Meet the founders – Four budget-stretching tips for startups on a shoestring

By Tim Hinchliffe October 21, 2016

Multi-million dollar VC rounds may make the headlines but they’re not the key to breaking even. With a little cash and a lot of skill, you can bootstrap your way to the big time – after all, 99% of startups are self funded – and follow in the footsteps of some of today’s most disruptive brands.

From Goldstar to Github, a little “in the red” fear didn’t stop some of today’s most successful startups going from zero to hero – proof that the difference between make or break is all in your approach, not in your bank balance.

Here, four self-funded, shoestring-stretching startups tell you how they did it.


Embrace your Freedom

No VCs breathing down your neck? No problem.

Million-dollar funding makes the clock start ticking, impacting everything from KPIs to company culture overnight.

While no startup has the “luxury” of time – many fail due to launching too slowly – capitalize on your freedom, quite literally, while you can by doing the following:

“Take advantage of the freedom to experiment building your company’s values and culture without having to be accountable to someone else, and use the absence of a cushion from investors to reinforce performance and growth through a self-accountability system.”

Agnieszka Wilk of crowd-sourced interior design platform, Decorilla, believes this approach was key to their success.

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Ask a Friend

Friends and personal and professional networks are often the result of years of investment, so don’t be afraid to draw on their wealth of knowledge and expertise when the time is right.

After all, the number one way to burn through cash quickly is to hire too many people, and a few freebies will often carry you closer to that milestone than you think…

“Use your network. Friends and family are often more than happy to either lend a hand or provide their expertise for free,” says Sharrifah Al-Salem of Bright Day. “It goes a long way!”

Invest Wisely in Experts

While an essential part of the startup journey is about becoming an expert – in pretty much every area possible – knowing where to draw the line is also key.

Is it really worth you spending two days mastering the basics of HTML when you can pay a developer to build a bespoke wordpress site in two hours? Exactly.

Bootstrapping isn’t about spending nothing, it’s about spending wisely:

“After a few startups I’ve learned it’s tempting to try and do everything yourself,” says Sempad founder, Peter Elmhirst, “but step back and determine where your time and money is best spent. There are specialists for a reason so if you’re swamped and your time can be better spent elsewhere, pay them.”

Double-Check Your Assumptions

You’re a startup so you’re providing a solution to a problem, right? But do you know that problem personally? Inside and out?

No? Time to go undercover and refresh your first-hand market experience – after all, if you’re trying to solve problems you don’t understand, or building something that nobody wants, no amount of scrimping and saving is going to carry you to launch:

“Do not hesitate to land consulting gigs to learn the business problem more closely,” recommends Tallyfy founder, Amit Kothari.  “It will give you both critical insight and critical revenue to power ahead with product development.”