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the audience: q&a
My name is Jung Ha, and it seems like all three of the
companies are fairly niche-oriented.
Is that a rule of thumb that if your scope of business is
fairly narrow and very “nichey,” that you could afford to do the
bootstrapping, but if your vision is broad, then you have to go the
Drew, you had a pretty broad vision and bootstrapped for a
long time. I'm not sure
that that's necessarily the break.
Personally, I wouldn't worry about that.
Sometimes it's very easy to solve a small problem and build a
$10 million business. Most people don't do that.
I believe that we set out in our business, just as a rule,
first of all, not to devote time to anything that we deem to be less
than historically important; and, second, we will not devote any of
our time to any problem that we believe somebody has already solved
or even incrementally approached just because the opportunity
knocks. So, no, I don't
believe that's a precondition for successfully building a business
along this hybrid model. I
think that if you are selling to the depth and value of an idea, and
perhaps a substantiation of working code in the software business,
then it's perhaps harmful to be perceived as a small and narrowly
The answer may be also be the inverse, which is if you are a
niche solution, you probably will not get venture money to do it.
There is a lot of talk in the industry now about how
companies that were funded are actually not companies, they were
applications, and that's one of the reasons they stumbled.
I would say that the three panelists each had a pretty broad
vision, although each of you started in a niche.
First, I don't agree with the assessment either, and I don't
like the word “niche.” We
don't have a niche, we have a focus.
We have a very broad vision within that focus where we can
take it. In fact, I have often said tongue in cheek, and this always
pricks up the ears of venture capitalists and others, that our
stated business goal is to get investigated by the Justice
Department, although I want to end up on the Intel side of it versus
the Microsoft side. We
have a brand vision for where we are going. My belief in business, though, is that you do not succeed
long term being everything to everybody.
You have to be one thing to one person first, then, as you
take that market, broaden that one thing to other people.
That's our strategy for getting to our vision.
Because I came from a business that will remain nameless, but
you can probably look it up somewhere on the Net, we used to joke
that the motto of the company was, “We can do it.
What's the question?”
That was what they taught you there.
To me it made no sense, and I don't think the business
structure to do grand vision things, day-one, where you are all over
the map typically succeeds. In
effect, I think MicroStrategy is a great example of a company that
had a nice, solid business niche, focus, and was trying to become
the leader in that market. They
got a lot of cash and they got into a lot of other businesses way
too fast justifying to themselves that they were all interrelated.
If you look at what they are doing now, which I personally
think is the right thing, they're stripping away all the stuff
around what they used to do really well.
Time will tell whether it's too late for them to take that
piece of the market, but they are getting back to that core thing
that they started the business on, that was their vision and that,
if they had concentrated all their effort on, they might be in a
different place today. That's
the way I think you succeed, and that is the big vision.
You know, drinking your own Kool-Aid is always dangerous,
whether you're bootstrapping or you’ve got somebody else's money.
It seems that all of you said that to start out on this path
of bootstrapping you just start out fairly clueless, so I think most
of us in this room are on the right track.
How do you have the confidence to keep going?
Well, it is tough. I look at it as a snowball.
You have to get the snowball moving and there are things that
can help you get it moving, like Netpreneur, MindShare, a board of
advisors, filling in the holes in your management team with people
who have experience that you don't, etc.
What we have done pretty successfully is, if you really think
that it can succeed, identify that first market you are going after
and get it in one of those hot areas.
Be a niche player, a focus player.
That will give you some traction, if there is traction there
at all, and let you use that first market to get to others.
What always helped us was staying focused on the real need
for the clients and never losing sight of what I guess is a
“global” niche since there isn't a company that doesn't have
these kinds of issues. It's
a niche kind of product and service, but for a very global,
broad-based client base.
By always keeping focused on what the client really needs and
never losing that confidence in yourself, you just keep putting one
foot in front of the next. I
can't tell you the number of times that something or someone has
knocked us down, and, like one of those blow-up punching bags, you
knock it down, it pops back up, you knock it down, it pops back up.
With all these years in business, we have been knocked down
plenty of times and you just need to put the one foot in front of
the next and get yourself back up again. Like Jeff said, get support from your partners, your staff,
your colleagues, your associations and your friends because whatever
is happening to you, it's happened to the rest of us, and you are
not alone in that.
Just a quick comment. Drew touched upon it about the role of
family. I'm a spouse of
a serial entrepreneur who has bootstrapped four companies, been
successful and then sold them.
You have to understand that you need buy-in and a lot of
support from your families when you are doing something like this
because there are financial considerations, time considerations,
emotional ones. You
have to keep real close contact or you will lose your family.
Thank you. Thank
you, panelists. Now, my
friend, my mentor, Mario Morino, is going to wrap us up.
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