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Part II: Venture-backed to Bootstrapped

Do me a favor and ask ten random start-up folks if they think companies should be venture-backed or bootstrapped. On second thought, don’t do that. You’re guaranteed to get sucked into a dark world of debate filled with endless vitriol, judgment, and exaggerated eye-rolls…Yeah, I’ll take a large order of “no thank you,” please. (The short answer to that debate is, “It depends.”) The point of this post isn’t to debate which method is better. This post is simply about one (unbelievably good-looking, fantastic & super humble) person’s perspective on what it’s like to be in a venture-backed world vs. a bootstrapped world. On one hand, I’ve had the fortune to be an early employee at a successful NEA-backed company. On the other hand, I’ve also recently launched my own venture — insert plug, PINCH Crawfish Kitchen — using both bootstrapped funds and crowdfunded capital. Here are a couple of my observations:

 

  1. Mo’ Money — The most obvious observation comes down to $$$$$ (I’m going to exclude talks of equity, as that gets pretty hairy, pretty quickly). At a venture-backed company, you’re given money to make the decisions you presented to your investors. With a bootstrapped company, you’re hyper-aware about Every. Single. Penny. It’s important to note, however, that you can still be (and should be) mindful of your burn rate when you’re venture-backed. Too many companies burn through money at ridiculous rates and ultimately waste their funding. Don’t do that. Additionally, much of your company culture can be derived from how you/the company perceives money. The company I worked for developed many money-saving habits early on, and as a result, much of our culture was fixated on, “how can we save more money” — spanning from parties to how we set up our work stations.
  2. Mo’ Problems — With more money comes more temptation to lose focus and spend unwisely. Just a word of caution. In my bootstrapped company, we have a laser-like focus on making money — simply because this is how we get paid. When time is your most precious resource, we spend as much of it as possible trying to create value for our amazing customers. We want them to experience the best Southeast Asian Street Food they’ve ever had! Meanwhile, at a venture-backed company, many of our initiatives were directly influenced by how we thought investors would perceive it. We legitimately spent hours working on pitches, pitch decks, models, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it helps your company truly understand its mission, LTV, churn, and so on, but you do lose time enhancing product ideas and other market strategies. Some other awesome upsides from receiving funding included the ability to easily obtain talent and new technology. This allowed us to scale effectively and grow quickly. Conversely, bootstrapped growth is typically slow and steady.
  3. Blast off in my (Mentor)ship — When you’re living in a venture-backed world, mentorship is a click away. Investors typically have a wide network of unbelievably talented and smart individuals/advisors. And because your company is already vetted, you get automatic credibility. I can recall having several of the world’s top “thought leaders” of a certain industry in our corner. With a bootstrapped venture, finding mentorship is a daunting and grueling process. You’ve got to be a bit shameless in your relentless pursuit of a mentor who is willing to, first, believe in your vision, and second, willing to take you all the way.
  4. Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock — Currently, I have no formal deadlines when it comes to PINCH. It is up to me and my co-founder to accomplish things in a timely manner and to push ourselves to constantly do more. However, in a venture-backed company, you’ll have hard deadlines, timelines and goals that MUST be reached. Your investors are counting on it. You feel the fire underneath you at all times. To be honest, sometimes it’s nice having that fire — especially when you’ve stayed up extra late the night before binge-watching ‘Stranger Things’. (If you haven’t watched this show yet, you haven’t lived)
  5. Shoot for the Moon — In both cases, setting huge goals is par for the course. Just because you’re bootstrapped does not mean you should not be trying to reach the stars. However, venture-backed companies typically have loftier goals — such as a becoming the next FB or IPO — simply because it is more realistic to get millions of dollars in funding to help propel their own valuation into crazy large numbers. A bootstrapped company has one goal: to be profitable. Slow and steady growth does not afford the luxury of ever ‘being in the red’.

