This is our third in the bootstrapping for success series by sponsor, The Ottawa Network. On Wednesday March 11th our three speakers were Tobi Lutke, Shopify; Chris Ovens, SpotOn Systems; and Misha Nossik from Simtone.
One theme common to all three presenters was keeping the day job if you can or at least supplementing the business revenue early on with consulting revenue. Cash is king and cash flow is the emperor.
Tobi Lutke was up first and he suggested a number of key bits, at least from my perspective. If you are going to go about building a business make sure you solve a problem. The Shopify idea was born from the challenges Toby and his co-founder had making their online store for SnowDevil.ca. Second key bit is learn to say no to your customers or as Tobi said, you risk turning a colourful rainbow you into a muddy rainbow that is kind of a browny colour. Be true to the product rather than act on every customer request you get, this is a difficult balance.
Chris Ovens' company also grew out of a different first business and tended to evolve as they went along. Chris likened starting a business to a poker game and every once in a while you have to go “all in” or roll the dice. If it was to easy anyone could do it. Another important point Chris raised is that you have to ask yourself “Why are you doing this?” all the time to do what is important and stay focused. Finally if you are planning on taking any money know why you are taking it.
Misha Nossik mentioned that bootstrapping takes too much time and if you can get VC money go for it. However, out of necessity many people have to do it these days. Misha and many before him have mentioned that having a partner is an extremely valuable resource when you are bootstrapping and starting up. If one of you is down the other isn’t and vice versa. Getting going is tough, make sure you have a buddy system.
I would like to thank our three speakers it was an enjoyable and educational evening.
- Ian Graham