What we have learnt running a bootstrapped startup

Much is being said about starting-up. But nothing beats the learning from actually starting-up. Here s our bit of learning.

It requires passion to sell your vision to users

Three years back when we started Muziboo - an online community for musicians - we had no clue about starting-up. All we knew was that we were passionate about creating such a platform because nobody around seemed to execute the idea with the kind of vision we had. Passionate enough we were to be able to sell our vision to a broad enough user base. Six months from launch, the service had matured to a point where we had to quit our jobs to keep up with the growing needs. In a year, our hosting bills had become bigger. It was only after a year of starting, when our savings had dwindled and operational expenses had increased that the reality of not having made money from Muziboo struck us.

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Investment doesn't replace revenues

As corny as it may sound, we were particularly impressed with Guy Kawasaki's 'Create value and money will follow' advice when we started up. Only that none of the angels or investors we met seemed to buy that idea! Had we known then that he was going to create AllTop in future, we would have probably introspected a little more before buying his line of advice.

Coming to investment, it turned out that the good angels were not sufficiently kind. And we too had become quite wary of the investor type questions . That left us with two choices: getting back to jobs or make money off Muziboo. It was such a pleasure being on our own that we decided to bet on Muziboo.

Path to money: Charge users!

The next time we got a feature request from few of our users that seemed to increase our operational cost, we were honest with them. We let them know that implementing that would mean addition cost for us , but would still do it if they were ready to pay a subscription fee. Now for us that was daring. Who charges ever for anything on the Internet ! But our users were cool. They were glad seeing the features implemented and we were glad having figured something out.

Pro Account | Muziboo

Learning comes from continuous iteration

We have since then iterated on our pricing, subscription model, feature partition, ad placement ; expanded our target demography and done a million other things that none of the blog posts out there or books could have taught us. We make a few thousand dollars now and the journey has been very pleasant. And the learning immense.

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Funding bigger ideas with the first start-up

The cool thing about bootstrapping is you can work as much as you want or exit when you want. At this point Muziboo is on a growth path and sufficiently rewarding that we have moved on to building another product - a customer interaction and support tool. Muziboo funds not just us but also our new product. Cooler still, we could have never come up with this idea or understood the domain enough without actually having the experience of handling support for a growing platform like Muziboo.

All I want to say is, if you have ever wanted to start, start right away. Because, you have much to gain and very little to lose.

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Nithya Rajaram

Nithya Rajaram