25 pointsquotz posted 3 months ago20 Comments
krm01 said 3 months ago:

The best way is to build a product for a single customer, who will pay you upfront (early bird discount) for the solution with the agreement that it's your product (not client work). Make that one customer super happy and then find more people that have the same problem you just built a solution for.

quotz said 3 months ago:

What if its in the consumer market?

krm01 said 3 months ago:

Avoid that at all cost if you are trying to bootstrap a startup effectively.

soneca said 3 months ago:

I don't think the title is self-explanatory at all. It is a very broad question that could have been answered through a lot of different angles.

You want advice on how do you effectively manage your time? How do you effectively manage your money? How do you manage your effectively team/contractors? How do you effectively find a good product? Good customers?

quotz said 3 months ago:

I am sorry for not explaining a bit more in the title. I wanted to ask about finding ways of funding for a bootstrapped startup. Without savings, bootstrapping seems pretty terrifying

soneca said 3 months ago:

Then I think krm01 answer is the right path: "best way is to build a product for a single customer, who will pay you upfront".

About it being B2C product, there you have the exact reason why it is better to bootstrap B2B products than B2C.

Building a B2B product is how you bootstrap a startup effectively.

If building a B2C is "non-negotiable", then you should try to minimize the cost of building a product the most. For example, not coding a product.

There is a new site that aims at this sort of solution: https://www.makerpad.co. Validating business without code. Might be useful.

shanehoban said 3 months ago:

1. Build a product customers want (kind of important)

2. Write efficient code (have low technical debt too while your at it) so you can keep hosting and operating costs low

3. Get users to use and buy your product

4. To become profitable: either charge enough to reach profitability, or sell more to reach profitability

muzani said 3 months ago:

The goal is often to hit "ramen profitablity" as soon as possible.

If you're doing enterprise, get that one customer who's paying you enough to sustain yourself, and make them very happy.

For consumer facing, find something you can build 10x better that people are already willing to pay for. Then beeline towards building and selling it. If they aren't buying it, it's not valuable enough.

There are exceptions like reddit, but you can't really bootstrap those. Anything with network effects needs a very long runway.

tnolet said 3 months ago:

Take your time. Overnight success is a myth. Spend more time on marketing than coding. Talk to users a lot.

ezekg said 3 months ago:

This! Try to focus your energy on finding your market and less on throwing your product at tire-kickers from Product Hunt, Reddit and Hacker News. As a bootstrapper, you're not looking for affirmation from your peers, you're looking for customers. Definitely put a ton of effort into talking to prospects/customers -- even if you just receive radio silence in return -- it is so important to have these conversations even if they're super rare. Experiment with different marketing avenues to see what sticks.

I wrote about this more here: https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/2fa6c5e1eb

saran945 said 3 months ago:

bootstrap a startup is an art. no decision is final, many of your decisions would become invalid in days.

if the product is for general public then 1) can be started as a side project 2) Friends and family may use first 3) Experiment the idea with 1000 lines or less code. 4) Don't prefect the idea, let it evolve 5) Don't go for startup events, mentors, investment etc 6) No co-founders until you get n number of users 7) Where can you get early users ? 8) do you use the product yourself ? 9) simplicity of the product is the key 10) no one is waiting, no one is caring your idea until it gets some traction. the list goes on..

many ideas i stopped in the middle, because myself not interested to continue. because ideas seems to good in one time, later it is boring to do.

davismwfl said 3 months ago:

The best way I have learned and follow myself is find clients willing to pay THEN build the product. I have used powerpoint, PDF's, Balsamiq and lots of manual ways to demonstrate ideas to potential clients before code ever was typed into an IDE.

quotz said 3 months ago:

What if the market is the general public, the consumers?

davismwfl said 3 months ago:

Still the same, test the idea before you invest lots of time. It is even easier when the market is consumers usually. Go to the Gym, Starbucks etc ask people if they'd use it, pay for it etc. Talk to humans face to face to get a read on their feedback. Collect their email and name to offer them a free preview when the product launches. If they resist, they weren't really interested and just trying to be nice.

If you get good initial feedback from people you talk to then it is good to setup an online signup form and do some simple advertising with FB/Google and see if you can get 500 or 1000 signups. And get feedback on the features so you know what to build. If you have good traction with signups and solid feedback move forward.

If instead you get very few signups as a percentage of visits then you aren't on the right track. Change the approach and retest before you build.

The #1 mistake I think most developers make is trying to build a product before they have a client/market.

davismwfl said 3 months ago:

I do want to clarify one point, consumer market is not an easy market in general. My "even easier" comment is about getting initial product validation because you don't have a lot of gatekeepers like B2B can have before you talk to a decision maker.

Salesdude said 3 months ago:

Read the books:

The Lean Startup

Four Steps to Epiphany

Both books will give you everything you need. The rest comes down to your personality and your tech/sales skills.

rootVIII said 3 months ago:

do all the coding yourself... do it in Python... use Stripe as your checkout vendor:)

quotz said 3 months ago:

That would probably take me 3 years all in all :D I need an option where I can establish a cofounding team to work on it with me, and we all need to be ramen profitable

throw03172019 said 3 months ago:

One thing I learned over the past years is a v1 should be the bare minimum to get sales. You can add all the bells and whistles later.

throw03172019 said 3 months ago:

If it takes you 3 years to build a product alone, you’re doing something wrong.