How can a bootstrapped startup start to expand sales without outside funding?


7

So I have a bootstraped startup that's starting to get some traction. A little background: we make a classroom recording appliance that works with fixed positioned cameras in classrooms to record and stream live high school classes. The appliance handlings the recording, streaming, and viewing of the recordings through a web interface. We've gotten a great response from virtually every educator we've shown it to. The big problem is that schools don't have a lot of money for anything right now. We've had a few sales with some early adoptors who are loving the product. The kids at the schools love it, the teachers love it, and the administrators love it too. Basically it's an all around winner for the people who are using it. I typically see 50-100 views a day and around 20 recordings being made a day on a typical installation.

The problem we're having is getting people to put down the money for it. We're priced at a very reasonable amount for the space we work in. I can't help but wonder if we:

  • Built the wrong product
  • Are selling to the wrong market
  • Are positioning the product incorrectly

Do that we need to hire a sales staff that focuses on bringing more early adopters for awhile to build momentum? This would probably require us to raise outside funding which I'm not oppossed to at all if we need it. I'm also wondering if we need to start more trial programs to get the software into the hands of more schools to get more feedback and start to build interest.

We're pursuing working with some vendors who already have relationships with schools in areas that have more money than where we've been selling lately to see what happens there. So far the vendors have been excited too.

Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

Thanks!

Sales Bootstrapped Strategy

asked Nov 12 '10 at 03:32
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Jon
138 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • What is the pricing? Where is the web site url? – Tim J 9 years ago
  • Total cost is 3-5k a classroom depending on what sort of camera you decide to use. Site is: http://www.aterium.com/Jon 9 years ago

3 Answers


3

I really like the idea of your product, but why is it limited to high schools????? It seems to me that there are numerous other markets for this type of product. Why limit yourself to one market when your product fits many?

Wouldn't the exact same technology work with colleges too? In our state community colleges actually have some cash and plenty of students. Our community colleges already offer on line classes, but not actual recordings of classes. Your idea sounds like a natural for them.

It also seems like this idea can be applied to many other situations. For example:

  1. Work with companies that put on conferences. Record the conferences, and allow web site viewing of the conference- perhaps on a fee basis.
  2. Many hospitals and businesses require employees to view training videos. Their employees could view these items at home with your technology.
  3. Home schooling- couldn't this technology provide prerecorded content for home schoolers?

I'm sure others here can come up with numerous other ways to use your product.

answered Nov 12 '10 at 07:51
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Gary E
12,510 points
  • Colleges don't ever seem to care about video actually. They want to encode the content that goes on a projector more than the video of the professor talking. This seems strange to me but that's been our experience talking to them. I haven't gotten around to writing something that can record two video sources and display in a bandwidth friendly way. I like the focus because it sort of defines a mission better and develops a brand with an easy association. The downside is just what you described-it limits where you can take the idea. – Jon 9 years ago

1

You have satisfied customers and lots of interest. You did not build the wrong product nor are you selling to the wrong market, but you may be limiting yourself by focusing on just one market.

Selling books and digital educational products to schools and libraries for the last five years, I learned that when people say they have no money it only means they do not want to buy from me right now. I ask if I can check back with them again later and when. Most people do give me a time to check back and those who are definitely not interested say so at this point. I keep track of all of this in a CRM and follow up regularly. Follow up is key.

If you are able to find public information on school budgets I would use this info to focus on larger budget schools. There are technical grants that awarded schools can use to buy the type of equipment you are selling. I would try calling these schools who received these grants. I would also ask my satisfied customers for other potential buyers.

June 30, December 31 and sometimes September 30 are key dates as funds must be used up by these dates or they expire. Schools start spending down funds 2-3 months before this date. Sometimes they are even spending it a few days before the deadline. Keep following up with schools that expressed interest in your product. Money may become available.

If the decision makers for your product have an association or meetings, ask if you can demo your product.

As mentioned in the other posts above, looking for other applications for your product in other markets would expand your customer base. This may or may not be relevant but there are 5-6 more elementary schools to every one high school.

Wish you the best.

answered Nov 12 '10 at 17:30
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Starr Ed
948 points

1

"with fixed positioned cameras in classrooms to record and stream live high school classes" This sounds scary, I wouldn't want my children going to a school where this was happening.

You didn't mention what level of security this has, so if there was only limited access that may ease some fears. But I personally wouldn't be comfortable with any recording of my children, imagine someone were to post a link to the recording on Facebook, too creepy. Have you tried pitching this at universities / colleges? I think that may work, they usually have pre-approved budgets so know how much they can spend and it sounds like something that would really benefit the students.

answered Nov 12 '10 at 07:46
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Xiaohouzi79
1,257 points
  • The camera points at the teacher not the students. You don't really see students in any of the recordings. You can't view any recordings without an account and those accounts have restricted access to only the classes the kids are enrolled in. I find it interesting that you wouldn't want this for high school students but find it interesting for college students. Why is that? – Jon 9 years ago
  • @Jon - Ahh, I missed that from your answer. Being a slacker university student at one time in my life I wouldn't mind the chance to view a streamed lecture online if I missed it. For high school students they are there full time and the information is slowly drip fed, in college if you miss a lecture you can miss a lot. My other concern was privacy with the college students being adults, but since you are not filming the whole classroom it doesn't matter. – Xiaohouzi79 9 years ago
  • @Jon - What I would suggest could be a problem with teachers is unions refusing to let teachers be recorded. I also think colleges are the way to go because of funding. – Xiaohouzi79 9 years ago
  • So far the teachers love it so I guess I'll deal with that when we encounter that issue. – Jon 9 years ago

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