I’m a part-time entrepreneur, and I’ve referenced in the past how I’m particularly interested in bootstrapping businesses. This fascination has actually come from the experience I’ve been having working with Justin, Austin, and Hunter on Anchor Tab. Bootstrapping a business is hard, because you’ve got to make hard choices about what to do and what not to do to get something out the door that people will pay for. From an operational standpoint, we have a very specific advantage over some other businesses out there.
Jesting aside, there’s a lot of skill and luck that goes into what I’ve taken to calling “Bootstrap Checkpoint Zero,” which is the point at which your business isn’t incurring any additional debt each month. We’ve reached that point with Anchor Tab.
The first phases of a bootstrapped business are all about learning. You more or less try to validate the broad idea with customers, then you sit down to make the MVP in a semi-vacuum. You debate over what’s actually minimally viable, whether or not to hire a professional designer, how much to budget for different aspects, and things are constantly changing.
Towards the end of the construction of our MVP, we entered a pilot stage and started bringing on our first five customers and try to take their temperature towards the product. It was a moment of truth to see how far off track we got in our MVP building. We got some great feedback during that phase that helped us prioritize the packaging that we did for our beta. Then we launched the beta. We gave around 30 users, mostly strangers, access to our product for free. We got more feedback. Some people loved it, some people didn’t, but people were talking us, and that’s what we needed.
So we went from having only the team poking around the product to 30 people in a short period of time – friends and strangers, doing it live. That can be scary, but it’s always needed. Here are some of the things we learned as a result:
The feedback resulted in a lot of work for me in updating the product, making it more usable, adding those finishing touches that make it feel like a coherent user experience all around. Then, we launched the MVP with a free month of service for all users who participated in the beta at the start of April.
At that point it was a waiting game. We released a whole batch of new features to our users and let them play with it. We just needed to wait and see what would happen. As it turns out, we had enough people enjoy the beta and sign on after the 30 day trial that we’re covering our monthly systems operations expenses. We’ve also continued receiving valuable feedback.
One of the best things at this point is that we’re not driving our priority list, our current and potential customers are. So, what tops our priorities at this point?
The actual list of things on deck is much larger, but those are at the top for now. Exciting times are ahead, to be sure.
As always, leave me some comment love below. I’d love to hear from you. You can also comment in and up vote the Hacker News discussion. See you next week, kids.