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Bootstrapping Your Business: Start and Grow a Successful Company with Almost No Money Paperback – July 31, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
We come from a background of very little business experience, but a lot of experience with technology. A lot of our business education has been through trial and error. If I had read this book earlier I would have avoided a lot of those errors.
I haven't read Inc a lot or a lot of other business books so I don't know if the information in this book was recycled from those, but that is irrelevant to me. I only care if this book is a good one and in my opinion, it is.
All the other books I have bought on starting and growing a tech business spent too many pages on how to get venture capital, how to find investors, how to please investors, how to solve problems with investors, etc. We have none of those problems. This was the first book that adressed the exact problems that we have had - about 10 problems that have caused us a lot of headache - that we would have avoided if we had read this book earlier. The book offered solutions that I had not thought of but wish I had. From my own experience with the problems that this book warns new business owners about, I think the advice in this book is astute.
So, in conclusion, this book was everything I've been looking for. It is perfect for me because it taught me a lot of things I've needed to know.
I had been in business my entire life (family business, then others) and then started my own profitable, work from home, business but yearned to do something more. I stepped out from my comfort zone and had an idea from my enterprise consulting days on a product that would be needed by every business with a website in the future. Instead of calling around to refine the idea, I spent the money from my original profitable business investing in R&D and prototyping and working insane hours for over five months and through the holidays before I ever called a potential customer. I had some remedial demonstrations and then started identifying and pursuing potential customers. My contacts at some very large companies loved the idea but I learned the painful truth outlined in Greg's book - although they loved the idea, I couldn't get anyone to buy it. My discussions ultimately led to a consulting arrangement which brought in some much-needed cash, but I couldn't get the product sold and had to shelve it. Had I read Greg's book and tested my idea first before my investment, things may have been much different, and I could have lasted longer to get through the sales learning curve. Even worse, three years later a company called Ribbit was purchased by the same company I was pitching for over $105 million that offered essentially the same product I invented four years earlier - ouch!
Flush with cash from a 6-figure, 3-month consulting contract, I was able to bootstrap my next idea which was actually my REALTOR's idea while hanging out at his pool that summer. I worked with my local real estate agent to design a product, and gained early customer commitments to buy if I built it, including his, and even gained press before the product was finished. One of the largest real estate firms in the area contacted me after reading the news article and wanted a demonstration. I scrambled to get our product demonstrable and the presentation went horribly, first with too short of cord for my projector and having to borrow theirs, and next with a database field too short to collect the user agent strings of some new cell phones and crashing my app. I literally had to log into the server and reboot mid-demo (same thing happened at my first trade show conference in San Francisco).
I didn't win that customer, but learned some valuable lessons before spending much money, and then completed the product. Shortly after, one of their largest competitors instead bought our service and has been a customer for over 4 years. We continued to listen to customers and stay small, and this allowed us to survive the recession and industry turmoil. Once we landed some larger, multi-year contracts, I raised some capital and it's been a roller coaster ride ever since. I still revisit this book to keep focus on the basics, however, and sometimes still kick myself for not sticking to the basics and letting the allure of venture capital use up valuable time that should be spent selling. If you do that well, you won't have to work nearly as hard "selling" to potential investors - they'll be selling to you.
From the most experienced executive, to the most green would-be entrepreneur, I would recommend you buy this book and read it a couple times. It is designed as a guide with examples and case studies to justify the advice, and easy-to-remember numbered lists of sales practices, myths, etc. Even after several decades of financial management and years of accounting in college, etc. I still find the example cash flows and balance sheets in this book a good refresher without having to dust off my college textbooks. I consider this book my "bootstrapped business degree" as well.
I now own the hard copy and recently downloaded the Kindle copy. The print on the Kindle copy is a little off (at least for me on the Kindle Fire HD) but reducing the font size helped, by the way. I think that's an Amazon thing and may just be my device. Regardless, get this book!