I wrote a book called Billion Dollar Unicorns a few years back. Writing this book took me through the extensive process of talking to entrepreneurs who have built tech companies with valuations above a billion dollars. While there is a tremendous amount of serendipity involved in any extraordinary success story, one recurring theme comes up in these case studies. I am particularly excited to share this nugget because it applies broadly to all classes of entrepreneurial ventures.
Bootstrap first, raise money later.
That’s what Fred Luddy did when he founded ServiceNow back in 2005. Leveraging his domain knowledge and expertise in IT ServiceDesk software, he rapidly acquired 12 customers before raising funding. Initially, he started charging $25 per seat and the 12 customers paid up. He raised $2.5 million in venture capital WITH 12 customers, and ample validation.
Let’s do a thought experiment.
List all the things you want to do with your life if you had additional resources.
How many of these require additional money?
How much additional money do you need to acquire to afford these things?
How many of these require additional time?
Negotiation is a straightforward game. You can only negotiate if you have options.
A long time ago, when I was a young entrepreneur making my way in Silicon Valley, I found myself at the mercy of people who knew I had no option.
I did not have a Green Card.
My negotiating leverage was limited, almost non-existent.
And people took advantage of me.
Let me start with a quote from Marc Andreessen:
“At our venture capital firm we only invest in a sort of Silicon Valley–style tech. We see 3,000 inbound deals a year. And those are inbound and coming through our referral network, so those are sort of prequalified. We can do maybe 15 or 20 investments out of the 3,000 a year. So I like to say our day job is crushing entrepreneurs’ hopes and dreams. Our main skill is saying no, and getting people to not hate us.”
Source: Inside the mind of Marc Andreessen – Fortune Management
Over the last decade and more, I’ve had the privilege of working with a large number of bootstrapped entrepreneurs. These include self-financed companies and also modestly capitalized startups that operate in a capital-efficient manner applying the principles of bootstrapping. [You can review my Bootstrapping course on LinkedIn to recap these.]
For our Seed Capital series of podcasts and blog interviews, I’ve interviewed hundreds of investors, especially micro-VCs and angels who are playing and important role in the early stage game.
As automation devastates the fundamental economic model of the human civilization, we are faced with the option of augmenting the human brain such that ALL unskilled, low-IQ humans become upgraded.
I wrote on this topic last year: Man and Superman: Can Displaced Blue Collar Workers Become Doctors?
Since then, Elon Musk has made public statements about Neuralink, his venture to connect the human brain to computers.
Over the last decade and more, I’ve had the privilege of working with a large number of bootstrapped entrepreneurs. These include self-financed companies and also modestly capitalized startups that operate in a capital-efficient manner applying the principles of bootstrapping. [You can review my Bootstrapping course on LinkedIn to review these.]
For our Seed Capital series of podcasts and blog interviews, I’ve interviewed hundreds of investors, especially micro-VCs and angels who are playing in the early stage game.
I’ve asked all of them the following questions:
The media is currently rife with articles about Facebook’s various nefarious practices and sinister violations of user privacy. Against that backdrop, I would like to invite my readers to a slightly different discussion: How can we use Facebook without Facebook manipulating us?
I am interested in continuing to use Facebook. In various ways, I find the platform useful. However, I have never been big into sharing a lot of personal details on Facebook. You won’t find my birthday listed on the platform, so I do not receive thousands of birthday wishes from random followers. I don’t post a lot of family photos. I will, however, share with you how I use Facebook and my thinking behind those usage models. I am very interested in learning how each of you are using Facebook, what experiments you have conducted, and what conclusions you have drawn.
It is Thanksgiving 2018.
I have lived a fair bit of life already.
I have observed a fair display of human drama.
A few thoughts come to mind, as I sit down to write this piece.
When I was young, I used to think bad things happen to other people.
I don’t think that anymore.
Plenty of bad things have happened to us.
So, in theory, more can happen.
I certainly do not feel entitled to a no-adversity existence.
But I make it a point to focus on all the things that make my life wonderful.
On August 23, 2013, my Harvard Business Review article, The Problem with Incubators and How to Solve Them, was published. At the time, there were 7,500 incubators and accelerators in the market.
There is a very real knowledge gap in the early stage start-up game, on both sides of the table. First-time entrepreneurs lack the seasoning to captain a steady ship through turbulent waters. Inexperienced friends and family (and, increasingly, crowdsourced investors) lack the ability to gauge the viability of a business, or to mentor naïve entrepreneurs.
This knowledge gap, I have come to believe, is best filled by savvy incubators. However, there are over 7,500 business incubators around the world. Most of them fail.
I don’t know what the number is today. I do know that the phenomenon has now spread globally.