I started and bootstrapped my second tech startup 8 years ago. We saw constant growth and reached just under 2M in sales until 2012 when we were hit by some challenges out of our control, including a bogus patent troll suit (which was eventually dismissed). Being bootstrapped, we just didn't have too much of a safety net in place to deal with these issues. While I have been able to hold things together from then to now, it has been more 'survival mode' than anything else. I have tried a LOT of things, but it's all been on the cheap. Advisors have told me to cut back which I have. Since then it has been a constant struggle and sales have been heading downward. I am pretty much alone as I have no investors. While I still think our company has a lot of potential, I have not yet been able to make a rebound happen. Our direct competitors are funded companies, and it's tough to go up against them without any funding and in a defensive position. The investor types I talk to have always communicated that we make too much for an angel and not enough for a VC. I have cut back pretty much all I can (we have always been pretty lean anyway). I have what I think are some great and innovative ideas, but I don't feel I have the time and funding to make them happen. On my own, I am feeling less and less we will be able to bounce back. I have no idea what I will do if I have to shut things down. I have literally poured my life into my business to keep it going, so stakes are incredibly high for me and my family. I want to be pro-active and make sure I have things in order so that if it gets to the point where it needs to be shut down, I am not scrambling to find a plan B. Additionally, I am not even sure how to shut down a business of this magnitude with many nuts and bolts. Does it have to go bankrupt? Do you just shut down the website? Has anyone else gone through something similar?

Not knowing *many* of the factors that has lead you to this point, I can only offer some generalities.

General Tip #1: $0 Budget
Start your operating budget at $0 and only add what you *absolutely* need

General Tip #2: MVP
Create your minimal viable product; ship something, even if it isn't perfect, and start building your customer base. It is much better to ship something and improve over never shipping and drowning.

General Tip #3: Stop Comparing
You say that your competition is well funded and you have to be on the defense. Stop comparing and start solving problems for people. You may be similar, they may have more money, but you are uniquely created with a certain set of biases, preferences, communication styles, and insights that they do not have. Capitalize on this and solve a problem for your ideal customer. They don't care who has a bigger marketing budget.

General Tip #4: Pick a Target
You talk about focusing on growth AND on having a plan to shut the business down. Pick one. You will never be able to focus on just one when you are thinking about two of them. Just like you cannot hit two targets with one arrow.

I'm happy to help further, if you're interested.

Answered 7 years ago

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