Confessions of a Bootstrapper

One tech entrepreneur shares what he's learned about building a business with no outside money

Written by Robert Gold

Like many entrepreneurs, Bijan Vaez is no stranger to pinching pennies. Vaez is co-founder and CTO at EventMobi, which develops mobile apps for events and conferences. He founded the company with his brother in 2009, shortly after the iPhone 3G was announced: “We had an inkling that we were into the next technology revolution with the introduction of these smartphones,” he says in this week’s BusinessCast podcast. Today, the company has more than 55 employees and serves clients in 40 countries.

EventMobi is an entirely bootstrapped company; the Vaez brothers opted not to take on debt or court external investors to build their company. It was a conscious choice that has at times made things difficult, but Vaez is confident it’s an essential component of the firm’s success. Here, he shares three of the lessons he’s learned about building a successful business with no outside cash.

1. Make it part of your firm’s DNA

EventMobi is the second company Vaez launched; it’s the fourth for his brother. In their past experiences, both had experienced firsthand the challenges and headaches that can come from trying to secure external funding. For that reason, bootstrapping “was a goal for us,” he says. From the start, financial self-sufficiency was part of the company’s DNA. “We wanted to create a product that added value for people that we could sell from the get-go,” he explains.

2. Target an industry with money to spend

“As a bootstrapped company, we wanted to have revenue from Day One,” says Vaez. Of course, it wasn’t that simple; for the first year or so, EventMobi did give the product away to some early adopters so the brothers could refine the offering and better understand what the market needed. “But our goal was never to offer a ‘freemium’ product,” Vaez said.

EventMobi was able to quickly get out of the freebie ghetto by carefully choosing to serve a market that a) had money to spend, and b) offered the prospect of repeatable revenue. The corporate events and conferences sector was the perfect fit, and money started coming in shortly after launch.

3. Be frugal (and stay that way)

A major reason bootstrapping has worked for EventMobi is the penny-wise nature of the Vaez brothers. “Being frugal was definitely useful,” says Vaez. He was only 20 when the company began; since he had “no strings attached,” he moved back in with his parents to save money. His brother did the same, and together they built the business with little more than two laptops as overhead. “We didn’t have any extra costs to spend money on for the first few years,” says Vaez. “We were working all the time.” It was an experience that he says forged EventMobi’s culture: “We’re still fairly frugal to this day.”

For more of Vaez’s thoughts, check out this week’s BusinessCast, which you can listen to by clicking the button above or download by clicking on the iTunes logo below:

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com