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I think I'm a boot-strapper at heart.
I mean, I think, I think that I realize, that capital
the best application of capital
in a business
is when you've got a working business model and you need to throw
gasoline on the fire.
When you say, Gosh, you know,
if I could get this in the hands of people all over the world
then this is going to be a really big business.
That's when you need --
that's when you need capital.
You know, there's other areas where you need capital, I mean if you're starting
a business that is very capital-intensive and you're not independently
wealthy, like for example if you want to start
a restaurant like Tyson Cole did with Uchi and it's going to cost you millions of
dollars to build it well, guess what? He went out and raised money for that, and
those investors did incredibly well. Some of those investors are friends of
mine, they did incredibly well, that was one of the best restaurant returns
in, um, and --
it may be the best restaurant return in Austin history.
But I think at my core, I realize that
that, especially from the Core Metrics experience,
that every time you spend a dollar
you better make sure that you're spending it in a high ROI way,
that you're gonna get a good return on that investment for yourself, for your
And so I'd say that I've blended the two approaches
and I think you can build a really big business if you
blend the two approaches.
poison you, it is true.
If you take a lot of capital
and use that as an excuse -- even if it's subconscious -- to kind of take
your foot off the throttle
and say, Wow, you know, we can get really nice office chairs, we can do this and
and we've seen those stories right we've seen the stories in Austin,
We've really got to use this capital carefully, we've really got to get
clients paying us.
And so if you look at Bazaar Voice today, Bazaar Voice today has over a
hundred million in revenue.
We spent around
ten million dollars
of investor capital to get to over a hundred million in revenue.
And that something I'm really proud of because there's very few
software-as-a-service companies or any businesses that get to that level
of revenue run rate
uh... on that little capital. And so you could say were a mostly customer-funded
business that we very early on created something people must have
and got them to pay us upfront
and used that cash to plow back into research and development and growth.
Yeah, I'd actually say that the that the only way to learn
as an entrepreneur
is to actually experience it,
to actually do it.
You know, as Guy Kawasaki would say: Don't worry, be crappy, just get started,
in his great book, The Art of the Start.
Um, so you've just got to, you've gotta jump in and you've got to be unafraid
hopefully surround yourself by mentors who are going to
catch you a bit when you fall and prop you back up.
But uh... it's, that, that really is the the way to learn. If you read a
lot of books while you're doing it? It's even, it's even better because it'll
what you're learning
uh... as you go through the process, and sometimes you'll read something and you won't
really get it, but then you'll get it about a year after,
when you have more experience and you've made a lot of mistakes.
So, actually the best book on this whole
concept is called The Bootstrapper's Bible,
and it's Seth Godin's first book,
and Seth Godin gave it away for free
uh... he was, this is such an important book, I don't even want to make money from it.
Everybody needs to, you know, he needs to give it to bootstrappers,
because they can't afford it anyways, right?
and so that was actually the first book that I read
when uh... when I was starting Bazaar Voice.
So, Bazaar Voice, my
current company is the fifth
that I've started, business being defined as
the one for-profit uh... as opposed to the internet game,
and you know
The first three were all small, boostrapped companies.
They were all companies in the e-commerce space.
They were all companies that uh... very quickly turned a profit, they had
great cash flow
uh... and they all had around ten employees.
My fourth company was the one where I went into, quote-unquote the dark
side for entrepreneurs
with the venture capitalists, um, for a company called Core Metrics, that
that company grew out of an e-commerce site that I had built
uh... and ran with my wife selling sports nutrition products, and we needed
we needed analytics.
I decided that was a big opportunity, a huge worldwide opportunity, and I wanted to run
with it and I wanted to run with it fast
and we needed VC capital to do that, to be able to run with it fast. It
wasn't a business that you could do bootstrap.
And it really played out that way in terms of the
the players in the market.
And that became a
pretty significant size company, there were a lot of hard knocks there, because we
in 1999 and went through the downturn
as all the dot-coms imploded and
a lot of her client base went with it and then we rebuilt from there and today
it's owned by
Bazaar voice being my fifth company, I took all those lessons
of being at my core a bootstrap entrepreneur
starting out that way and always seen my parents bootstrap businesses
and uh... and then having that experience with BC capital and having
too early timing with Core Metrics and going through that
and we got really, really lucky with this business because our timing was,
When we started the company there were only three retailers which had
reviews on their site.
Facebook was closed to the public,
and Twitter didn't even exist, so a lot of things came together
at the same time to really burst this new industry of social,
and today we're,
we're actually, I believe, the largest B2B company in the social space.
I did pass up the chance to sell Core Metrics when it was a very young company it was
around one year old
and uh... the first offer was a hundred million dollars.
And I owned 75% percent of the company at the time.
And I passed that up, because I spent a lot of time with my mentor,
uh... on the board of directors.
It was actually a very small board, it was just me and one other person, he
was a serial entrepreneur,a great, great guy,
and I spent a lot of time with him and he said you know, why are you really in this?
You know, are you really in this
to make money?
Are you really, you know, personally? Or are you really in this to build
a great company.
And that was my answer
because of course I was in it to build a great company.
and so I said, you know,
made the decision.
Some of our
that knew about it were horrified
that I made that decision because
uh... obviously that would've meant millions for them.
But we went on
you know, obviously if I was able to predict that the dot com
bubble would have burst and we would've lost
almost all of our clients and rebuild from there and all the pain
they would go through that
maybe I would have thought differently in hindsight but I'll tell you I'm very
that I went through that experience because it makes me at my core who I am.
And it really,
it really put this sense of fight in me
because that company almost went out of business. So, imagine going from
you could have $75 million in the bank
and then rebuilding from there and then it eventually becoming one of the worldwide
leaders, through a lot of
tears and hard work.
I was having lunch
one day with a friend
and this friend is a futurist
and I was showing him a really cool piece of technology that we had just developed for
my previous venture.
And I was really passionate about it
and he stopped me at one point and he said Brett, you know the cool thing about you
is that you're actually creating the future
It's like I can write about the future
But you're actually creating it,
and if it wasn't for entrepreneurs,
it wouldn't get created.
And if you think about it that's, that's such a profound
to keep going
if you're down.
And the value of persistence,
the value of passion,
of really going for it and really building
a significant sized company, you know, whatever that means to you, it can be ten
you know, my parents wanted to build a small,
a small company,
and they did, and they
had a very, very good lifestyle -- it was your typical lifestyle business.
Or it could be that you have a dream to build
you know, thousands-of-employee company
and really have a huge impact on the world.
Whatever your dream is,
you should absolutely go for it because you will be creating the future,
and you look back in your life
and you'll have no regrets.
Even if you end up bankrupt
when you're 55,
and you've been starting company after company and it's just not clicking?
You'll be one of the highest paid consultants.
Because at that point? You'll know so much because you learned through both
failure and success, learning is experiential.
So if you're thinking about giving up,
go out there, seek the advice of mentors,
really make sure what you're doing is something you still want to do,
make sure that
your mentors and you think it's worth continuing,
but if you make that decision? That
it's worth continuing?
You have to go after it with all the gusto.