When most people think about start-ups, usually two stereotypes spring to mind: either the broke student struggling with a laptop, a creative idea and zero funds, or the larger Silicon-Valley-backed companies with massive growth and cool offices where everyone jumps around on bouncy balls to get their 'creative juices flowing' (seriously, this is well-documented :)
However, the groups that seem to be frequently ignored, are the growing amount of serious yet micro startups, which are quietly chipping away building profitable businesses by keeping keen and staying lean and focusing specifically on a niche in the market with no incentive to seek out investor cash.
Of course as always, there are numerous challenges and the growth path is indeed slower and tougher. But as Brian Casel, designer and founder of Restaurant Engine says, niching-it-up certainly has its advantages and can work for founders who already possess the skill-sets required to build something from the ground up:
"I started my business as a streamlined web design solution for restaurants. Essentially, I used my skills as a web designer to flip the traditional web design model around, and design a solution that makes more sense for small business owners," he says.
Bootstrapping and not going for gold in the form of funding has proved a viable path for Brian and he thinks that a big plus for him has been the way it's allowed him to replicate the model for the Hotel and B&B market with Hotel Propeller as well as the fact it's allowed him to focus solely on his customers and the product with no other obligations:
"Taking the bootstrapped path rather than seeking outside investment certainly comes with some challenges. The growth path is much slower and a more gradual process. But I enjoy it because....customers appreciate the personal level of support, which they tell me was missing from our larger competitors," he adds.
In the race for funds and UK government expansion of initiatives such as Tech City and the SEED scheme, every 21 year-old with a laptop and an office space has come to the conclusion that they too can be the next Zuckerberg. Sadly many have lost sight of the original reasons they had (or should have had) for starting their own business - making a great concept grow, providing something people wants and amazing customer experience that real people appreciate from smaller companies, having often been neglected by big, faceless corporations. That's another post however. Stay tuned....