 

Regardless if you’re bootstrapping or trying to raise a round, having a great product and being able to execute are the most important things. Because at the end of the day, receiving money is just one aspect of your company — albeit an important one — but providing value, putting forth your best effort and fine-tuning your product are ultimately the things that will validate your company and get you the money you deserve. Speaking of having a solid product, have you heard of PINCH Crawfish Kitchen? I hear their food is amazing. 🙂

 

Top 5 Tech Trends in San Antonio

Being at Geekdom affords us a unique vantage point into the world of San Antonio’s growing technology scene. Consequently, for your own edification and reading pleasure, we’ve compiled a list of the five most exciting tech trends in San Antonio:

Cybersecurity

infocyte

Within Geekdom, there has always been a strong cybersecurity presence–thanks to companies like Infocyte and Global Infotek. San Antonio itself is consistently ranked in the top 2 for cybersecurity due to its education, talent and businesses. With the advent of new programs like the Cyber Incubator running out of Geekdom, San Antonio’s cyber program has begun to mature. San Antonio stays relevant in cybersecurity because of the educational focus that universities place on it, as well as the steady stream of talent coming from existing cybersecurity companies and the 24th Air Force Cyber Command. It’s safe to say that this is one San Antonio industry that is perpetually trending upward.  

Tech Courses

codeup

We’ve all heard the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In our digital age — where technology is a normal part of our daily experience — tech trade skills have become the new “fishing,” and for good reason! With programs like General Assembly, Tech Talent South, Open Cloud Academy, Iron Yard, and our very own Codeup, people of all backgrounds can now learn desirable and tangible skills that many employers seek.

The growing startup culture has made it possible for all of these boot camps and programs to thrive. Startups drive demand for graduates from these programs while the graduates themselves often start their own ventures. Beyond serving startups, many of these boot camps, such as San Antonio’s Codeup, function like startups, too — fast, nimble, and embodying the endearing “geek” culture.

The Downtown Movement 

downtown

‘Entrepreneurial density’ is a phrase that gets thrown around from time to time — particularly when the conversation revolves around cities and startups. With San Antonio, this phrase is becoming more and more relevant. In fact, there’s a growing trend of companies moving downtown or starting in downtown. The idea of density is crucial simply because when you are a small company, you cannot be on an island. You need the support of other people — a community. Density isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it is certainly a catalyst for growth. This is why the downtown community is so important to Geekdom.

This wave of new business inherently comes with some major economic and cultural implications, too. There’s job development, restaurants, real estate development, entertainment, along with hints of the dreaded ‘G word’ (Gentrification), purely as a result of more businesses being downtown. This is to say, we should be both excited and cognizant of the impact startups have with populating downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Simply put, businesses are realizing they need to move downtown.

Satellite Offices

Google-Fiber-Rabbit-logo

San Antonio is quickly becoming a place that companies, of all sizes,  trust to build out their existing business. The most common example we see in San Antonio are high growth startups creating sales and/or support offices here — although large companies are also beginning to take notice. Tidemark, Oscar, WP Engine and Google are just some of the exciting companies putting roots down in San Antonio — largely due to the burgeoning tech scene that is developing here. Now to be fair, this isn’t necessarily where we want to end up — a destination solely for existing business to branch out. However, these companies definitely help validate our tech ecosystem and entice talent to come to this city. This is an important first step.

An interesting sidenote: this trend is partially due to San Antonio’s loyalty. People enjoy living in the city and finding solid careers rather than job-hopping to the ‘the next big thing.’ This ‘brand loyalty’ is certainly one of our cities largest competitive advantages.

Hosting

rackspace

However trite and cliche this tech trend may seem, we would be doing San Antonio’s startup culture a disservice if this was not mentioned. Why? Simply because hosting is one of the largest reasons why San Antonio’s technology scene was able to take off. Some of San Antonio’s most foundational companies were all in the business of hosting: Rackspace, Hostway, Peer 1, etc. Being a part of that environment inspired many nascent entrepreneurs to pursue their own ideas in the tech space. In fact, many of the founders and employees from these hosting companies have already started their own successful businesses (e.g. Help Social, DialPad, Jungle Disk) all over San Antonio — ultimately bringing in more jobs, more opportunity, and more young people. To put it succinctly, in the absence of schools and boot camps, hosting can be seen as San Antonio’s next-gen talent engine.

It’s not necessarily the ‘sexiest’ industry, but it was, and still is, crucial to the continued growth of our city.


Here’s the most important takeaway that we can gather from these tech trends: San Antonio cannot, and must not, be complacent — as there’s an entrepreneurial fire that needs to be stoked and nurtured. The city must continue to grow organically and push itself to be open to opportunities it may not be used to. In the meantime, San Antonio is poised for greatness — especially as these trends continue to push us in the right direction.

 



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