Why You Should Bootstrap Like Apple

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started building computers in Jobs’ parents garage way back in the 1970’s. Free office and warehouse space. Ya can’t beat it.

Jobs sold his car, Woz his calculator, and they scrapped together a prototype of a computer circuit board --  the minimum viable product known as the Apple I was born.

Bootstrap Tip No. 1: Get your minimum viable product off the ground with free or low-cost tools.

The Apple I was just a circuit board. Wozniak’s genius was in eliminating the number of chips needed to run a computer, and he created this board to build your own computer from. This not only allowed for better design, but helped them produce the prototype as cheaply as possible.

The Steves then used their local meetup at the Homebrew Computer Club to create buzz for their product, and the phone to cold call customers. Free marketing.

Nowadays we have so many low-cost or free tools to launch and market our businesses. Blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, YouTube, Skype, the Cloud … the list practically never ends. Do you really need to pay for a service to have the same impact?

The co-founders then received their first order from the Byte shop in Palo Alto -- 50 of them. There was just one caveat: They had to turn all 50 Apple I circuit boards into fully built computers.

Where would they get the funds to purchase the parts needed to produce the machinery?

Bootstrap Tip No. 2: Negotiate with suppliers.

Treat your suppliers as partners, not adversaries. Don’t accept blind quotes as the only option. Tell them about your plans for the future, convince them that they will win by helping you win.

Steve Jobs strapped on his boots, picked up the phone and told any supplier who would listen about his vision. They eventually received net 30 terms without any proven credit to their name and fulfilled the order.

“We had the parts on credit and we got paid in cash. That was the only way we could do the Apple I’s," Wozniak later recalled.

Apple Computer Inc. was officially launched. A revolution sparked by two guys with beards in a garage, bootstrapping their way into world history.

So as you are drawing up your next long winded executive summary and revenue projections full of hot air, ask yourself this question: Apple Computer didn’t need funding, do I?

Zack Price is a serial entrepreneur originally from Cleveland, OH residing in Chicago, IL where he starts companies inside the entrepreneurial playground, 1871. He's been starting businesses since age 10, including a few Startups-to-Exits. Zack’s current startup is BlogIntoBook.com where he turns bloggers into published authors. You can read his silly blog at ZackPrice.com and follow him @Zackonomics.

Contact Us