August 8, 2013

Bootstrapping a Small Software Business

I’ve been running a small Web Development company for more than two years now. Dev7studios has been successfully profitable from day one. That may sound great, but that is partly because we are such a small scale company. In fact Dev7studios started as more of an outlet for my development ideas than anything else.

I’m sure many others have had a similar experience. You start a side project, it begins to make money, then eventually out of necessity it becomes a company. Currently Dev7studios’ only full time employee is myself, although I do contract some part time support and development help. So how did I bootstrap a business of this size?

Most importantly I only ever spent money I had in the bank. I grew up in an environment that tried to avoid “credit” like the plague. So I invested $0 into the business. No savings, no financial help from friends, nothing. Admittedly this wasn’t a huge issue as the first month I launched the Nivo Slider WordPress Plugin it made $6000. But I never spent any money I didn’t have. So what did I do?

I found cheap web hosting to host our site and taught myself how to setup and maintain servers myself. Being a web developer I built our website, sales platform and any other business software I needed myself. Crude but it did the job. The open source nature of the web definitely helped in this respect.

One skill I knew I didn’t have was the ability to “design” things. I had fiddled with Photoshop at Uni but I was no designer. I also knew the importance of design when it came to selling my products. So I asked designer friends to do some design work for me as a favor, which I later returned in the form of development work.

My business and marketing skills were also zero when I started Dev7studios. So I started reading loads of blogs on startups and business. Boy did I learn a lot. I also started to take Facebook pages and Twitter accounts seriously, as they were my main channels of communication with the rest of the world. Reading blogs and using social media costs nothing.

Admittedly I did spend money on setting up the Ltd company and accounting. However the initial sum was small and when it comes to taxes and other serious financial concerns you want to be on the right side of the law.

Of course the time comes when money has to be invested into a company to make it grow. However the story of Dev7studios goes to prove that bootstrapping a small software business is more than possible if you’re willing to put in the effort. Nothing wrong with a bit of hard graft.

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