There are major costs to starting a technology company, both personal and financial. When my partners and I started MediaMiser, we put ourselves on the hot seat and exposed our families to a very high risk environment.
To do that and be successful, you need something deep within you to point you in the right direction. Kind of like an internal compass.
When people hear I have my own company, most people see only the benefits. But no one, unless they’ve been there before, truly sees what it takes to create a sustainable venture.
This is, of course, natural. We look at successful companies and think that if they can do it, we can. We simplify the efforts required with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
But the brutal truth is that even those seemingly blessed with fortune have to —at some point —will their company to the next level through sheer effort. And hard work alone isn’t enough. Timing, as well, is a huge part to being successful: the cosmic lottery, as it were, where everything seemingly lines up.
When we started MediaMiser in the early 2000s, we dreamed big while having just enough stubbornness to keep ourselves from giving up. This was at the tail end of the high-tech boom and, naively, we thought we’d easily get venture capital financing. The concept of turning media content into business intelligence was a no-brainer (we felt).
We were pioneers at the time, though, which was both was a blessing and detriment: we had little competition, however, not only did we have to sell people on the product but also the entire concept. To complicate matters, we had already doubled down on the concept of software-as-a-service, or SaaS, as our delivery mechanism. Fortunately, the great cosmic lottery ended up looking favourably on us. But VCs didn’t.
Put simply, our timing was poor for getting financing. Canadian VCs back then didn’t believe in SaaS or media intelligence: This was the early 2000s, and before the high-tech bubble burst most venture capitalists had gravitated toward telecom.
But we had to shake off those rejections, instead focusing on what really mattered: building a great product and financing it through our own sales.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I thought building a company was going to be much easier. And at the time, if I knew what was involved, I might have even gotten cold feet. In the end, though, bootstrapping our company helped us make us what we are today. It toughened us. It made us more resourceful, and more importantly helped refine our instincts and ability to ignore naysayers or bad advice.
Yes, the bootstrapped approach has constrained our growth. But it has also given us time to fully understand ourselves and our market, as we’ve matured and timing has become a little less critical.
After all, the greatest belief in yourself can’t come externally—it needs to come from within. Too often, I see external influencers (whether they’re VCs or outside consultants with no true stake in the company) dampening what truly makes entrepreneurs successful, which is the fire inside to act on their intuitions and make them come to fruition.
As an entrepreneur, good instincts and stubbornness should be your greatest ally. Outside advice is important, and understanding your strengths and weaknesses through knowledge and having clear goals is crucial. But as an entrepreneur, you should never question your intuition.
If you do, you’ve lost already.