Yoav Hornung is an award winning young filmmaker and entrepreneur, who mixed cocktails and managed some of the best bars in Tel Aviv. He is the cofounder and CEO of Veed.me, a video production marketplace. He’s also an avid Instagram addict.
The Next Web’s Entrepreneur channel exists because there enough people like us who are tired of working dead end jobs, yearning to be our own bosses and run our own companies. We want to create a business that enables us to pursue our dreams and passion, sharing with the world what can potentially make it a better place.
Just one short year ago, our company, Veed.me, did not even exist. My cofounder and I were two film school graduates, working as bartenders and producing films in our spare time. Struggling to pay our rent waiting tables and shaking cocktails, we decided this was our moment to take a leap and build our own business.
Soon after we started brainstorming, we realized that filmmaking and startups are not that different. They both require the ability to bootstrap and exploit the most of what you have to offer – all at little to no cost. In our case, the product was videos. I am not going to claim that there is a magical shortcut for bootstrapping that applies to all startups, but here are the five bootstrapping basics that kept us alive.
1. Set an attainable level of commitment and expectations
It’s very tempting to want to devote your full time and attention to your startup, even when you’re not funded. Perhaps this is an option when you have enough money to start, but we didn’t – and most startups don’t.
To stay realistic, we decided that we will work on our startup three to four days a week, allowing ourselves two days to work on paying projects which will keep us from starving and allow us to pay rent.
Fact: If you believe in your startup, you’ll find yourself working on it everyday. Yet making a decision to supplement your income makes everyone, including your cofounders, more comfortable taking on different projects – all while still making your startup the priority.
2. Work in strategic places or for strategic clients
Whether your extra income derives from bartending, writing code, or making videos, try to find the path that can help your startup today and/or in the future.
Writing a WordPress website for a small company? These guys might just be your future client, so do a good job and hold on to those business cards. Bartending at the coolest joint in town? This may become the perfect venue for the event you’ll soon hold. Designing a beautiful logo? Maybe you’ve got a barter deal in the making. You never know where your connections can lead, so think strategically with everyone you work with.
3. Join an accelerator
There are many good things about accelerators. Apart from the great value they give you in networking, mentorship, exposure, and ongoing support, oftentimes they’ll give you money too.
Okay, so it’s not a lot of money, but at least an amount that will keep you off the ground for the period of time in which you will most likely make a lot of progress. A quick research show that there are so many accelerators willing to help out new businesses, and if you have a decent startup with an awesome team and a solid idea, there’s no reason you shouldn’t apply and be selected to join one.
For Veed.me, we went to UpWest Labs, an accelerator in Silicon Valley for Israeli startups. Joining UpWest gave our company an amazing opportunity to explore the heart of the tech industry world, create great relationships with intelligent people, while making a lot of progress with our product thanks to on ongoing feedback from our target market.
4. Go into debt, take loans – show how much you believe in it
For many young startups, one of the unavoidable struggles is money. No matter how hard you bootstrap, sometimes your second job isn’t cutting it and you still need more funding to support your startup. It’s absolutely frustrating.
As we all know, working on a startup is a never-ending roller coaster that puts you through a lot of “belief tests.” How much do you believe in your product? Do you really want to do it? Is it all worth the effort?
Running out of money is one of those tests because it truly forces you to answer the questions for yourself. It’s hard, and it has to be balanced, but when bootstrapping you should prepare yourself for the moment where you’ll have to take a loan – either from the bank, family, friends and, sometimes, all of the above.
We admit that we’ve had to do it. It wasn’t ideal, but you can’t be ashamed to ask for help in order to pursue your passion. Instead, consider it another barrier you passed on your way to fulfilling your dreams. Hope and belief are the key words you should never forget.
5. Take it to the crowd
Crowdfunding is another method of getting money for your business. It’s also simultaneously a great marketing tool; in order to crowdfund successfully, you have to be social, get your project shared, and reach the crowd. There are some do’s and don’ts that you should read about before deciding to crowdfund, but the first rule of thumb for you here will be… to think of the perks!
Relate your perks to the product you’re building, make it appealing whether it’s hardware, a product, or a service. Get people to believe in your vision, and offer incentivized rewards for contributing to your project. For Veed.me, we decided that people will get a custom made video (created by us) for prices that are ultra affordable. When you think about it, no matter what you’re building, you have something to offer the crowd.
Our crowdfunding campaign got us great exposure, new clients, and, at the moment of writing this, $10k out of the $30k we are trying to raise. That is a heck of a lot more than what we could have done bartending two nights a week.
5+. (Almost) Everything is legitimate
Remember, bootstrapping has no rules. Every one of us has a different approach and a diversely creative mind. You must always remember that it is possible. With creative methods about it (take Eric Simons, for example), bootstrapping can not only keep you away from starving, but can also get you some great exposure, new fans, and boost your progress. Good luck!
Have some more bootstrapping ideas? We would love to hear them.