Bootstrapping a Valuable Company is a Journey where perceptions and assumptions are ruthlessly given a lesson by on ground realities and one’s understanding of words like responsibility, cash flows, customer satisfaction, faith and belief are severely tested
After having inertia to take the plunge in 2004, JugularSocial actually came to existence in 2010. Jugular just turned 6 a few days back and I took time to reflect on why it all started and what has really kept us going!
There are many reasons why people become ‘first time-first generation’ entrepreneurs.
A FEW have turned entrepreneurs because they have created a smart high barrier to entry technology which has potential to be a great applicationThese are usually raw gifted functional talents. Their Eureka potential needs to be spotted, nurtured and institutionalized with sound risk investments and talent ecosystem for these ideas to succeed as Businesses. Academic Incubators, Entrepreneur Driven and Innovation Friendly Investors can be their best friends.
SOME decide to become Entrepreneurs because they are at a phase full of false confidence, arrogance and assumption that they can do a better job at running a company than their bosses and that their contribution to that Company can create demand enough for creating and succeeding as a new standalone Company. This is by far the worst reasoning or assumption to become self-employed or attempt entrepreneurship.
MANY take the plunge because of that edgy feeling that one is not getting recognized enough or incentivized enough at job. This often urges people to become Self Employed Consultants (not = Entrepreneurs). Many others turn Entrepreneurs because they want financial and/or creative freedom.
FEW MORE very analytical and logical professionals are smitten by an Existing/Specific Market Opportunity or inspired by the potential of tapping into the Local Business Opportunity of a proven/growing business models operational in some other demographic. These are natural favourites of VCs and Angels and for the right reasons too. There are clear exit routes and benchmarks.
When I decided to turn an Entrepreneur in 2010, I was 30. I was hoping to ride on some of my *perceived* advantages as a To-Be Entrepreneur and backed myself to be amongst the 1% of lucky (and deserving) Entrepreneurs who would get funded early to pursue their Entrepreneurial Journey.
WELL, These were my perceived advantages
Confidence from my early career success, media visibility, recognition and growth in my 20’s.
20’s is an amazing phase if you are a go-getter. There is nothing to lose, not much baggage to carry. If you have the right mentors and well-wishers, the ‘I care a damn’ attitude and an ‘I think I am right’ swagger can work to your advantage. It did for me and it gave me an overdose of confidence. Your mistakes are often pardoned because you are still being given time to mature as a Professional. 20’s is fun!
✔ Interdisciplinary skills and creative abilities from a digitally aligned non-traditional career
I have always had a rather addictive appetite to know the deepest intricacies of changes/innovations/applications available to perform in an area I am passionate about (Building and Marketing Digital Consumer Experiences). I have always wanted to progressively equip and upgrade myself with what it takes to innovate and deliver in an era building applications which are driven by the convergence of skills, tools, techniques and sector knowledge. I thought this would help me achieve approximately around 70% of execution know-how that Jugular initially required to stay agile as a Startup! Looking back, this chunk of assumed contribution was simply hilarious. This ignorance deserves a separate blog
✔ Some Industry reputation as a Digital/Marketing Leader in the Health/Life Sciences domain.
✔ A proven ability sell and market concepts, ideas or solutions conceived by me or which I can relate to.
As I started pitching and pursuing the Entrepreneurial Journey, I realized that there is so much more than a set of theoretical perceptions and hypotheses. It took a while to realize and come to terms that reality is something else and that there is so much more to build a sustainable, scalable and valuable company. And to seal it all, we realized that we are not going to be amongst the angel investors’ favorites at that phase.
WELL, THAT BRINGS YET ANOTHER CATEGORY OF FIRST-TIME ENTREPRENEURS
whose thought process is driven by a fiercely ambitious urge to implement their vision for an Industry, Topic or at times a new Consumer Experience that they are looking to crack with their (or their founding team’s) functional ability to execute that vision. This needs a lot of patience to first build and then oodles of time to constantly iterate the pieces with customers and then piece it all together as a complete solution. Articulating and visibly showing progress during their formative years is another challenge by itself. Sometimes, their elevator pitch looks like an abstract art form. Many a times, these Entrepreneurs want to incubate an idea whose time has come from a consumer and end-user perspective, but it’s not seen that way by the investment/support ecosystem during its formative phase.
