The term “bootstrapping” has applicability to many things, according to Wikipedia. But, at least in business, it means “to start a business without external help (capital).” You can read more about that specific meaning, also called “bootstrap funding,” on this Wikipedia page — lots of helpful information there.
But what got me thinking about bootstrapping was a few things: first, I posted recently on the topic Raising Startup Money? Here’s 20 Ways — and a large number of those ways qualify as bootstrapping. Yes, the money you save by bootstrapping is real money! But, after that, I saw a blog post by Jeff Cornwall, who heads the entrepreneurial studies program at Belmont University (and used to teach here in the Twin Cities at the University of St. Thomas). In his blog post, which was called “Why Do We Bootstrap?”, he said he’d just begun working on a new book on this topic. The interesting thing Jeff has found in his work is that entrepreneurs bootstrap for a wide variety of reasons, and only some of them relate to necessity.
The other reasons I find the topic of bootstrapping interesting are (1) I’ve practiced this religion myself for many years, and (2) I think there’s especially a need here in Minnesota for startups to get more educated on this topic. Why? Because, try as we might, startup venture funding is never going to flow as freely here as it does in Silicon Valley, or Boston, or Austin, or you name it. Entrepreneurs in these parts, and in so many areas of the country away from the major VC hubs, have to be one thing above all else: clever. And there’s a lot they can learn from people who study this phenomenon (like Jeff), and people who’ve practiced it for a long time. We have tons of those here in Minnesota (and all over, really), including serial entrepreneurs who’ve proved bootstrapping works, over and over again. Many of these guys (and girls) are friends of mine, and they have accumulated a large amount of knowledge on bootstrapping based on hard experience. The key, of course, if you’re a budding entrepreneur, is to learn how to tap into the expertise of those folks.
There’s an easier way to begin getting educated, though. In addition to Jeff Cornwall’s book, when it comes out (UPDATE: it was published in January 2009), you might want to start with a book Jeff recommends by Seth Godin, called the “Bootstrapper’s Bible.” It’s not new, but it is definitely a classic — here’s some background on it from Seth’s blog.
But here’s the big tip: DON’T BUY IT! That’s right, you can download the FREE ebook version — a “manifesto” as Seth calls it — as a PDF file, right here.
Is that cheap enough for ya?? Better go grab it while you can, before he changes his mind. Then, read up, go forth, and continue bootstrapping!