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Forget VCs, try bootstrapping for a start

Tue, 29 October 2013

Contributed by Tadas Labudis, Shell LiveWIRE Winner and Eventhread Co-founder
If you read tech and start-up news you might have noticed that most of the stories are about companies that just raised millions in venture capital (VC) funding. This gives the impression that raising external investment is the only way to go about building your start-up. However, there are some very successful companies such as Github - a social code sharing platform, that have grown to “hundreds of thousands of users” without a single pound from an outside investor. 
In this post, I will share some tips learned from the experience of running my own tech start-up Eventhread without external investment a.k.a. ‘Bootstrapping’. Bootstrapping is not only about securing investment independently but also about being creative in getting free stuff that your start-up needs and reducing your costs to an absolute minimum. And ultimately, having a discipline in cost-control will show any future investors that you know how to make the most of their money.
1. Apply to competitions
Applying to start-up competitions might seem daunting but from our experience it’s absolutely worth it. Prizes from Shell LiveWIRE, Converge Challenge Kickstart and Startup Weekend Lisbon not only gave Eventhread seed money with no strings attached but also a place at a Microsoft BizSpark programme which gave us 3 years of free hosting, reducing our running costs dramatically. Another thing I really love about competitions is that they make us rethink and improve our business model every time we apply.
2. Get free office space
At Eventhread we never paid for office space and it’s not because we are stingy. Even in Glasgow, which is not known for a big start-up ecosystem, there are several organisations that understand early-stage companies and are willing to help. Entrepreneurial-Spark and Digital Enterprise Glasgow have kindly provided us with free office space which keeps us going without the need to raise capital. I would recommend looking around for a space at your local university or incubator before splashing on a fancy co-working space pass. 
3. Get free stuff through F6s
F6s is a platform that allows start-ups to apply to hundreds of accelerator and incubator programmes from around the World all through a single platform. However, another very cool thing about F6s is their free discount card. At the time of posting the platform claims to have 484 deals worth a whooping $465,367 - all up for grabs! Deals range from discounts on hosting, advertising and design services to exclusive free trials and other goodies that you, as a start-up founder will surely love. 
4. Structure your start-up for free
Even though start-ups are “supposed to be” hip and cool, every successful organisation needs structures and process in place to get things done. Luckily, most of the task management platforms have free-tier plans that will allow you to track things you need to do, map out your feature roadmap as well as collaborate with co-founders and employees. We have structured Eventhread with Asana and have seen a massive increase in our productivity since.
And, If you want to talk start-ups or just bounce-off ideas with me, hit me up on Twitter at @Labudis or connect via LinkedIn.

About Tadas Labudis (Co-founder of Eventhread)

Tadas Labudis is the co-founder of Eventhread - a tech start-up that helps people discover events and find like-minded Facebook friends to go with. Eventhread won the Shell LiveWIRE Grand Ideas prize in July, 2012 and was shortlisted in the Hot 40 that year. Winning this award gave the company a big boost in confidence and was instrumental in their successfully launching the website in September 2013. Eventhread now has 40,000 events and users, tracking 21,000 artists, 10,000 venues and 9,000 musical genres across the UK.

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