For this genre, it’s going to be a long haul if they don’t have angels within their friends and family who have a risk appetite and optimism like theirs . They would definitely find it very hard to raise external investments in the formative years. Every mistake they do would just take them so much closer to the oblivion, literally.
A year into the Journey, the realization dawned that Jugular’s Vision was very much in that mould and I had to bucket myself into this category of Entrepreneurs. In 2010/11 the ecosystem was nowhere close to the maturity we have now in India and that did not help our efforts to raise external funds as well.
We never had the luxury of any reserve cash to run our ideal business operations, on many occasions we did not even a ‘minimum viable’ team given the cash flow dynamics which only a ‘bootstrapper’ can actually relate to! Painfully ruthless and ridiculously constrained prioritization has been the only way to survive, sustain, progress and scale.Bootstrapping a Company is like playing a football game with missing team members and a fractured goal keeper captaining the unit (=Founder/s?). Successful Bootstrapping is about waking up every day and playing a new match given the same scenario day in and day out till you have somehow figured out a formula to start winning and that too consistently.
Jugular aspires to create innovative customer experiences and personalized marketing workflows for businesses and professionals to build their online identity and create their business demand. With this pitch, I am sure some of you may be finding it a little difficult to understand what we actually do. While some of you may be saying ‘cut the jargon and tell me what you have’ and a few of you would be thinking ‘what’s unique about this vision? While there would be others who would say, ‘Ah..that sounds interesting. What can you do for us?’
Perhaps tomorrow, I would change those lines and still communicate the same and that would start resonating with a few others who could not connect to the other pitch. Well…that’s the way it is. You initially connect with some, you miss some. The more you keep talking and listening, the better your chances you have to find takers in segments that matters to you. And the more you connect the more customers you grow and more talents you attract.
Since our inception, we got some pieces of the puzzle to work, while some pieces could not survive the grind. But most importantly, Jugular survived, self-sustained and has now grown by 300% since 2013 (without any external funding support)! Bootstrapping does not really leave you with any other choice. . For us scaling our business now is about pacing it right. Having been tight rope walking for years, we are now much better prepared to scale mountains!
We are now ready to go the distance.
I can’t thank the team and alumni of Jugular Social enough who have all toiled so valiantly during various phases of Jugular . So me managed with dining table as work spaces when we started out from a home which was also a make shift office , while other send used poor infrastructure during very testing times and there were others who toiled so hard to understand the nature of the Industry in which the company was operates in , while there are others who keep bringing a new meaning to words like multi – tasking . The contribution of these evangelists has just been remarkable .
Our Customers have shown us just so much love. Most of them now swear by us! Their happiness, acceptance, patience and revenue contribution was the only way we could have survived and sustained. Thei r acceptance was going to be our exi stence. Each and Every One of them matter the most. Thanks to thei r word of mouth, Jugular is now being increasingly perceived as the go-to Digital Marketing Enterpri se for a few Industry verticals in South India. Even with constant revenue pressures; we had to work as selectively as possible for maintaining that team balance needed for progress towards our long term vision.
Last but not by any means the least, if you are an early stage entrepreneur who is looking for an incubator that walks the talk silently, you should talk to BVRIT. They have been a pillar of strength. In a bootstrapped environment which gives you very limited chances to make mistakes, good mentors are just critical. At different inflection points for us, the fact there is someone like them who really cares for you is like a life jacket when you are sailing a long journey on unpredictable weather!
This ridiculously long commentary is dedicated to our customers, colleagues, mentors and well-wishers who have just been such remarkable stars in this Journey. Together with you we are committed to create world class digital consumer experiences in the coming years.