- Jonathan McCoy
The Bootstrap CommunityBootstrap Network exists to activate and support bootstrappers to build successful ventures in the world. It didn't start out this way, but we now understand that our role is to support the individual bootstrapper in their quest to become viable in the marketplace and do so by creating a community of fellow-bootstrappers who can help each other.
This also means that we put community and commerce in their appropriate place (see the accompanying yinyang). Selling to each other is NOT the primary activity within the community - community is about fellowship, support, help. Of course, bootstrappers do indeed work with each other, sometimes in trade and sometimes in transactions. Bootstrap itself is primarily a community and therefore many of our encouraged behaviors are for bootstrappers to adopt this mindset when interacting with Bootstrap and their fellow bootstrappers. Initiatives like Boot Karma are community-enhancing and also honor our need for support when our ventures are still in the Valley of Death stage. During this critical time, we are short on dollars and long on time.
Conversely, we are in FULL support of the marketplace and our entire goal is for all of us to create sustainable ventures that thrive by creating products and services that are valued by our customers in the marketplace. Bootstrappers focus on our customers (not investors until early Growth). Every bootstrapper wants to emerge from the Valley of Death, which means that what we create is valued by customers - who buy because they experience true value from what we do for them.
Please read the History and Context section to see how Bootstrap has evolved (circled around the yinyang!) to our unique integration of community and commerce.
Bootstrap Stages & Principles
The Bootstrap Network introduces an innovative framework for building a venture for long-term success. While bootstrapping itself is timeless, the Bootstrap Community strives to articulate and propagate the principles and stages of Bootstrapping. The stages are similar (and indeed derived in part from) Darius Mahdjoubi's Venture Development Model. The community articulates the stages of a venture as follows:
- Preideation - the time before an individual decides to become a bootstrapper (NOT part of the Bootstrap Community)
- Ideation - the time when the bootstrapper works part time on their venture
- Valley of Death - the time when the bootstrapper is committed fulltime to the venture. The venture is on the quest for customers, but is not sustainable
- Growth - the time when the venture becomes sustainable and scales its activities
- Rebootstrap - the time when large companies need to systematically recreate Bootstrapping within their organizaions to generate new products and services. This is a service of the Bootstrap Network provided in collaboration with Bootstrap Collaborators.
Bootstrapping is also described by a set of principles:
- Right Action Right Time
- Constraint Creates Innovation
- Use Everything
- Demo Sell Build
- Integrate Duality
A deeper explanation and synthesis of the stages and principles of bootstrapping is available at the Bootstrap Bootcamp. (The Bootcamp is an example of a collaboration between the Bootstrap Network and Bootstrap Collaborator, Joshua Shipsey of Communication Simulations)
Goals of the Community
The primary goal of the Bootstrap community is to create an environment that helps each participant advance through the stages of their own venture by taking the right action at the right time. It's important to note that sometimes the right action is to move backwards through the stages, say from VoD to Ideation.
Simply stated Bootstrap Austin aims to help each venture:
- Gain the 'right' knowledge
- And make the 'right' connections
- So that each venture can leverage their unique skills and resources
- In order to, Take the right action at the right time
It is this simple goal that drives the interaction between participants of the Bootstrap Community and the organization as a whole. Building a business is about expending resources in order to take a venture to the next level. Each bootstrapper is on a personal quest to use their own unique set of skills and resources to evolve their business in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. The Bootstrap Community is here to present knowledge of entrepreneurship and facilitate empowering relationships that allow each entrepreneur to take the right action at the right time.
As the Bootstrap Community itself matures, the community becomes a repository for information about building a venture. It is a vast library where, amongst its members, archives and supporting tools, any bootstrapper can be pointed to information that is relevant to their current situation in their venture. And, even better than this, when the group's information library is missing something, or perhaps lacks the latest and greatest information - each and every member is empowered to be able to contribute.
The bootstrap community is one of member contribution. The community has been structured to facilitate the improvement of the organization by making it easy for others to contribute – while at the same time advancing their own venture goals.
The illustration shown of community participation within the bootstrap community is considered over time. That is to say, it is kind of a snapshot of what participatory roles might look like at any given time or over any given period of time.
The community assumes that participants will migrate between community roles as is appropriate for the entrepreneur, for their venture, and for the community. This is important to note, because contributing to the Bootstrap Community does not need to be limited to playing a particular role over a defined period of time. Rather, it is about the participant participating/contributing in a certain role, and then taking on contributions that are appropriate from that position.
Participants can become Active Participants; Active Participants can become Contributors; Contributors can become Collaborators. In a sense the evolution of contribution for a member is a combination of the participant understanding their own needs, understanding the needs of the community, and being able to contribute based on where the set of these needs is common and relevant to what the participant has to offer. Other way to state this is that both the participant and the community should benefit from each and every contribution in some way.
A member may also reduce their level of participation in the community (for example, moving from Contributor to Active Participant) according to their personal situation. Commitments made to Bootstrap should always support the bootstrapper and if these commitments become burdensome, the bootstrapper should reduce them (right action, right time). It is vital, however, that when this means changing a previously-agreed-to commitment to the community, that hte bootstrapper proactively communicates the change. This allows Bootstrap to find other members who might be able to fulfill the responsibilities of a particular community role.
- Participant - observes community in order to understand it, learn casually, and identify resources that may be helpful in his/her particular venture.
- Active Participant - after understanding the community and realizing some level of benefit, the Active Participant interacts with other Participants of the community in order to advance his/her own venture, and help other community participants advance their ventures. Examples: Participation in a sub-group like Bootstrap Ideation; active exchange of messages on the Yahoo Group; leverage the Bootstrap Karma system to trade services with another participant.
- Contributor - after understanding the needs of many participants, the Contributor is able to generalize the need that several participants require in order to advance their venture to the next stage. The Contributor then offers some contribution to the Community that is in line with their skills, interests, passion. In many cases a contributor offers their venture's product or service directly to the group. Contributors embark on the stages of bootstrapping with the community itself as the customer for their initiative. This creates a wonderful opportunity to learn the principles of bootstrapping within our environment. Contributors will earn prenegotiated BootKarma for the time spent organizing their initiative.
- Collaborator - After acting as a contributor or active participant, a Collaborator is able to generalize the need of a set of Community Participants, and then offer a product or service in conjunction with the organization outside the bootstrap community. The Collaborator is able to use this set of participants as a 'test customer' for the first version of their product or service, and then has the option to commercialize this product to a broader market. These will be "Bootstrap-branded" products or services. Offering a bootstrap-branded product/services does not in any way inhibit the participant from offering their own version of the product/service.
In whole, the interaction between these various community roles creates a growing, thriving environment for all involved. The Contributors and Collaborators create an environment that becomes increasingly relevant to the Participants - all while advancing their own goals. The Active Participants benefit from both the interaction with other Participants, and also the services provided by Contributors and Collaborators. Everyone benefits, and ventures of each participant evolve.
Administration and Change
Participatory Roles within the community are tracked through Bootstrap Austin's use of OpenID in combination with the Bootkarma system. The process to get a participatory role changed involves engaging an administrator of the Bootkarma system in order to get properly registered for the system.
This manual will update from time to time with the changing needs of the community. If you have a suggestion for a change or improvement to the community structure, please contact the initiative's contributors.
This initiative has come out of the Bootstrap Open Source Initiative.