Last week's New York Times article about start-ups bootstrapping was an interesting piece. John Cook of the Seattle PI picked up on the article and happened to mention Shelfari in a blog post on the topic. I wanted to add something to the conversation that I think is important, but before doing so I thought it we should share a little about our experience bootstrapping Shelfari.
Shelfari was started in May of 2006 and from the date of formation to launch we had a total cash outflow of $9,317. I joke with Josh that we could have launched for less if he didn't get married in August down in Argentina and then take a well deserved vacation / honeymoon. We take real pride on being "Capital efficient" and believe that it is important to demonstrate to potential investors that we are fiscally responsible. When potential investors look at how we run our operation they immediately know that their money won't be "thrown away" and that we will stretch the value of every last dollar. Yet, most articles written about bootstrapping miss the most important part of the story, and that is the team.
A wise executive recently put into words something I have known for years, he said that the difference in technical talent is not linear, it comes in orders of magnitude. Meaning a good developer is 10 times more efficient than an average developer, and a great developer is 10 times more efficient than a good developer. Therefore a great developer is 100 times more efficient than an average developer. We could have never launched in effectively 4 months if we didn't have two GREAT technical talents in Josh & Kevin. For example, it took Kevin a grand total of 2.5 days from the time we decided to build "Lists" (top 10 list, wish list, currently reading list) to the time I was building my wish list and dragging books to reorder my top 10 list in our staging environment.
Capital efficiency, in and of itself, isn't an achievement. The achievement is building a great team and great product on a shoestring budget. And while it is far too early to tell if Shelfari will achieve "greatness", I can tell you that everyday I am amazed at what we can achieve on a shoestring budget, and that is because we have an A+ team. Keep your eyes open over the coming days & weeks, and you will see some of the KILLER features the team has been working on recently.