Bootstrapping is not for everyone. It requires a certain integrity of spirit that many find hard to channel and support, especially in the long run. But as always there are those who do. These few choose their own shoulders to stand on and their own funds to fall back on. What did they learn? That they were right and that, success becomes more gratifying when it comes from personal resources used intelligently. Along the way, they also gleamed an insight or two. In this article, we bring you ten such solopreneurs whose practical tips can add real value to your bootstrapping endeavor.
To make this article have a wider reach, we decided to introduce some fundamental concepts first. If you’re already familiar with what’s bootstrapping, what’s Micro SaaS and why one must Bootstrap, then feel free to skip straight to the insights.
What is Bootstrapping?
Bootstrapping involves building a company without external investments or borrowed capital. Instead of seeking funds from investors or incurring significant debt, this method utilizes existing resources—personal savings, computing equipment, and available space—to initiate and nurture business growth.
In its essence, bootstrapping maximizes the use of available resources, emphasizes self-sufficiency and minimizes external financial dependencies for achieving business goals.
- Encapsulates the spirit of self-reliance
- Emphasizes the importance of starting without the obligations that come with external funding
- Provides complete control and freedom to entrepreneurs
- Enables disciplined spending and a strategic reinvestment of profits for sustainable growth
What is Micro SaaS?
Micro SaaS, a condensed version of traditional Software as a Service (SaaS), thrives on simplicity, niche targeting, and lean operations. Coined by Tyler Tringas, it caters to specific markets with a small team or solo entrepreneur at the helm, emphasizing low costs and independence from external funding.
1. Characteristics of Micro SaaS:
- Operated by an individual or a small team
- Lean business model, focusing on a single niche market or specialized product
- Has the potential to not rely on external investment
2. Benefits of Micro SaaS:
- Faster product development
- Complete ownership
- Minimal overhead (i.e. low risks and higher profit margins)
- Cloud-based management and development
In the world of Micro SaaS entrepreneurship, the decision to bootstrap holds strategic advantages for solopreneurs. By embracing bootstrapping, they secure not only ownership and control but also foster financial responsibility.
Key benefits of bootstrapping:
- Preserves ownership, with founders remaining sole owners until a deliberate decision to change
- Team receives 100% of profits, fostering a strong sense of ownership and commitment
- Freedom to direct the company's trajectory without investor constraints
- Enables experimentation with product design, business models, and strategic shifts without external approvals
- Mitigates risks associated with taking large loans as it doesn’t rely on external funding
Benefits of bootstrapping a Micro SaaS
- Prioritizes making money over spending it
- Instills a mindset of financial responsibility
- Avoids the need to give up equity
- If equity is considered later, its value is significantly higher, leading to substantial profits
2. Innovation through Constraints:
- Encourages creative ways of problem-solving
- Avoids the time-consuming process of raising funds
- Provides freedom to concentrate on product development and customer satisfaction
- Escapes the "raise or die" cycle associated with external funding
- Removes emotional & psychological stress that comes with external funding
3. Stages of a Bootstrapped Micro SaaS Business
STAGE 1 | THE BIG START: The SaaS business is in its infancy is marked by limited customers, limited means and limited resources. At this stage, the focus is on establishing a strong foundation.
- Basic-level operations
- Limited customer base
- Less likely to turn a significant profit at this stage
- Singular product focus
- Identification of right positioning and pricing
- Defined by creativity, freedom, and innovation
STAGE 2 | THE GROWTH: Marked by rewards, fast-paced growth, and a somewhat frenetic atmosphere as the business transitions from startup to a more established entity.
- Leveraging gained traction (via leads and referrals)
- 5-15 employees wearing multiple hats
- Founder continues to be sole decision-maker
- Revenue slope is at its greatest
- Defining KPIs for scaling
- Potential to attract funding from venture capital firms
- Faster subscriber acquisition, positive cash flow, and team expansion
STAGE 3 | THE EXPANSION: Characterized by long-term thinking, organizational development, and operationalizing the business beyond just the product.
- Transitioning from sole leadership to team-building
- Long-term strategic decisions take precedence
- Expanding to 50+ employees
- Maintaining continuous communication with customers to address concerns promptly
- Releasing regular updates based on feedback and market trends
- Generating good Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and stable KPIs
How to Bootstrap a Micro SaaS | Insights from solopreneurs who’ve been there, done that.
“As someone bootstrapping their Micro SaaS business, it’s imperative to use No-Code and AI.”
- Simon Hoiberg
No-Code and AI are the new game changers. They’re leveling the playing field and ensuring not one person but great ideas rule the roost. Simon Hoiberg goes as far as to say, “if you're not using no code and AI as a bootstrap SAS business you're really missing the point especially if you're still in the testing phase and you haven't found a good fit in the market yet. By using tools like Webflow, Bubble versus only and Flutterflow you can get really far really fast .”
So, when you’re bootstrapping your way to your Micro SaaS business success, make sure, you’re adept at or willing to learn the No-Code and AI ropes to give yourself the edge your business needs.
“Get evidence for your idea. Validate your idea.”
– Bram Kanstein
Before your business succeeds as a business, it must succeed as an idea.
But wait, what does it mean to succeed as an idea or as Bram puts it, ‘validate an idea’? In simple terms, it means going the extra mile. It requires you to see your business as an idea first. The idea that you assume or feel is required in the current SaaS market. In order to validate your assumptions, you must take your idea into the market before taking your business to the market. Speak to people for whom it was created. Ask (nicely) if they’ll test it for you. Request for feedback.
Following these steps will either strengthen your faith in your product or bring you back to the drawing board. At this stage, both are a win-win.
FYI: Bram Kanstein’s advice is the step you should before adhering to Rob’s thumb rule to bootstrap your Micro SaaS business to success.
