Bootstrapped to Seven Figures

It’s every entrepreneur’s dream to ride the wave from idea to a highly profitable business.  That’s why they take the risk that they do.  But the vast majority of startups don’t make it.  In  Noah Kagan’s experience, founder of AppSumo and formerly of Facebook and Mint, 86% of the ideas he tries fail.  That said, he loves trying new things and can’t see himself working for someone else.  This is the life he chose, he fails more than 50% of the time, but when he is right, he runs with it.

Noah joined a number of accomplished entrepreneurs for the 2012 Ramen Camp held at the Microsoft Nerd Center in Cambridge Massachusetts.  The objective for these aces of entrepreneurship was to share some of their tips and trick on how they “bootstrapped” or self funded their way to success.  For this week’s blog post, we figured it would be a good idea to share some of the information.

  1. Hiten Shah (@hnshah) Co-Founder of @KISSmetrics. Previously started @crazyegg and@acs.

Hiten started Crazyegg back in 2006.  It was a simple idea that was highly scalable.  Create an easy to use web analytic tool that allows users to turn web traffic into conversions thereby increasing sales.  Crazyegg creates a heatmap of the webpage to help companies understand where users click and why they do.

Easy to understand, correct?  Well, Hiten ran with it and six years later he has grown this idea into seven figures in annual revenue with four people running the entire operation.   How? Among other points, he kept his idea simple.  Easy to use.   Got the word out by actively blogging and engaging potential users where they converse.   Tested it among his users early, and last but not least, kept his operation lean.  There are four founders to Crazzyegg who split the seven figure annual sales revenue.  As Hiten likes to brag, “Per employee, Crazyegg is more profitable than Apple.”

My paraphrasing of his presentation does him no justice.  Check out his blog for more insight.  He is a funny guy.

  1. Noah Kagan (@noahkagan) Chief “Sumo” at AppSumo, which I guess makes him the CEO.

App Sumo helps professionals discover amazing products and education. It’s #1 e-commerce site for businesses.  Noah said a lot of things during his talk.  For every serious insight, he had 2-3 funny jokes to make, which was refreshing because as he reminded the audience, 86% of what he tries as an entrepreneur, fails.  It’s good to see a guy put his failure into its proper perspective and learn from it.

Noah Started his career at Intel , then Facebook, Mint, Gambit, and now App Sumo.  He is a serial entrepreneur.  Here are a few of the tips he shared.

  1. From idea to operation: be up in running in 30 days.  Try something.
  2. Check out the advice and insight on a blog called 4 Entrepreneurs.
  3. Marketing: Identify your audience, figure out where they are.
  4. Check out these sites to discover where your audience converses:
    1.  Big Boards Daily updated list of the largest message boards and forums on the web, along with interviews of these forums administrators.
    2. Technorati Real-time search for user-generated media (including weblogs) by tag or keyword. Also provides popularity indexes.
  5. Run contest to engage your audience.
  6. Set objectives: use metrics to measure success.
  7. A/B Test are great, only use them if you have more than 10,000 unique visitors a day.

I guess the biggest take away from Noah’s presentation is engage your audience as a means of growing your businesses.

  1. Nicolas Warren (@NicolasWarren) founder of

I sat down and had lunch with Nicolas.  The premise of his lunch discussion was how to be 10 people at once.  The most valuable commodities entrepreneurs have are their time and money.  Nicolas takes both restraints very seriously.  In order to maximize both, Nicolas suggested outsourcing some task that can be better done by others.  Some of that outsourcing may occur within the United States (front-end design), while other tasks can be done cheaper and faster offshore (back-end design).  Here are Nicolas’ top three outsourcing websites.

  1. Elance
  2. Odesk
  3. 99Designs

As a general rule, Nicolas employs two contractors to do the same job and picks the best work of the two.  In his experience, the key to a positive outsourcing experience requires 1) Setting clear expectations 2) A clear visual scope of work, and 3) Pay a fair wage.  He suggested going to the State Department’s website to research what a fair wage is in the country your contractor is located.

Ramen Camp 2012.  There is a ton more I could write about, but I am out of time.  It was great meeting the many entrepreneurs and hearing their great ideas.   My hat is off to the team at Greenhorn Connect who organized the event.  Great Job!

Keep updated on our weekly insight into crowdfunding by signing up for our email list and follow us on twitter