Friday, September 28, 2007

Bootstrapping, not just for tech

The bootstrap process - Demo/Sell/Build - can be applied to ventures in many industries. At Bootstrap Austin we have subgroups in art, publishing, film, health, nonprofit, and food.

What does it mean to bootstrap a book? Rather than focus on finding a publisher, the author creates their demo and takes it directly to customers. In the case of The Human Fabric, Dave and I wrote the first chapter and released it on the website. Customers who purchased the book at this early stage were offered a steep discount. We released each successive chapter and engaged our readers soliciting their feedback. The feedback improved the final product and guided the direction of the book, while the price increased with each new release. The Bootstrap Publishing Subgroup, led by Thom Singer, will share our experiences at BookPeople on Oct 7.

Bootstrapping presents viable alternative in other industries. Rather than go for a record deal, a band creates a demo, sells it directly to its fans and builds an organization around it (Righteous Babe Records). Rather than go to a studio to fund a film, filmmakers make it themselves and seek out niche audiences (Flatland). The excellent film, Before the Music Dies, deals with the demise of the record industry as we know it. Appropriately enough, it's a bootstrap film, distributed by another Bootstrap Austin Member, BSide. Long Tail distribution mechanisms like iTunes, YouTube,, BSide, eBay, enable the bootstrapper to get their product to their customers. These demo/sell/build platforms are in turn causing a shift to more bootstrap-friendly formats - music singles, short films and ebooks.

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