Monday, February 18, 2008

Bootstrap Sessions at RISE and SXSW

The second RISE Austin is March 4-6 (next week) as part of National Entrepreneurship Week. Bootstrap Austin is excited to be a partner in the event. A number of bootstrappers are leading sessions including Nancy Schill, Maura Thomas, Chris Greta, Michael Strong, Maggie Miller, Bjorn Billhardt, Kevin Koym and Bijoy. RISE is free and open to the public and a great way for potential and active entrepreneurs to learn and get inspired.

Bootstrap is also hosting 2 panels at SXSW Interactive:

Bootstrapping 101

Contrary to simple definitions centered around eschewing investor funding, bootstrapping is a third way of entrepreneurship. Differentiated from the cookie-cutter/franchise and VC/funding-driven approaches, it is an integration of these two paths. Bootstrapping brings together the low-cost features of the cookie-cutter, while generating the innovation of the VC. It can be described by its stages, actions and principles. The key stages are Ideation, Valley of Death and Growth; the key actions of each stage are Demo/Sell/Build; its principles include: right action right time, constraint creates innovation, dance with duality & use everything. Bootstrappers delay funding rather than reject it outright and bootstrap business models emerge from the process, rather than from up-front design or mimicry. Active bootstrappers working on our ventures, the panel will debate the differences between bootstrapping and other models and explain the unique bootstrap approach and mindset. You will gain a conceptual and hands-on understanding to get started on your venture.

Bootstrap Collaborations

Are you building a business, a non-profit, or artistic endeavor? Through building their businesses together, entrepreneurs can get to success faster. We will share examples of how entrepreneurs can use less financial capital and more social capital to make their businesses successful, drawing upon our experiences with Bootstrap Austin, and other "enterprise tribes". Our panel's diverse backgrounds will show how this way of building businesses is having an impact on artist, non-profits, and startup businesses.

Look forward to seeing folks at these sessions!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Monday's Monthly Bootstrap Austin Meeting

For those that didn't make it Monday, you missed a good one! Paul Carrozza, the founder and owner of RunTex, spoke about his experiences bootstrapping RunTex into the bona fide Austin tradition it has become today. Some of the highlights of his talk included:
  • Launching RunTex out of a small shop of old inventory on a personal loan from his parents
  • Stories about some of the first running events and races organized by Paul that helped RunTex go on to bigger and bigger successes
  • Paul's passion for running, his experience as an All-American runner in college and ironically how he constantly struggles with running due to Asthma
  • His thoughts on the growth and expansion of RunTex as well as potential exit strategies
  • How Paul built RunTex one shoe at a time and one race at a time

I think the one key thing I came away from this talk with was the importance of having a passion for what you do in your own venture or personal undertakings. Paul certainly embodies this. Paul wants to see people get in better shape by running and wants people to continue to grow as runners. Everything that RunTex does helps further Paul's vision for building a lasting community of runners here in Austin and beyond. Paul has taken a community based approach to spreading the running "gospel". RunTex follows this approach by building relationships through a network of coaches that RunTex provides to individuals, local community organizations, businesses, and even government offices.

There were several interesting bootstrap ideas within Paul's talk. One that stood out for me was how Paul financed new areas of development with cash from other revenue generating areas of the business. Paul's approach was to launch a project he believes in and then figure out how he'll pay for it! While this might now always be the most advisable course of action, it showed how his passion and vision would eventually help show him how to achieve ultimate success in new undertakings of the business.

It's not like he is flying blind was obvious that he understood the unit economics of his business. He has an excellent grasp of what each new running event could raise for RunTex and the event sponsor and what each shoe would cost (or make) for RunTex . He also knows what he could ultimately use those shoes for: either attracting new runners (and future customers) with training events that included new shoe giveaways or for children who are getting their first taste of the benefits and enjoyment of long distance running.

As I was running in my neighborhood the other night I realized Paul must be right at home as a runner and a bootstrapper. There are a lot of similarities between bootstrapping and running. Both require training the body and the mind to be prepared for what the road ahead has to offer, both demand discipline, and both need the runner/bootstrapper to have a deep understanding of themselves and their own capabilities for the ultimate journey to be a success.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Building business in Austin despite a possible recession

How can we buffet the effects of a possible economic recession with regards to business growth in Austin? Recently there has been a bunch of press about the growing threat of recession coming to the US. The New York Times tells a story that all of us as entrepreneurs need to start preparing for called "As Lenders Tighten Flow of Credit, Growth at Risk"
From the article there are two important paragraphs to note:

Credit flowing to American companies is drying up at a pace not seen in decades, threatening the creation of jobs and the expansion of businesses, while intensifying worries that the economy may be headed for recession.

The article goes on to focus on small business, and how small business is getting hit the worst. So why is this important? Small business is where all of our growth and job creation is coming from. From the NY Times article:

In recent months, smaller companies have been adding jobs even as larger firms have been shedding workers, according to the ADP National Employment Report, which tracks changes at companies with payrolls overseen by ADP. From May to October, 276,000 of the 378,000 jobs added were at companies with fewer than 50 employees, the report found.

It is the entrepreneurs that are building startup and small businesses that are contributing to the greatest growth of the US economy. Programs that are being structured by the government should take this in account- and support small business- versus focusing on solutions for large, slow moving corporations that typically are the benefactors of the pork coming out of Washington DC.

So what can entrepreneurs do in lieu of dealing with a drying up of financial capital other than make sure that they voice their vote strongly in the coming election? I and a number of international collaborators have been examining what can be done through how we organize our businesses together for the purpose of building our business... And given the continuing news of financial crisis, it is time to take action as business people and not wait on government programs. Even though financial capital might not be as available, social capital can be utilized to continue to build businesses. Social capital, called "human capital" in Paul Hawkin's book called Natural Capitalism can be a somewhat replacement in lieu of financial capital. Creating social capital is what we have been doing in Bootstrap Austin and other entrepreneurial social networks that we have been building. In fact, it has always been true in the US that social capital carried the day during financial crisis. A historical example of this can be found in our region's history of farming. In order to sustain their farms, farmers helped each other raise barns together... these farmers were creating social capital with each other ("I help you, you help me"). There are many examples in the past, including from my family, where farmers had no access to government support, nor other access to financial capital... but they could help each other, and survive the worst of economic downturns. It appears that the US is entering into a time that once again that entrepreneurs building social capital together will be the way that we will continue to build our businesses, as financial capital runs and hides during the storm.

Thankfully, Austin's wired technology community has been organizing into what I call "Enterprise Tribes" helping entrepreneurs build their businesses, recession or not. Research has shown that business that organize themselves as ecosystems (or as I say "enterprise tribes") positively grow each other much faster than businesses that try to stand alone. This social networking behavior with groups like Bootstrap Austin, Refresh Austin,, Jelly in Austin (among others) are making a difference, supporting entrepreneurs to innovate at a level never before seen in Austin. Yet as much of our "tech elite" figure out these new ways of doing business and new ways of lowering the cost of work, we must as the community of Austin create broader integration between our businesses, cultivating a richer business ecosystem. Through this we shall build an even more vibrant Austin into the years to come.

As you build your business, please do join our Bootstrap Austin network to collaboratively build businesses together and join the discussion around my forthcoming book and my Exponential Entrepreneurship blog.