A community for the bootstrappers

When we launched Perch, almost three years ago, we had to learn a lot of things and quickly. Despite having a successful services business in edgeofmyseat.com we had never launched a product. In many ways it was like setting up in business all over again, and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

We’re not interested in investment. We’re not a startup, we’re essentially a small software company. We “bootstrapped” Perch, out of profit from our service business, and it has been turning a profit since day one. However despite not being interested in investment I am very envious of the mutual support network that builds up around startup incubators and communities. Much of the focus around things like Y Combinator and the Brooklyn Beta Summer Camp is to get the startup to a point where it can get more investment. This is a reasonable goal, just not our goal. It does make me wonder if it would be possible to create a community of self-funded software companies based on the practical support we could offer each other.

It seems that companies who are developing and launching products without investment could do with working together even more so than invested companies. After all, we have to fund everything from our own pockets, usually can’t afford to go on a hiring spree to bring in skills that we need, and so rely on what we already know or can learn quickly. If we could exchange our specific knowledge with other companies that would hopefully benefit all of us.

As an example, I know a lot about payment integration. I can help a less techie company work out the best way to take payment for their digital product. I am not a marketing expert however and I’d love to chat with someone who is, and could give us some ideas as to new ways we could promote our product. An exchange of emails or a couple of phone conversations could probably save each of us a lot of time or potential mistakes.

I haven’t got a lot further than thinking that this could be a good thing. I don’t know if anything like this exists already. Perhaps all this is to start with is a Google group or similar for those of us who run small, self-funded product businesses and would like to chat to similar people and help each other out informally.

It may be I’m the only person who thinks this is a good idea. If you are in a similar situation and think it would be helpful then leave a comment (or contact me via email or Twitter) and with the knowledge that it isn’t just me thinking along these lines I’d start something up.

Emily Heath on the 05 Apr 2012:

I think this is a brilliant idea and is a positive move forward in these times where it seems there is only support for ‘entrepreneurs’ and ‘startups’. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately about all the focus on these kind of businesses, leaving the small/medium/lifestyle business owners out of the loop.

We’ve been talking recently about developing a new online product of sorts and would need help with regards to online payment and video streaming. We have in-house experience in web design, development, content strategy and the like, which we’d be happy to exchange.

Count me in!

Martin Sutherland on the 11 Apr 2012:

I’m using consultancy work to give me time to build my own product; but I have no desire to build a startup and take on investment. I get inspired whenever I go along to my local Hackers and Founders meetups, but I also feel somewhat out of place for thinking small & sustainable. If you start up some kind of group or community for small product business, I’d be interested in joining up!

Graham Ashton on the 21 May 2012:

Nice post.

It seems that companies who are developing and launching products without investment could do with working together even more so than invested companies.

I find that chatting about my work with other bootstrappers helps affirm the direction I’m taking. It also keeps me honest – Lean Startup isn’t the easiest thing to apply to an idea that you care about, but it’s easier to see where you’re going wrong if you explain your reasoning to somebody else.

Chatting with bootstrappers about what they’re up to is equally useful to me. It gets me thinking about a business that’s at a different stage of development to my own, which keeps me aware of the bigger picture.

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