Living and Giving

Bootstrapping: It Starts with Space and Culture and Entrepreneurial People

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Bootstrapping should start first of all with your space. At the beginning of UniversalGiving, I worked out of my home: very economical.  But as you grow, you need to find an economical space and team-oriented culture.  
As you start out, and as you continue, establishing an inexpensive and team-oriented culture is imperative.  Shared office space– if done right — allows you to cut costs and increase camaraderie with other entrepreneurs.  As CEO, it allows you to brainswap with other likeminded founders. For your team, it provides a larger group of people to speak, connect and share with, feeling a part of something larger.
In many, diverse ways we all want to be a part of something larger. Part of that is your organizational vision. Part of that is your team. Part is of it is your space, and the other people who work there.  Create many instances where your often small, start up team, can connect to a larger sense of purpose.  It attracts people and keeps them there.  In startup mode, you don\’t want to lose the right people.
You can also ask a larger company if they have extra room. This is a good option, but just make sure that the company culture, and space, fits well with yours. It\’s a bit less of sharing, and more under jurisdiction of someone else, and yet is something to be grateful for if you can attain it.

As you look for that right space, I\’d recommend also making a list of qualities that are important to you: Dynamic, Bright, Economical, Sharing, Intellectual.  The manifestation of those qualities can really help bring your vision to fruition.  If you stick with these qualities, there could be many different right places, each reflecting your vision in different ways.

The key point is to find an environment that will help you, and your team, succeed more rapidly—while saving money.

Right now, UniversalGiving is in our 7th year and we are fortunate enough to share office space with Kapor Enterprises, founded by Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Notes and Second Life.  He and his wife provide an amazing space, where people of diverse backgrounds of different races, economic levels, business, nonprofit, foundation, investments, reside.   The environment is not an incubator; rather it is a center that provides an extremely supportive and crossfunctional environment allowing socially minded entrepreneurs and more established leaders the opportunity to succeed.

Right Team: Hire EPs

Bringing on the right team is important too.  An entrepreneur doesn’t have to hire other entrepreneurs, but they do have to hire entrepreneurial people. This is an important part of bootstrapping because you don\’t want to hire people who usually stick to only one area, at least at the beginning. They usually have to be able to to delve into two, three, four – sometimes seven different areas.  It\’s a subtle but important way to save on costs.
There’s a critical difference between being an entrepreneur (who is also entrepreneurial) and hiring entrepreneurial people. Entrepreneurial People (EPs) don’t necessarily want to start their own organization, or necessarily have visionary ideas. However, they are willing to do what it takes, create systems on the spot, not get scared off by the fact that certain processes aren’t yet in place (in fact they relish creatively designing them).
In a bootstrapping culture–and I would argue we want to retain this feel throughout the tenure of your growth–your team can’t just be willing to do one thing.  In the early days, there is no one job description, and EPs love this. They want to delve in to realizing your vision for the company, by diving into different areas, providing a rich, varied professional experience.   Cross them over into two business units: Give them expertise they can cross reference back and forth, determining how they intersect, and how they can take action efficiently.

These are key constituents at your \’startup table:\’ Space, Culture and Entrepreneurial People.    This focus should last beyond the early days of an entrepreneurship, keeping our atmosphere and team with high motivation.