Bootstrapping: Idea generation

The kinds of businesses that can be bootstrapped. You have to look at the interviews page on indiehackers. This is the place to check out bootstrapped businesses in 2019.

The profitable businesses range from CRMs to "productised" design shops to invoicing or analytics apps. For the most part they share one thing in common: they are processes that are run in code. That require little to no human intervention. There will be a support requirement to help users, but they can use the tool, once made, 100s of times without calling on its creator.

They can also be based on website monitoring, collated information, courses, marketplaces or communities. All build-once, leave running type of businesses. They aren't passive income generators, in that they need updating, supporting and monitoring at a high level, but they do let you scale into higher user numbers than brick and mortar shops do.

Coming up with an idea

To come up with something that'll work for you, it would have to be something that would capture your interest for long enough to make you fight through the hard times. Something you enjoy doing, even if you risk killing your enjoyment of it, because if you don't even enjoy your business you'll find it a much steeper uphill struggle than it needs to be. It has to be something you have an edge in. An edge over others, i.e. something they can't do very easily. There has to be a barrier between your users and a simple solution that you can provide.

If you have that edge and enjoyment of your subject area, you then need to be able to build a system to handle your users. If you need capital to hire a coder, you're leaving the realm of bootstrapping. You can partner with a coder, pick a flexible modular site builder or shop front (Drupal, Shopify) or just knuckle down and learn to code. It's a steep learning curve from scratch, but it is doable. Many tutorials and resources are available if you have time to go through building example sites. For this I'd recommend Ruby on Rails for a beginner. You can get from zero to something decent in a very short time and not be constrained by the limitations of a CMS/site builder. If you're just selling digital downloads or access to a community though, Wordpress or Drupal will do the trick, with thousands of pre-coded plugins available to bolt on to your site. Be wary of blocking code and slow sites, but many fully fledged bootstrapped businesses run from these. This is veering off topic though. Essentially, you just need to work to your abilities at first, or aim to level those up to get where you need to be.

If you can think of your strong suits, your core skills, think of a business or consumer problem faced by people interested in the same and then think of a way to code it into a system that packages the solution up into a service - you have the beginnings of a sound bootstrapped business.

Examples to get you thinking

  • User feedback for websites
  • Document managers
  • Tracking physical things
  • Selling website widgets
  • Tracking time/working hours
  • Newsletters
  • Communities
  • Productised services
  • Reminder services
  • Job boards
  • Business management
  • Subscription to physical items
  • Video/email course
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