City Leader Resources
Please see Leading_a_Subgroup if you would like to lead a city chapter.
Why create a Bootstrap City Group?
- The primary purpose for creating the Bootstrap Group is to create a support network for bootstrap entrepreneurs. Others on the same entrepreneurial journey will provide advice, help and resources. Additionally, the bootstrap network can promote insight and expertise-sharing among entrepreneurs. This will amplify as the network strengthens. Networked entrepreneurs may also conduct mutual beneficial business with each other.
- Create and spread a working model for bootstrapping. This is a known process and can be learned. If entrepreneurs are exposed to the model, they will significantly increase their chances of long-term successes.
- Be inspired and learn from successful bootstrapped entrepreneurs. Most ventures go through the same challenges and having the experience and advice from successful entrepreneurs that have been able to cope with the challenges of developing a new venture is very valuable. This also creates an opportunity for mentorship.
Bootstrap Austin as a Model
- We meet every second Monday of the month at a local pub/watering hole. The group meets at 6pm. We usually have speakers who have founded their own venture sand then have grown with it into a successful enterprise. The speakers are local entrepreneurs. The speaker starts at 6:30 and goes for not more than an hour. Folks stick around till about 8:30 to continue the conversations with each other – and often, the speaker too.
- Conduct "breakout sessions" which are talks around specific topics of interest. These might be given by a bootstrapper or some expert
- Use yahoo groups to continue the discussion virtually. For now, we will create local yahoo groups for each city. Many of the questions posted are tactical and local in nature – which won’t be useful for other chapters. The yahoo calendar is also very useful to create a repeating event and reminder of bootstrap meetings.
- Evite is great to invite folks to specific events and get counts for attendance. Here’s a sample invitation. In Austin, folks can pay using Paypal when they sign up.
- Bootstrap Austin Blog in which leaders can contribute.
- Website. To start, we will create a space for you at: http://www.bootstrapnewtork.com/cityname. Intitially, it can point to your wiki page and over time you can develop your own site. See Banglore's Site as an example
- A core group of leaders with one overall point-person (think of Linus Torvalds). Other areas of help will be for the website, speakers, breakout sessions. As with any bootstrapping experience, one passionate person will start and do all the required tasks and then others can step up and take on some of the responsibilities!
- Use the group to articulate needs. Listen to the banter on the yahoo group and talk to members.
- Keep it very informal (except for breakout sessions). It’s most important for more and high-quality connections to occur. We are building Metcalfe Networks not Sarnoff ones!
- Maintain a bar for joining – the group is specifically for bootstrappers, not folks who want to sell stuff or provide services to bootstrappers. Make the metric for joining that the individual is actively considering or currently engaged in a bootstrapped venture. Keep in mind that some folks are really great connectors, who will bring people into the group. They might not themselves be strict bootstrappers, but will be very useful.
- Build a community. The better bootstrappers know each other, the more they can support each other in multiple ways. Many in the Austin group have done business with each other, provided advice and counsel or otherwise assisted. The core members should actively introduce members to each other, both in-person and electronically. One interesting example: we have a bootstrapper who helps companies locate space in Austin. He is working on finding a bootstrap
Initially, with a small group, you can meet at a local bar. We initially chose the Gingerman Pub in Austin and met on their outside patio. This worked very well for the first six months or so. We started getting speakers and the informal atmosphere helped keep their talks informal, conversational and short! As the group grew, we also outgrew the pub and eventually found Opal Divine’s. The key here was the room they have on the second floor which we reserve every second Monday. In classic bootstrap fashion, we don’t pay for our meetings. Since we’re bringing new customers to the venue, the owners were only too happy to host the events.
Once a month works well. Set a day in the beginning of the week and stick to it. In Austin we do second Mondays. Earlier in the week is better because there are much fewer conflicting events. Mondays are especially good. And evening time is ideal. Star
For the second-Monday events, the key is to have successful bootstrap entrepreneurs tell their stories. It goes without saying that an entrepreneur who has raised $5MM is quite simply the wrong person to address the group. Hearing stories from warriors who have been in battle does many things. First bootstrappers gain confidence that they too will find a way through seemingly impossible obstacles. Second, bootstrappers will become exposed (if not formally, then through the stories) to the principles of bootstrapping. Third, they will realize that there is no short cut, no magic bullet, no one way. They have to make their own.
Growing the Group
Bigger is not necessarily better; quality over quantity. (More bootstrapping principles applied to the group?!) We should resist the urge to try to get big fast. Rather, stay quiet and let other entrepreneurs find us. The best way that the group in Austin has grown is through existing members inviting others. This will keep the quality high. I currently approve all new members in Austin. Designate a person in your city to do the same.
The breakouts are the forum to address specific issues that bootstrappers face – everything from legal, accounting, marketing, etc. This has happened sporadically in Austin. Usually, we do a brown-bag lunch or pick an evening in between regular meeting times. A more quiet and focused location such as a university classroom or corporate meeting room should be used. Find presenters who are deep experts in their field to talk about their knowledge.
Services & Dues
At Bootsrap Austin, we have developed an innovative way to engage the community. While we do charge dues to those who want to enage that way (and dues are low and provide free meetings), something much more interesting evolved from the passionate discussions that came about when I announced this idea in Austin. First off, Bootstrappers don’t have much $ to spare – they’re bootstrappers! Second, getting Bootstrappers to pay by providing services to the group gets a ton more value than $10/month, creates greater community participation and causes Bootstrap to innovate. We use Bootstrapper Kevin Koym’s Enterprise Teaming application to negotiate and track these commitments and it has been extremely successful.
Some examples, worth noting:
- Leadership: we have co-leads who organize speakers, breakouts, finances (since we collect dues in Austin now),
- Local Group Liaison: there are a ton of related groups that are natural connection points for Bootstrap chapters. In Austin, these include, AIEA, AIBA, Acton MBA, Texchange, TiE Austin, DCI, IC2 Institute, Austin Rice Alliance. The Liaison person’s job is to coordinate joint events, negotiate special fees for bootstrappers and update the Bootstrap yahoo calendar with events.
- Sub-group Leadership: we have a few in Austin – Ideation, Growth, Women – which are led by 2-person teams. They organize their own topic-specific events and also have their own yahoo groups. For sub-groups, leads in various cities should have their members join the
- Technology: we use Enterprise Teaming, Aviri and will soon be launching a book club through Stuffopolis. Other possibilities abound.
Leverage the Bootstrap Network
The Overall Bootstrap Network will be continue to be run from Austin. It will:
- Develop, research and articulate the principles of bootstrapping. UT is a great resource. One researcher and friend, Darius Mahdjoubi is working on a book about bootstrapping, which he will complete in the next couple of years.
- Maintain the main Bootstrap Network website and blog. Bootstrap chapters leaders from around the world participate in the blog.
- Connect all members around the world.
- Create connections between Bootstrappers and large companies.
What is the Vision for Bootstrap Worldwide?
• Foster bootstrapped entrepreneurship and help entrepreneurs build their businesses. • A federation of local groups. • The group itself should grow with bootstrap principles – organically, step-by-step, under-the-radar, etc.