Does a Startup Need Funding to Be Successful? This Founder Says No

It took a couple of years for Float to find its footing, but once it got going, it never looked back. The startup now generates $6.5 million in revenue, all without raising a single dollar from investors. Float just hit their 10th anniversary and through it all they’ve stayed true to their humble beginnings, remaining fully self-funded and 100 percent remote. 

As an ad agency veteran, Glenn Rogers, the CEO and co-founder of Float, knew all too well the pain of allocating team members to countless projects in the professional services industry. He was stunned and frustrated to find that agencies were using basic spreadsheets to keep track of everything. 

Glenn set out to find a better way to help teams plan their work and ensure they were making the most of their time. Enter Float, a resource management software that helps teams, from agencies and consultancies to architecture firms and IT services, plan their projects more efficiently.

The platform gives a high-level view of resource capacity and empowers leaders to make better decisions. Float helps 4,000 teams, including those at Hulu, Buzzfeed, Ogilvy, and Deloitte, plan their best work. 

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

When Glenn Rogers and his co-founder Lars Gelfan first launched Float, it wasn’t an instant success. They had a hard time convincing people of the impact their product could have. 

But that didn’t stop him from pursuing the project. Glenn and Lars kept their day jobs at the ad agency and worked on Float as a side hustle. “For those first couple of years, I thought about it as eight hours of work, eight hours of Float, and eight hours of sleep. Even though it was tough, we were building something that we felt needed to exist in the world. I have very fond memories of those 70-hour workweeks, because it never felt like work.”

As the saying goes, it took Float years to become an overnight success.

In the last five years, Float has truly found both its product-market fit and an audience that has an appetite for this kind of service. They proved the benefits of a centralized and collaborative view of resources to optimize how people spend their time and avoid underutilizing or overworking team members.

While Float is proud to be fully bootstrapped, they did seek out investors in the beginning. Glenn says, “At the time, it was the thing you did. You had an idea, you put a pitch deck together, and you went out and pitched it. And we did that. We spoke to a bunch of investors, but no one was interested. The product was very unsexy and the market just wasn’t ready for it.”

Not All Startups Need Investors 

Do startups need external funding to be successful? Not according to Glenn. “In the end, I think it was an absolute blessing. I look back on it and think how glad I am that we didn’t get investors,” he says. So, why was it better to avoid outside investors? The answer is two-fold, Glen argues.

First of all, certain business models just don’t need extreme levels of funding up front to prove that they work. Float was one of those businesses. Secondly, it comes down to personality type. Reporting to VCs is not for everyone. Glenn thrives in an environment where he can invest profits into growth and make rapid decisions without seeking approval. 

He argues, “Knowing that profit is so important to staying alive in the early days, you become very resourceful and smart with how you invest that money. Those lessons that I learned in the first few years have carried me forward to today where we’re very profitable.” Glenn has learned how to use profit to scale and how to bring the whole team along for the ride as well. 

Glenn urges entrepreneurs to consider whether they really need external funding. “Especially if you have a SaaS idea, the actual cost of setting up the business is so small. You should ask yourself what funding will achieve and whether that’s the right tool for growth for your startup.” 

But if Float had won funding from the outset, how would things have been different? Glenn explains that entrepreneurs going the bootstrapping route should expect smaller and slower progress. “We learned a lot on our own, about the product and operations, and some of that was slow and painful. Perhaps we could have addressed those issues more quickly with funding. There is value in having support from a VC network to get some of those more strategic answers faster.” 

Sustainable Growth Is the Key

The biggest challenge of bootstrapping a startup is not necessarily your idea or motivation, but how you grow a team that believes in your vision too. Without funding, it can be hard to attract talent in the beginning. “You have no revenue, no audience, no fancy perks, so it’s all about the story you tell and your belief in that story,” says Glenn. 

Once the shine wears off the initial launch, it comes down to the entrepreneur’s ability to communicate a mission that excites and motivates others. You need to get that story right to make it through to profitability. And while this can take time, slow growth isn’t such a bad thing. 

For Float, the focus has always been on growing the company sustainably. “For us, sustainable growth is about being in this for the long haul, supporting our team to live their best work life. Think about the health and morale of your team and grow in a way that makes sense,” says Glenn. 

Glenn’s final piece of advice: “If you’re thinking about going the bootstrapped route, have patience, stay curious, know that it’s a marathon and enjoy that journey!” 

BYANDREW GAZDECKI

Source: Bootstrappers.com

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