Living on no income


I'm sure this has been asked before, but my searchfu failed me, so I'll ask...

How do people bootstrap (which I assume is the most common early-funding model) and manage to pay the rent and feed themselves in the first months/years of a startup? I know a few of the common strategies entail

  • Living on friend's couch and working out of his/her garage
  • Working some other job part-time (full-time) and spinning up your company on the side
  • Trying to get SBIR or similar funding
  • Borrowing from friends and family (danger!)
  • Liquidating whatever you can and living on the proceeds until boom or bust

A lot of the above seem reasonable for young unmarried types, but what about the middle-aged parent with a family? I know that's not the stereotypical entrepreneur, but there must be common strategies here as well, no?

Bootstrapped Funding

asked Apr 24 '11 at 14:33
155 points
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3 Answers


I have a wife, kids, mortgage etc and am bootstrapping. I am resigned to burning through my savings and and investments to provide the runway. If I haven't got enough traction, I'll start looking at contracting as the end of the runway approaches.

I think the best strategy is to keep the day job and work on your startup evenings and weekends while developing the idea and checking the market and, if you need to, build up your savings.

When the time is right to go full time on the startup you should have a decent amount of the work done and enough savings to cover your expenses for at least 6 months, ideally a year.

I have done the borrowing thing with a previous company and it did work out well but it could have easily gone horribly wrong.

answered Apr 24 '11 at 19:57
John Plummer
566 points


I can tell you from my experience. I have 5 kids and I am doing bootstrapping for the last few years...

Some key concepts I adapted:

  1. The path is more important than the target point.
  2. My dreams always take much more time and money than I anticipate.

So what to do?

  1. Try to build the path with which you can sell your idea with your consulting services. It may change your idea a bit, but may make it down to earth.
  2. Leverage your experience, reputation, and connections. You need them now!
  3. Build a flexible team.

For example, if you have ideas about a search engine algorithm, try to sell findability solutions to the same boring Enterprise you worked for — this time as a contractor. Leverage your connections and knowledge about their needs to provide them a working business solution.

You will find out that the same enterprise as a client becomes more interesting.

answered Apr 24 '11 at 21:38
Shai Ben Yehuda
81 points


I went independent some 12 years ago. I can say that it is important, in the initial phase to live on minimum and you must have a plan to earn that minimum on your own. It may be a full time or part time job or some freelancing etc. It could be even your money out of your own money such as saving interest etc.

Not earning your own minimum is calling for crisis situation. If you live on others, it will add only to your debt which will become unmanageable.

If you are not sure of earning even your minimum through any means, I will personally feel that it is good to keep your full time job.

answered Feb 4 '12 at 12:28
Natwar Lath
294 points

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