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> Some kinds of startups are effectively impossible to build given current structural constraints on financing them

There are a lot of things that are impossible to raise money for, that are possible to bootstrap. If you're willing to work on something for 5 or 6 years without getting paid, there are lots of opportunities that open up that have high barrier to entry because they essentially can't be copied by venture backed companies.

Very few people can afford to bootstrap 5-6 years, that is a privileged position, most viable startups will never be executed if that is the filter. Some startups require many man-years of engineering effort before they can produce an MVP, so after 5-6 years they may have no material traction. Furthermore, startups have a shelf-life beyond which they become borderline un-investable solely by virtue of age. There are always exceptions but I would not want to count on being an exception among exceptions.

Some startups may be amenable to slow bootstrap, but the ones that have this very high wage cost tend not to be those types startups. I love these kinds of hardcore tech startups and believe they are extraordinarily valuable, it is the kind of company I would start, but I am also very realistic about the economics of building a team that can execute within those constraints.

If you do 4 - 6 months of consulting per year then it's very doable, assuming you're a developer.

That means you are spending even less time on your startup. I've been there and done that. And despite eventually raising $20+M in VC (I was extremely lucky), it was a horrible idea that I've never repeated since (raising subsequent VC). The failure modes associated with this are well understood and nearly impossible to avoid.

Short version: you can either generate project revenue or product revenue. You build a fundamentally different company to do either, so if you spend a significant portion of your time in project mode, the time you spend in product mode is usually moot. Consulting companies are project companies, through and through. The widely regarded truism that project companies cannot be transformed into product companies exists for a reason.

I'd love for this to not be the case but I've lived it so many times that I thoroughly understand the reality of it.

> The widely regarded truism that project companies cannot be transformed into product companies exists for a reason.

A lot of the best SaaS companies have actually come from consulting businesses that were productized. C.f.: https://startupsocials.wistia.com/medias/e6ttk04b9e?fbclid=I...

I think this strategy has a bad reputation because it usually fails, but what people forget is that startups usually fail anyway.

Have you written about this phenomenon more extensively elsewhere? Would to love to read about it in detail.

If you'd like to share, I'm interested in the types.....

Imma say, a lot of these ones: https://www.indiehackers.com/products

I would just look at successful bootstrapped startups that didn't have traction for 4+ years after the last pivot. E.g. Global Relay, Mailchimp, Bubble.is, ProfitWell, etc. And I wouldn't count something like Kickstartr, which took seven years to launch but only because the founder was non-technical.


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