"The basics of bootstrapping is simple – Earn money, spend less” Jofin Joseph.
When we started Shimbi Labs in 2005; we had a clear vision that we will develop 4 best products for SMBs (Small and Medium size Businesses). But the situation was that neither we had enough funds to develop our products, nor an idea about products.
SEE ALSO: “ShimBi Labs”, the story behind the company name
First and foremost challenge before us was to raise funds to build our dream products.
We decided to opt for Bootstrapping (as no other options were available. Angel investor or VC will not fund any business without even a product idea!) So our first focus was to have sufficient funds for the survival of the startup and then to invest in product development. For that, we chose very unconventional market for Indian software company; we decided to focus on Japan as our primary market. Yes, market with high potential and hardly tapped by Indian software industry. At the same time, not an easy task to enter the market had we not lucky to get the industry veteran as our Mentor, who was courteous and introduced us to potential customers.
With 9 years of rich experience in providing services (software development and consultancy) in Japan, we got better insights into the problems that can later evolve into a product. We understood and learned how to achieve the highest quality in any software. All this, later helped us build our products.
All this while we never forgot our original vision of building products for SMBs. We had to remain extremely careful to keep the services business completely independent of the product development.
Thumb rule was: never use the same developers who are working on products to be working on the services or vice versa.
So how we got ideas about Products?
Honestly, we never brainstorm. “Necessity is the mother of invention” Exactly !!! that is what had happened.
1. Content Management System
As a service company, prime necessity is to have an official website with the ability to update it often. Being all techies in the company, as a founder; I was forced to quit coding and focus on all other activities necessary to run the business, which includes regular updating website. For this, I was in need of a website with easy to use CMS (Content Management System). Surprisingly, instead of using the existing solutions available, we built our own CMS. That’s how Shimbi CMS born later it became the foundation of Budo.
2. Online Invoicing Application
Next, it was essential to have Simple Invoicing Application.
Being all engineer company, we were reluctant to learn any accounting software. So I decided to learn few basic things, about how to write an invoice and started making them in Excel. Wow, that was a huge mess, almost every second invoice was with some silly mistakes. Tracking them, save them in folders and send reminders was the big pain in the ass.
I decided to repeat the same idea (as Budo) of having our Online Invoicing Application, instead of availing the solutions that already exist in the market. Later, it was named as ShimBi MyBilling and now Shimbi Invoice! First, we sold it as license version to 100s of customers, and now we converted it into SaaS (Software as a Service) model.
We realized that these software (Web Applications) are useful for us and making a lot of sense; creating value and increasing efficiency. Now we can spend more time on our core competency.
We also realized that if these applications are useful to us, then they can be helpful to other SMBs too.
Find customers before you build
To validate our idea we started to communicate with our existing customers, and many of them were readily convinced. They asked us for demos; it was a great chance for us & we made use of the opportunity without any delay. Right after the demo, several feedbacks and customizations request flooded in our mailbox. Hence, we decided to make Budo and MyBilling as Shimbi Labs first two products. We convinced some of our customers to partially fund in the customisation and development of the product and return, offered them a copy of the full product at a discounted price.
As a result, today both the products had crossed several iterations and versions in the market. All by bootstrapping. I firmly believe that the product must create value for small businesses than exciting VCs.
Our Goal is to build Innovative Solutions … Simple, Powerful yet Affordable
Please share your experience of bootstrapping with us.