Extreme bootstrapping

By April 30, 2009Uncategorized

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Anthony Feint has a great post today on how to launch a web startup with the minimum possible budget.  He was writing in response to a ReadWriteWeb post on the same topic which suggests the minimum you can get by with is $47,500 – an amount Anthony says is laughably high.  Kevin Rose apparently launched Digg for around $2000:

He paid a freelancer $12 an hour to mockup the site, $99 a month for server space and $1.2k for the domain name.   And on the 5th December 2004 he launched the site and had his very own startup.  Simply amazing!

The full post is well worth a read, even if you have $50k+ to launch his thoughts will help.

To bring out a couple of highlights:

[When Outsourcing] Know what YOU are doing – don’t just know which features you would like to build. Know the technical details on how to build it.  I know php (what my app is developed in) and can speak technically with the developers. This is essential.

One of the most common ways I have seen web startups get into trouble is not having a sufficient grip on the technical details of what their outsource partner is doing for them.  The result: down the road performance problems and difficulty iterating/adding new functionality.

[On Design] I don’t think Kevin had a design when he started Digg and he obviousy didn’t need one. in the end  If you have a solid product the design can come later.

….

I spent a lot of time researching UI (user interface design) and put this knowledge to work.  I suggest you do the same as it could make or break your startup.

Product comes first (i.e. what does your service do for people, what is its utility?) but great UI is also very important.  To get to any kind of scale people have got to enjoy using your site.

All this is important because for many web concepts it is hard to know at the outset what the interest level will be.  The cheaper you can test the better.

  • Hi Nic,

    Another way of managing the bootstrapping approach, of course, is to find yourself a quality coder at the beginning of his/her career and grow the poduct(s) with them. I know it doesn't always work out (and can be horribly expensive as was the case with the original tech behind MoneySupermarket at floatation) but there are real long term benefits if you can persist as a team.

    James

  • Hi James – I agree. In-house tech is better.

  • Thanks Nic for mentioning the post!

    Probably the best thing is to actually do the coding yourself. If I was lucky enough to find a coder just starting out, and was living in the same country – that would be a best case scenario (although possibly expensive).

  • Mat

    Bootstrapping at the lower levels is possible.

    We got ProofHQ to Beta for about $15,000, including graphic design, coding, hosting and hardware. We did core coding ourselves – the secret sauce (source?!!) inside the app, and outsourced everything else. We eventually hired the coders in Poland full time.

    We wouldn't compromise on quality or cost, so it did take longer than we would have liked, but we were aware of that trade off and maanged through it.

  • Great comment. Thanks Mat

  • Mat

    Bootstrapping at the lower levels is possible.

    We got ProofHQ to Beta for about $15,000, including graphic design, coding, hosting and hardware. We did core coding ourselves – the secret sauce (source?!!) inside the app, and outsourced everything else. We eventually hired the coders in Poland full time.

    We wouldn't compromise on quality or cost, so it did take longer than we would have liked, but we were aware of that trade off and maanged through it.

  • Great comment. Thanks Mat