Long Live The “Not-So-Sexy” Start-Up

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No funding? No problem! You do not need other people’s money to be successful.

In recent years it seems there has been a shift in what is considered the “successful” start-up business.

Media outlets like Shark Tank on ABC and Entrepreneur Magazine would have you believe that in order to make it big you need to receive funding from multi-millionaires. That rapid organization growth is the only true metric of success.

Entrepreneurial focused publications and shows love to share stories about early stage start-up ventures that “took a chance and made it”. It seems like every other day we hear about the next Airbnb or Stripe receiving boat-loads of cash to spur their growth.

The stories are sexy, no doubt.

We are told about how the founders eat Ramen noodles for months on end and sleep on a friend’s couch until they hit it big. How all of that sacrifice paid off in the end because they worked so hard. It’s the “rags to riches” story we have all heard so many times, but for some reason we are still attracted to them.

The reality is that the majority of people with a dream of starting their own business can’t suddenly live like a college student again, which furthers the stereotype of today’s start-up success story. It would appear that if you are not familiar with (or good at) fundraising then your entrepreneurial dreams can seem simply unobtainable.

But Here’s The Big Secret: Most Successful Businesses Don’t Require Venture Capital

Despite what you read on the entrepreneurial publications you do not always need venture capital to get started and to grow.

In fact, instead of relying on others, you should take on the role as the primary business investor (with regards to both time and money).

When it comes to investing your time, that should be easy. If you are making excuses about not having enough time then you really shouldn’t be trying your hand at entrepreneurship. I am serious, it’s not for everyone and that’s okay.

The truth is that if you are committed to your vision then you will have more than enough time. You can set aside time around your day-job, or dedicate hours to it on the weekend. Stay up an extra hour at night or wake-up an hour early. If you struggle to find time now then you need to be honest with yourself about what it is you really want because when the business is live you will have even less time available.

With regards to investing your money, you should do so wisely. First and foremost is to keep your current job to fund your dream.

Some benefits of this include…

  • No need to sleep on a friend’s couch and eat Ramen.
  • No stress about asking friends and family for money.
  • You have a steady-stream of funds available to allocate to your business.

Granted your story may never end up in Inc. Magazine but what you gain is so much more valuable.

For starters, you don’t have to stress over finances or owing anyone money (including VC firms). This alone will give you the clarity you need to focus on your end-goal. Starting a business is all about investing in yourself and your vision. If you are your own primary investor you can eliminate unnecessary distractions.

Secondly, by being your own primary financier you own 100% of your business. This means you get to make all the critical early stage decisions. The ability to make a decision and execute ideas quickly is essential to a business that is just starting.

This Formula Works, And I Am Proof

If you are having doubts, allow me to ease your mind: I know first hand that this approach can work. LearnDash started from a hotel room.

Instead of wasting time looking for investors I focused my energy on building up an online presence, networking with industry professions, writing columns in industry publications, and building pre-launch buzz.

By keeping my full-time job as an elearning consultant I was able to self-fund the business. And let me tell you something, when you are using your own money to fund your dream then you will make sure that every dollar spent is maximized.

When it was all said and done it took roughly 10-months from idea to launch. And even after launch I stayed in my job for another three months so as to reinvest 100% of the initial business revenue back into the business to spur initial growth. What’s more, the business has experienced growth every year since launch without accepting a single dime from an investor.

At Some Point You Have To Take A Chance

I would be lying if I said that every business venture following this approach is going to be successful. If you are searching for a risk-free way to launch a business then you will be looking for a long time. Even established franchises cannot guarantee success.

The message that I hope you take away is that it is you who controls your entrepreneurial destiny.

In the end only you are going to care enough to make your dream a reality. Not investors. Not friends. Not family.

You really don’t need other people’s money to start a business and change your life, you can make it happen on your own with a little time management and by keeping your current job to fund your dream.

It’s not sexy, but it works.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

3 Comments
  1. Durga Prasad Dande

    Well said Justin.
    Approximately one out of 400 startups
    receive VC money
    So instead of wasting time on it
    it is better to focus on customers.

  2. Shivani

    I love this! And am doing something very similar. Thank you for sharing this (and also for creating Learndash in the first place!), because it’s what most people don’t understand or even consider as a route to success. Keep up the great work! 🙂

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