Column: How Did You Fund Your Web 2.0 Startup?

Jun 10, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Last week I found myself in the northeast corner of Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan on a gorgeous, sunny day at noon. I was surrounded, or so I thought, by budding entrepreneurs, eager bootstrappers ready to get their next big Internet venture off the ground.
It was Internet Week and I had signed up to attend StartupAlpha.com’s Bootstrap Lunch. The lunch was described as an opportunity to learn how to launch your Silicon Alley startup for $198 and to share self-funding techniques during the picnic.
OK, in retrospect the $198 number should have tipped me off. Still, I liked the premise of the lunch. Bootstrapping and self-funding are sexy words to reporters. We are trained to follow the money.
I had visions of hearing stories about the next generation of tech thought leaders landing six-figure seed funding, or maybe $1 million in angel dollars. I’d learn about how the next Twitter or blip.tv or Visible Measures was getting off the ground. After all, gobs of venture capital work really well for some companies—just ask Next New Networks or Veoh Networks—but others have done fine with much smaller venture bets. Web video shop For Your Imagination, for instance, has been producing Web video for TV networks, studios and brands on a work-for-hire basis until the company’s own Web series become profitable.
I went to the lunch hoping to find the next scrappy strategy.
Instead, the advice was this: Register your business name, trademark it and get yourself a post office box because it’s unprofessional to list your apartment number on an invoice.
Sure, good ideas. But I wanted something a little meatier.
So I turn to you, the readers, and ask for your best bootstrapping ideas. Some of you run big companies. Some of you run small concerns. Many of you have launched your own Web video series. My guess is you all spent more than $198.
How did you fund your startup? Your online TV project? Did you find an angel? Get some dough from mom and dad? Land seed funding? Raise a small amount of venture capital? Secure a strategic partner?
These are the stories I want to hear. Please contact me and share them, and I will write a follow-up column with the best bootstrapping ideas.


  1. For us at Cupid’s Lab we’ve been bootstrapping by taking money from our own income to fund various aspects of our business.
    These days building the technology is cheap, but we’ve been finding that acquiring our customers and entering into a competitive market are tough with a limited budget.
    Right now we’re in a redesign and relaunch phase based off of research we’ve conducted for our site, but we anticipate having to spend some significant dollar on customer acquisition.
    We’ve set aside funds for our marketing endeavors. When the cost of building a product is low and competition is on the rise, we’re seeing the cost of marketing and PR going up significantly.
    However even those who spend top dollar on marketing don’t always succeed either, the product (be it a service or content) still needs to be something customers find useful.

  2. To Ms. Daisy:
    Your supposed “sexy” training to “follow the money” must have been as stunted and superficial as your purported attendance at the widely appreciated entrepreneur workshop you cavalierly, and ignorantly, mock.
    While you “report” as if you had actually participated in the hands-on brainstorming session in which dozens of real, live Web entrepreneurs shared best practices for self-financing startups for a full, enthusiastic two and a half hours, non-stop, you actually lurked away but minutes into the program, apparently all the time you needed to conjure up the flippant tale you now giddily manufacture for your “column.”
    Your fundamental misunderstanding of how actual “scrappy” Internet proprietors acutally scrape by is made obvious by your citations of PR trendy, well-financed, non-businesses, such as Twitter.
    Nevertheless, despite your glee in dismissing the genuine collaboration inspired by the creative, professional and graciously hosted startup training event, many very real “budding entrepreneurs” are now better equipped to realize their (grounded) Web business dreams, while you merely continue to dream-up your own personal, self-serving “visions.”

  3. To clarify: I did not lurk away. I told the organizer at the start that I could only stay for 30 minutes due to other meetings. Then I said goodbye after those 30 minutes.
    I am delighted however to hear that the attendees enjoyed the session.

  4. In addition, I’d welcome hearing from the organizer about the learnings and the takeaway from the attendees and posting that in a future column.

Leave a Reply to Tobin Cancel Reply

Email (will not be published)