Bootstrapping

With all the talk of massive amounts of cash sloshing around the web/mobile startup ecosystem (including things I've said recently), you would think that nobody bootstraps anymore. But that is not true at all.

Last week my partner Albert blogged about our most recent investment in Behance. Behance was bootstrapped for its first five years. As Scott Belsky, Behance's founder and CEO, wrote on the Behance blog:

For the past five years, Behance has been a bootstrapped enterprise. We’ve sold Action Pads, books, job postings, conference tickets, and even banner ads (horror!) to generate the income to build Behance. It’s been amazing, and we’ve developed as a team and company in extraordinary ways.

Behance isn't the only recent USV portfolio company to bootstrap its way into our portfolio. Wattpad launched in 2006 and bootstrapped for five years before we invested.

Gabe at DuckDuckGo launched in the fall of 2008, and bootstrapped for three years, working by himself to build DDG, before we invested.

Stack Overflow also launched in the fall of 2008. Joel Spolsky, Jeff Atwood, and the Stack team worked on the project without outside funding for several years before USV invested.

Dwolla launched in the 2010 and operated in bootstrap mode for eighteen months before we invested earlier this year.

Three of the six portfolio companies in our new fund, raised late last year, were bootstrapped for an average of 3 1/2 years before we invested. And at least half of the most recent twenty investments we have made were bootstrapped for well more than a year, and often for a lot longer, before we made our initital investment.

None of this is to suggest that going the accelerator, seed, angel, or some other more fashionable route is a bad idea. They all work just fine. And we are investing in plenty of companies that choose that route. But for some reason our firm is drawn to the bootstrapped model, and increasingly so.