Here’s a newsflash: Unicorns are dying and funding is drying up. It was tough when we bootstrapped my last startup, but now even heavier hitters are working hard to pull in funding.
In short, if you plan on starting something today, then don’t depend on much, if any outside support.
The good news is that there are many smart ways to fund your idea from the get-go.
Make it profitable: It sounds obvious, but it is amazing how many of us consider our startup mission statement, ideal goal and other minutiae – but don’t hammer out how we’re actually going to make a profit. Keep in mind that profit doesn’t have to be the number one priority, since that mindset can actually hurt your chances of success, but at minimum, you should have several options of how your startup will eventually sustain itself. The earlier you can make that revenue a reality, the less you have to depend on outside sources to survive.
Make it by bartering: One of the biggest advantages you have today is that there are a record number of entrepreneurs who, like you, need people with other skill sets to help make their startup a reality. This means that you can connect with others and trade your services, which not only saves money, but can help both of you succeed.
Personally, I have bartered with programmers, developers and artists, sharing my own strengths as a communicator, marketer and strategic advisor. It saved me and my colleagues thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.
Make it presellable: A brilliant technique is to sell before you create. It’s popular in the teaching and consulting world, as you’ll see people selling webinar, conference or product access, though the actual delivery won’t happen until weeks, if not months later. Think of it as an ad-hoc Kickstarter campaign – though you will deliver on your promise, no matter what.
In the great book Rework, the 37signals founders talk about wanting to sell a new product as quickly as possible, so they set up a simple link on their website. They didn’t even have the invoicing system in place! Instead, they got a notification whenever someone ordered in the link and they’d write an email to the person right on the spot. Imagine the sales they would have missed if they waited until the whole system was in order? And those preorders, no doubt, helped fund the final product.