Bootstrapping a Startup in Times of Uncertainty

Mar 01, 2024

Techstars Los Angeles powered by J.P. Morgan and Grid110 recently hosted a webinar with a panel of founders sharing their personal experiences of getting their businesses off the ground, finding traction with their early customers, and taking things to the next level by hiring the right team.

Below you will find seven key takeaways on bootstrapping a startup in times of uncertainty:

1. Don’t wait to start your business until you can work on it full-time.

“I was able to really take my time because I didn't have any sales pressure on the business because I worked full-time.” - Rocky Collins, Founder & CEO, CALI HNDSME COSMETICS

“It's different running a business when you're reliant on your business to financially take care of your life versus when you're building a business and you don't have to worry about your livelihood. Those are two very different situations and you can approach things in a very, very different way.” - Collins

2. Build a community.

“Building from that community-centered approach… You don't have to give the product away for free — some people are willing to pay for it.” - Ehime Eigbe, Founder & CEO, Sweetkiwi (Techstars 2023)

“Building community and finding those customers, I chose the approach of going digital first because it was the cheapest way I could reach a massive audience.” - Collins

3. Brush up on your pitching skills.

“I started doing a lot of pitch competitions because I realized that was funding out there if I was willing to pitch.” - Eigbe

4. Share what you do and be proud of it.

“I realized it's just the power of being able to share and tell people what are my goals, what do I need, and sometimes my family and friends may not be able to give me the things I need, but they can connect me.” - Eigbe

5. Be scrappy.

“It's because we won on our customer early on that when it came time to scale, our money went so much further.” - Collins

“What might seem like such a disadvantage to me as a founder of color or a founder that comes from a space where you just are so oblivious to this world, it actually was a superpower, and because I built foundationally on those things, it's made the world a difference for us. We were just very scrappy — every dollar had to make sense and because we figured out those things early on, it made the later process so much bigger.” - Collins

“Focus really came into place just because of the resources. We couldn't do everything so we needed to choose. Okay, this is the most important thing that we're going to do. We know that we want to do this other stuff but there is no way that with the people that we have, the resources, and the time, we're going to be able to do it or we'll we're all going to die trying.” - Jorge Garcia, Founder & CEO, Linker Finance (Techstars 2023)

“Pride is not a thing when you trying to build something great. It is just not. You take what you can get and you ask for it.” - Collins

6. Build for your customers.

“Focus on winning your customer before you think about winning an investor.” - Collins

7. Have big goals and hire people aligned with your vision.

“We shoot as high as possible and we know that as many shots as we take, something is going to happen and wherever we land, they're still going to get a big payout at the end of the day.” - Eigbe

“Two things for us that changed the game was doubling back to people that I already have relationships with that already knew my work ethic. It was a much easier time to sell them the vision. Then utilizing the resources that are out there, whether it's the Upworks or the Fiverrs.” - Collins

“You need to show your vision and you also need to show the results. Very experienced people are going to trust you and are going to say, ‘Okay, this is a serious person that wants to bring this to the next level,’ and they are going to join you.” - Garcia