Mostly Bootstrapped Startups in The Great Lockdown

topsy-turvyLife during The Great Lockdown is topsy turvy. I don’t have to explain that to you any more than I have to check GoDaddy to know was snapped up long before I became aware some clever person coined that term for the COVID 19 pandemic.

Speaking of feeling topsy turvy, I’m confused by never being in the office somehow morphing into a feeling that I’m always at work because suddenly, my home is the only place where I can work. And I can’t compute wanting to hug someone who I haven’t seen in a long time, while also feeling repulsed by the idea of being close enough to hug that person.

One thing I can easily understand: I’m more fortunate than millions of people across the US and around the world. Some of the things I have┬áto be thankful for:

  • my friends and family remain healthy and safe
  • I have a comfortable home and enough to eat
  • I can wear a mask to the grocery store without someone fearing I’m a criminal
  • no one from my company has been laid off
  • essential workers bravely continue to go into work every day
  • and so many more blessings in this time of great hardship for many.

Please forgive me for going on; there’s one more thing I want to share from my gratitude list, and it’s a little specific. Bear with me. I promise I’m going somewhere with this.

In essence, I’m grateful because I work in a mostly bootstrapped startup.

It’s been hard – occasionally very hard – to succeed as a lightly-funded startup competing with companies that have raised more than $10mm in outside capital. But that “lightly funded” part was often the difference-maker for us. We had to be thrifty, we had to sacrifice, but someone – literally an Angel in many cases – always had our backs when we really needed help.

There have certainly been moments when I’ve wished we were located in one of the major startup hubs, where capital seemingly has flowed to growing startups like the mighty Mississippi flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Smart people have said human beings are lazy by nature — we prefer easy over hard. True to human form, I would have preferred “easier” and “more,” where fundraising is concerned.

However, I’ve come to realize there is a big silver lining to being a mostly bootstrapped startup during The Great Lockdown: we are used to doing more with less. These may well be times when being used to Struggling can be a gift, and being used to Easy can be a curse.

Mostly bootstrapped startups seek out inexpensive office space, use plastic folding tables for desks, and decorate our breakrooms with hand-me-down furniture. We’re careful about every decision we make, because we know we have less cushion for costly mistakes. We have to hire slowly because we have no other choice. We have pot luck Christmas parties instead of extravagant ski trips. We keep our focus on doing the right little things for long-term growth because we don’t have the cash to blitz the market about everything we’re doing right.

And, mostly-bootstrapped startups have people who have our backs when we most need them to.

Suffering and death are happening all over the world as I write this, and this is an article about being grateful for experiences that can best be described as a white man’s observation of limited First World problems. Hence, it’s time for me to wrap this up.

I’m genuinely sorry for startups that have gone bankrupt because their funding has dried up. I ache for people who have been laid off or lost someone to COVID 19. I’m a little sad for a future in which startups don’t have as easy access to capital, and Unicorns with crazy ideas will become rare once more.

But I’m oh-so-grateful that mostly bootstrapped life has prepared my startup to survive, and perhaps even to thrive, in these difficult times.

I hope there might be something about The Great Lockdown, some aspect of life that is incredibly difficult for people today, that will make us all stronger when we’re on the other side of this crisis.

In the meantime, may we all be fortunate enough to have the strength and find the resources to be someone else’s Angel, to help them be mostly bootstrapped. Maybe topsy turvy will work for us, and while we’re more separated from each other than we’ve been in any other moment of history, now will be when we realize how much we need to come together.

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