Bootstrapping a company with no money is hard.
I know this better than anyone else. My co-founder and I run a two-people, 100% bootstrapped company. Recently, we hit a big milestone – we broke 1.5k registered users and 5k in revenue. Taking our product to market was no easy feat.
I want to share a few things (frugal ways) that worked to get us to this stage.
First, a little about me: My name is Hua Shu, and together with my co-founder, Wenting Zhang, we are building a beginner-friendly logo design tool for founders called Typogram.
When we talked to our users (mostly small business owners), one frustration they experienced was the difficulty of getting started and creating logos using existing design tools. Many people we talked to found current design tools complex and hard to learn for beginners.
This is an exciting problem for us to solve. My co-founder and I are both passionate designers and tool makers. In addition, we love sharing knowledge of brand design and typography with others. So, Typogram was born.
MVP and Product Validation
There are two strategies we used to validate our product: we created simplified no-code versions of paid features to gauge interest, and then before we coded the whole tool, we launched a pre-order.
In order to test our features quickly, we made one of our core features, "identifying brand personality," into a mini product, a workshop kit with no-code tools structured like a workbook with instructions and actionable for participants. We imitated what we were thinking for user experience.
During this time, we also started writing newsletters for our audience. We launched our mini product on Gumroad and in our newsletters to see if anyone would pay. In the end, we got a few customers, which was enough of a quick validation for us for this app feature.
After user testing and mini-product launches, we launched a pre-order for Typogram in March 2022. We offered a discounted lifetime deal for a single-brand license for this pre-order. Users can edit their logo forever inside our app as long as it's for the same brand.
At this point, we have yet to complete coding for the entire tool, like account management and payment. We wanted to gauge the interest first with our current set of features. On the landing page, we had a demo video of our features, which we still use for our product. We also collected testimonials from our user testing sessions to feature on the landing page as social proofs. We launched this on Product Hunt and in the channels we've been developing (here are more details if you wish to see the stats from that launch).
Find Our First 10 Customers and First 100 Registered Users
For Typogram, we found many of our users from posting, sharing, and creating content around our topics users are excited about, followed by mini products and side project launches.
One thing that we started doing early on is newsletters.
I wish someone told me sooner about newsletters - the great thing about them is that you can start one even if you don't have a product. I highly recommend this strategy because you are not tied to the platform, and you can start creating a community and finding supporters immediately.
Typogram has two weekly newsletters: a built-in public newsletter about our startup journey and a design newsletter, sharing beginner-friendly tips for typography, branding, and logo design. Initially, I was worried I couldn't maintain the consistency required for newsletters. Most days, it was easy to come up with topics to write about. Writing to an audience also helped me stay motivated.
Write content your potential users will like. You can find topics for these by either interviewing them or searching on communities like Quora or Reddit. Then, find a platform where your users live and share your content consistently.
I hope these tips can help you get started. I’m on Twitter and always looking to find more like-minded people to connect with.