What Does It Mean To Bootstrap?

what is a bootstrapper

Not so long ago (actually 30 minutes before I started working on the second edition of my Bootstrapper’s digest), I started thinking about the definition of what a “Bootstrapper” is and it means to bootstrap a business and the steps it takes to be able to ship something of value, but I couldn’t clearly find something concrete. They all made sense theoretically, but none captured the experience or essence of it.

What you’ll find upon doing a quick google search on “Bootstrapping” are many different takes on what it means to be bootstrapping from the financial perspective to high level perspectives on bootstrapping a tech startup.  The first definition of ‘Bootstrap’ according to quick Google search is:  “A situation in which an entrepreneur starts a company with little capital. An individual is said to be boot strapping when he or she attempts to found and build a company from personal finances or from the operating revenues of the new company.”

In other words, in the face of constraints, the bootstrapper musters any and all resources within her or his sphere of influence (excluding external financiers such as banks or venture capital) for the purposes of creating a sustainable business endeavour.

My take on bootstrapping

I’d like to expand upon this by not singling out this definition to only entrepreneurs, but those who identify as DOERS. Those who don’t wish to be bound by their current abilities, but are problem solvers by nature. If they can’t do it themselves right now, they’ll figure out how to get around their roadblock, by learning the hard way or finding someone who can help. They do this in a timely manner something that fills a need and is suitable for a situation. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, intrapreneur or someone who just wants to get stuff done, a Bootstrapper is relentlessly resourceful (as Paul Graham puts it) and navigates an ambiguous situation to arrive at a solution, but not the solution. The bootstrapper doesn’t stop, but continuously improves and iterates until that problem is solved, gracefully (or ungracefully) traversing all areas of the product or problem they’re working on.

While this is a bit self-serving in re-defining it to fit my purposes, I find there’s a weird fuzzy phase when you attempt solve problems for yourself or your company. Shipping tiny projects that tackle a smaller problem and eventually moving onto bigger and more ambitious ones. This is before building out products on your own as a solopreneur or with a team of likeminded individuals who you’ve built trust with over a period of time to go on entrepreneurial adventures with.

In any case, would love to hear your thoughts on what a Bootstrapper is from your perspective.