“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

― Arthur C. Clarke, Science-Fiction Writer

It’s is a term you’ll here thrown around pretty liberally in start-up communities, often presented as a solution – ‘bootstrap it’ is a common refrain, a coded way of saying ‘figure it out for yourself, for free’. As the old adage goes, ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ speaks to the ‘can-do’ attitude anyone looking to start a business should have.

There are plenty of other idioms, turns-of-phrase and references to this kind of thinking that you’re likely to hear from your peers in the start-up community; from the more formal ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ to the old classic DIY, each generation formulates its own expressions to describe a headstrong, confident ambition to make something out of nothing.

Of course in SaaS, your developers will have a more grounded definition of bootstrapping as the first lines of code that run when you hit the ‘on’ button on your machine, or the index.php file called on your web framework that brings to life all of the adjacent modules, coalescing to display your webpage. Both of these technical definitions dovetail nicely into the expression as you might understand it – it’s that initial spark, grunt and heave of exertion that then blossoms into something of value.

Ironically, the old 19th century term from which all this originates – to pull oneself up by their own bootstraps – describes an action that is nothing short of impossible. It’s fitting then that this would now be used to describe the mindset needed to succeed as a start-up founder. Carving out your own niche in a competitive market place with a limited pool of resources to draw on is daunting enough to put most people off from even trying. But it’s that determination to overcome anything in the pursuit of a creative vision that drives a ‘bootstrapping’ ethos that can triumph over what appears at first glance to be insurmountable.

In a more practical way, bootstrapping refers to making the most of the limited resources you have available as a start-up founder. Unless you’ve got considerable assets already at hand to bankroll your initial setup, you’re going to be squeezing every ounce of value out of whatever resources you have at your disposal – namely, your own time.

Thankfully, there are countless free-to-use alternatives to otherwise paid-for solutions available to the start-up founder. You’ll find a list for some potentially relevant offerings compiled by us here – but it’s by no means exhaustive. A big part of ‘bootstrapping’ your business is investing time and energy into figuring out shortcuts to solve problems as they arise. Get involved in the wider start-up community online, and you’ll find like-minded people willing to share at least some pointers to inspire your own progress.

Of course, you’ll want to be weary of the humble-post, the braggarts and know-it-all’s who can knock your confidence with there boasts of securing Angle investment for the £10,000 MMR SaaS project that they started six months ago whilst working two other jobs. As with many walks of life, you’ll gain little by constantly measuring yourself against unrealistic standards – every start-up journey is different, and there are countless variables that are ultimately beyond your control that determine outcomes every day.

The reality is that the bootstrap mentality never really goes away. Here at Angle, the start-up ethos has remained key to our creative and developmental process; nothing is taken for granted regardless of our growing success, and the last 18 months has proven just how valuable a resourceful mindset can be.

Now we’re in a position to share that ideal as one of our greatest resources, whilst also knowing how to give in to ambition and break through cautious timidity when inspiration strikes. Half of the battle for a start-up founder is psychological, and for many it’s one that they often face alone. This can make or break a prospect, regardless of its initial promise – so stick around and get motivated, informed and inspired…

We can help with your SaaS startup or product. Let’s talk!