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unCon 2013 Session: BeeGees at the MassTLC unCon:

“Stayin’ Alive” through Bootstrapping
for Startups
 
Moderators: Joe Tagliente, Gopinion &
Chris Muto, Gopinion
One of the sessions at the 2013 MassTLC
unConference I most enjoyed was titled “Staying Alive: Bootstrapping Your
Tech Startup”
As dancing to the BeeGees was a guilty
pleasure of many of my friends back in the day, I was drawn to the session to
see what the Brothers Gibb might be able to teach about building a startup on
little money.
Moderated by Joe Tagliente & Chris Muto
of Gopinion (www.gopinion.com), a
dozen or so people from the MassTLC community gathered together to compare
notes, share lessons learned on how to sustain and grow a self-funded software
company through its precarious early stages.
As two out of three co-founders of Gopinion,
Joe and Chris convened this session to solicit feedback from participants for
proven tips and techniques to build a product and stay in business without
giving away the store. Coincidentally, these first-time entrepreneurs know a
thing or two about soliciting opinions as their company (Gopinion) is focused
on helping businesses to capture critical customer feedback. Gopinion’s mobile
Micro-Surveys look a good idea at the right time. As those of us who’ve endured
them know through painful experience, conventional surveys are long, boring and
often don’t even make sense!
The session started when Joe and Chris opened
their kimono by honestly admitting a challenge faced by all software
startups:  how to hire or contract development talent to build products with
little available cash. With programming talent a precious commodity, good
coders can command high cash compensation and are hard to land.
The Bootstrapping session was spirited,
informative and very interactive. Virtually everyone in the group weighed in at
some point with thoughts and/or questions.
If you’re in a startup yourself, you’ll be
interested in some of these bootstrapping ideas that came up:
1) Explore programs at your alma
mater
Ben
Maitland-Lewis
(Founder & Partner of Pretty
Instant
and “Founding Alchemist” of PressKit.to)
described how the IDEA: Northeastern University’s Venture Accelerator awarded
his company a $20K grant to help fund one of his companies.
2) Take advantage of Boston’s position as the
world’s higher education capital
With 60+ universities and colleges in Greater
Boston, there’s no place on earth with a greater concentration of brainpower, including
eager undergrads and grad students who are ready and able to provide their
services “cheaply.”
From internships to co-op programs and summer
jobs—there’s affordable talent in abundance in this town!
3) Accelerate a healthy business
If you’re building a healthcare product or
service you’ll be interested in applying to Healthbox, an “Accelerator
Program” that supports startups in the US, Ireland and the UK. One of the
session attendees (Scott Hebert, CEO and Co-founder of TheraVid Inc.) spoke highly on
how Healthbox helped him to translate his expertise as a Physical Therapist
into a promising digital health startup that provides PT-prescribed injury rehabilitation
programs that help engage patients and get them better, faster and at home.
4) Blend full and part-time work and workers
Frank Cho, CEO of Flocx suggested that
startup founders who’re tight on cash consider continuing to work in a
full-time job while putting in a number of hours each week to build your dream
company proposed
5) Keep it local
Reem
Yared
, CEO at Help Around Town, Inc. (community-based online marketplace
for odd jobs and volunteer services) added interesting comments and questions
to the forum by describing her Lexington, MA & web-based service launched
in response to a growing need (often by young people) for part-time work or
volunteer opportunities.
6) Build it in the cloud, not the garage
Serial entrepreneur and tech-marketing exec Josh Kanner caught
our attention through his casual mention that he bootstrapped his last company
and then sold it to AutoDesk in 2012. Josh encouraged the group to get creative
and to take advantage of the crop of new cloud software tools to built
prototypes.
And finally, one last piece of unsolicited
advice from yours truly:

Having worked in or on behalf of scores of tech startups whose funding ranged
from entirely self-funded, to friends and family, angel, VC, PE and strategic
investment… a good rule of thumb for an early stage company is to raise as
little money as necessary and essential in order to progress and stay in
business.
It’s your business. Hold on to as much as you can, as long as you can! 😉
Patrick Rafter
Valuecasters
My LinkedIn
Profile:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/patrickrafter
Twitter: @prafter

Chief Valuecaster at Valuecasters and
Principal at Rafter Communications, Patrick Rafter is longtime Boston
area PR, marketing, social media, and LinkedIn consultant. He’s been active in
MassTLC since its inception and is a founding Advisor to the Nantucket
Conference

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