"Build a product that solves a real problem."
– Rob Walling
There’s no such thing as a product for product’s sake. Sure, there are Concept Cars but not everyone can be a Buick or Tesla. Besides these companies got to this point after years of being useful to people.
When you’re bootstrapping your way to your Micro SaaS business, you’re taking on a risk. Not just with your time and money, but, also with the answer to the impending question – Will they find it useful?
Rob Walling understands this well. He says, “The biggest risk is not can you build this? The biggest risk is that no one cares. So how can you validate that someone will care?” – Source
Exactly. How can you? The answer is simple – build something that solves a real problem. If you can stand by your product and say, my Micro SaaS solves this or that contemporary problem, you’ve got yourself a winner!
“Select a manageable path. Don’t overwhelm yourself. It’s unnecessary.”
– Tyler Tringas
Self-management is a key ingredient in bootstrapping your Micro SaaS business to success. Solopreneurs, No-Coders and others often forget that. And in the name of burning the midnight oil, burn themselves out in no time. Tyler, who’s credited with coining the term Micro SaaS, gives valuable advice. He says, “You have set a manageable path for yourself. Telling yourself “I’ll do whatever it takes to make this successful” is a recipe for burnout. Parkinson’s Law: if you allocate 60 hours per week (or unlimited hours per week) to this you will spend 60 hours per week, but 50 of them are unlikely to be very productive.”
Being productive isn’t about working all the time. But about managing your time well. And nobody said it’s easy. But it’s important to hear that from a successful bootstrapper than realizing it too late by yourself.
“Aim to finish the last, boring parts of the project.”
- Danny Postma
Now here’s an advice you wish you didn’t need. But once you get into the thick of things, you’ll have Danny Postma to thank for it.
You’re excited about bootstrapping your Micro SaaS business. You should be. That excitement is the initial ignition you need. But there will come a time, when you’ll not be able to rely on excitement alone. You’ll need to summon a whole new level of strength when the going gets boring. And for Danny, how you deal with the boring bits will determine whether your bootstrapping endeavor was a whim or your destiny. He says, “The biggest difference between successful and not successful people is: Successful people push through the boring, last 5% of the project to get it out there. Push yourself to finish something instead of starting something new. I absolutely HATED the last 3 months of building Headlime V2. Fixing super small bugs all the time. But, without pushing through that, I would not have been here.” – Source
Boredom is an aspect of business we don’t talk much about. We have this testosterone-loaded, high-flying image of folks in suits doing stuff that requires a Hulk-like strength of character. That kind of daredevilish idea is attractive. What isn’t is spending hours fixing bugs. But it’s inevitable and your best bet as a solopreneur is to go all in keeping that in mind.
“Build your own boat.”
– Sahil Lavingia
Profit is not a mere word in the economist’s dictionary. It’s an evolving idea. And, it’s not just about money. According to Sahil, it’s also about sustainability. He says, “Profitability means sustainability. Instead of treading water until a lifeboat comes along to save you—which is how many founders think about raising their next round of VC funding—it means building your own boat.”
Your approach to bootstrapping your way to a successful Micro SaaS business, might require a cultural shift altogether. Whether that shift is gargantuan or the size of a grain of rice will vary from person to person. But it’ll be a shift nonetheless. Speicifically, in terms of taking charge. You’ll have only yourself to rely on. Your ability, your mind, your decisions, your laziness, your fears – everything that makes you will also make your business. One of the ways to optimize yourself as your own boss is to learn to take things in your own hands instead of waiting for a savior VC to come and help you put on a life jacket. Afterall, a patchwork boat is still better than no boat at all.
“Start on building traction, even if it means undercharging.”
– Jason Cohen
Old school ideas are like wine. They get better with age. And Jason Cohen’s advice on bootstrapping your way to a successful Micro SaaS start-up will go down like a fine glass of Chardonnay.
In the old days, traction building was akin to brand building. And brand building was more than selling the product. It was about creating an image for people to fall in love because contrary to what it may seem like, people don’t necessarily buy a product. They buy the brand. The product lives in the market, the brand lives in the hearts and minds of people. A product can get upgraded, more expensive or banned altogether but the brand will continue to live on. You get the point.
Going for traction first will allow you to study the market, make your presence felt, show that you’re here to stay and help. And people respond to that. Once the trust is built, traction follows and with that profits can’t be far behind.
So, if you’re in this for the long haul, Jason’s advice is to go for traction first, even if it means undercharging in the beginning. For him, “traction wins the argument” Case closed.
"Focus on providing the best for customers above anything else."
- Pieter Levels
Often solopreneurs start their journey with only one goal in mind – maximum profit. And while that’s understandable to some extent, it’s clearly not the best strategy. Especially when you’re planning to bootstrap your way to your Micro SaaS venture. Pieter Levels paints the picture in a few simple words, he says, “If you're a newbie founder/maker, your focus should be on product and customers, not chit chat distractions like DMs, investors, collaborations, incubators, conferences etc. No, just customers that pay you money. Keep it simple.” – Source
Profit is an effect. And by definition that means that it has a cause. And that cause is customer satisfaction. Customers take experience-based decisions. Think about it. Would you revisit a restaurant that treated you poorly? You wouldn’t. No one would. Our experience determines our decisions. That’s what unites us consumers. Not the thing we buy but the experience we gain from buying it. So, don’t just remember that for your business. Let your business itself be a reminder of this fact.
Bootstrapping is a daring act, an adventure, even a calculated risk, as some been-there-done-that solopreneurs might say. And whatever, it may mean to you, you can rest assured that it’ll be an experience of a lifetime. Especially when you’re able to take advantage of the insights shared in this article, whether the use of No-Code and AI tools or building traction, you’ll be well on your way to create a Micro SaaS product that can change the course of businesses and lives.