Everybody wants to be the next Steve Jobs, Phil Knight, Julia Hartz, Rashmi Sinha, or Lisa Stone. They want to be the wunderkind with the fantastic idea that they unveil to thunderous applause and a line of investors who “make it rain.” What most new startups fail to remember is that each of these Rockstars used to be regular people. They were ordinary people who toiled away at special projects using their own money and making lots of mistakes until they hit on that one great idea that propelled them into the spotlight.
There’s no reason you can’t be that person too…if you have an unlimited amount of “mad” money and all the time in the world.
Part of why we don’t often see these shooting star entrepreneurs and startups anymore is that while they operated in relative obscurity until hitting it big, today we live right out in public–and at a fraction of the budget that our predecessors had at their disposals. Time is tough. The web isn’t (monetarily speaking) as free as it used to be. These days even buying a tiny ad on someone’s blog can cost hundreds of dollars. So how do you find the money you need to keep your startup going until you can grab your share of the spotlight?
Yes, okay, everybody hates Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk right now for raising millions in just a couple of days on Indiegogo to fund a pet project. Nobody is thrilled with Matthew Inman and his buddies for doing something similar with a one-off game over at Kickstarter. Here’s the thing about crowdfunding though: it has a way of leveling the playing field. Someone who tosses $10 to Fillion or Inman is also likely to kick $10 over to you if you can sell them on why your project is awesome.
So work hard on that crowdfunding pitch. And choose the right platform for it. Kickstarter is great but if you don’t fully fund your project, you don’t get any of the money people offered you. Indiegogo is great if you aren’t sure what you need to raise or for “any little bit helps” styled funding.
And remember: crowdfunding–even small amounts of it–is a great way to show future investors that there is already an audience, fanbase and demand for your product!
We’ve all heard of the guy who took out a second mortgage on his home to help fund his startup. Before you go that route, why not look into smaller personal loans to help bridge the gaps in your funding? Blue Trust Loans, for example, offers “cash infusions,” according to their WordPress page. If you only need a thousand or so to help fund your next round of production and know that what you make from that production round will pay back the loan in full with some profit left over, using cash infusions and independent loans could be a way to go.
Working with independent lenders can be risky, but if you find a good one, the connections and network you build there can be invaluable. For example, if you did choose to go with Blue Trust Loans, having them in your LinkedIn Network could give you some additional klout.
Plus, if you pay back the loans you can build credit for yourself and your business.
Incubator programs are organizations that are built to help multiple startups fund and build their companies. The program offers all sorts of great opportunities for funding and networking. They also usually provide access to people like accountants and marketing experts to help grow the “back end” of a company. They’re also great places to meet potential angel investors or even find venture capital funding. Sometimes they require that you run your startup out of their spaces but there are a few that operate virtually as well.
It’s important to tread carefully here. While many startups have benefitted greatly from incubator programs, others have found them incredibly distracting and damaging for their focus. These programs work best for entrepreneurs who know exactly what they want to do but just need help doing it. If you’re still figuring out your direction, you might want to wait before pairing up with one of these programs.
These are just a few of the ways that you can find funding while also building buzz about your startup. Remember: nobody really hits it big overnight. Use these ideas to help build momentum and get your products and services out there!