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Best of Bootstrapping: Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds

Posted on Friday, Jun 12th 2020

Faction CEO Luke Norris has executed a tremendously effective Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later strategy from Colorado.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Luke Norris: I was born in Nevada. 

Sramana Mitra: What’s your background vis-a-vis education?

Luke Norris: I’m a high school graduate. I was lucky to go to private school from K through 12. I was able to graduate rather early in high school.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do after that?

Luke Norris: At 15, I had my first company. It was a computer refurbishing business helping small to medium-sized businesses upgrade the computers they had. Soon thereafter, I got a full-time job at the age of 17 working with US West in their rollout of DSL. 

Sramana Mitra: What timeframe in the history of the technology industry are we talking about? What years are we talking?

Luke Norris: I graduated in about 1997. I would have gotten that job right around 1999. 

Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay there?

Luke Norris: I stayed there for about two years. Then I transferred to another high-tech company that did HIPAA compliance. That brought me out to Denver, Colorado. In 2001, I accepted a job with SGI. They were the technology company for the early ‘2000s.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do for SGI?

Luke Norris: I was a Sales Engineer helping them sell and implement their largest supercomputer and web interfaces all over the world. I did work with government. I did work with large universities building supercomputers. I was the guy in the back-end building out all the network.

Sramana Mitra: How did that happen? Given your background, how did you manage to weave your way into this kind of an environment?

Luke Norris: It was my second attempt at bootstrapping. Instead of the traditional college route, I immersed myself in the technical certifications – mainly Cisco networking. Right around 1999 to 2000, that was the hot thing to have.

Not only did I get three to four of the more advanced Cisco networking degrees, I also was able to get the security degree. I got that at the age of 19. They changed the requirements to have five years of work experience after I received it. With all those certifications, SGI was interested.

Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay at SGI?

Luke Norris: I stayed there until 2003 to 2004. The economy had collapsed in late 2001. Although it still had a great balance sheet, SGI was definitely in rapid decline. That allowed me to go over to a company called Factual Data.

As the economy goes down, people are able to take advantage of rebuying homes. I worked there as a security officer. Over nine months, it got acquired by a security company called Kroll, and then got acquired by Marsh.

I rapidly moved through the ranks of both organizations doing some of the corporate security for Marsh. A tremendous level of exposure was given to me in the New York high financial scene at that time. 

Our conversation continues here.

This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping

. Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Why is Bootstrapping Important?
. How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently?
. Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings
. Excess is NOT Required for Success
. Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later
. Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies
. The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping
. Bootstrapping to Unicorns
. Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million
. Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue
. Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million
. Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy
. How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million
. Bootstrapping with a Paycheck
. How CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan
. Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses
. How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million
. Bootstrapping with Services
. How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million
. How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana
. How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million
. Death by Overfunding
. How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+
. How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck
. TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage
. The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance
. BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering
. Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania
. Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million
. SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida
. Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK
. Ownership Matters
. Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland
. Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado
. Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada
. Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia
. Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand
. PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina
. Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits
. Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M
. Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million?
. Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M
. Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success
. From a Small Town to $12 Million
. Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million
. Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million
. Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later
. Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US
. English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company
. Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee
. Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US
. Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M
. ActiveCampaign CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $40M
. Alteryx Bootstrapped with Services to a Public Unicorn
. Inspyrus Bootstraps Using Services to an Awesome Business Model
. CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia
. Wiredrive CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $10M
. Scaling to Over $10M by Bootstrapping Using Services
. Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company
. ButcherBox CEO Bootstraps a Perishable Meat Business to Significant Scale
. Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M
. Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia
. From Laid-off Engineer to Successful Startup CEO
. Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Bootstraps to Exit
. BannerBuzz CEO Bootstraps to $35M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Wisconsin
. Best Tactic for B2B Startups
. Bootstrapping by Piggybacking from Romania
. Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds
. Bootstrap to +$10M First, Raise Money Later
. Madwire CEO Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later to $120M
. Bootstrap Using Services First, Raise Money Later
. Wonderful Bootstrap with a Paycheck Story
. RushOrderTees CEO Bootstraps to $23M
. Bootstrapping with Freemium and Free Trials to $13M
. Bootstrapping, Pivoting, Gaining Liquidity, Scaling to $100M+
. Bootstrapping with Affiliate Marketing
. Bootstrap to Exit, Bootstrap Again, Then Raise VC Money

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