What are some important milestones for a bootstrapped startup?

I am building a mobile app for a B2B audience. I have an MVP that I am about to launch in the app store as well as an email list of 100 or so people who've expressed interest. What are some milestones that signify the growth of a healthy startup?


If you haven't fully tested your app with the 100 individual accounts Apple allows you to test via TestFlight or Hockey, then I'd suggest you should test thoroughly with your email list before launching to the app store.

Things to look for at this early-stage:

Activation and Breakage Points: From app download to user onboarding, where are people getting lost? Your goal is not only to have them download the app, but complete whatever steps for them to become your user. Optimizing the flow to ensure maximum conversion is a key first step.

Engagement: How often are they completing the tasks you deem most important based on your business model? How can you increase this number?

User Understanding: How clear is the app's UI and messaging? Where are they getting lost?

Virality: While true virality is hard to measure at this stage (given the constraints of pre-launch testing), you can evaluate the potential effectiveness of any distribution tactics you might employ (contacts, OAuth's etc) in terms of user opt-in and conversion issues.

Real analytical data is easier to interpret than user interviews but there is a such a treasure trove of good customer development intel from customer interviews. Those first 100 people who download the app should be personally interviewed about their experience, what they like, how much it solves their problem, how much of a problem that is for them in the first place and so on.

Before you go live in the app store, I highly recommend you max out your installs in a private testing environment.

I'm happy to talk this through with you in more detail in a call.

Answered 11 years ago

Every business is a bit different, but we bootstrapped several very successful companies in the B2B space and here are the milestones we hit. Some were planned goals, others I can see clearly in retrospect. I will say that as a bootstrapper, the single most significant milestone is positive cash flow. It was our goal from day one and almost everything we did at the start was driven by that goal

1 Beta test
2 Product launch
3 Users (hopefully paid but not always)
4 Paid users
5 First employee
6 positive customer feedback
7 Marquis customer (for us Apple and Harley Davidson)
8 Significant volume or dollar goals (ie first 100 customers, first month gross over $100,000. First month profitable, first $1,000,000 etc).
9 First time Vc's or private equity guys call to see if you need money.
10 If it is what you are planning, successful exit at a high multiple.

There were many more goals that we set along the way that were very specific to our business, but it was critical that we set them and shared them very visibly for the most part with the company. We also made sure when we hit one that we celebrates the success.

Hope this helps, would be happy to do a brief call to discuss your business specifically and talk about any goals you should set. Good luck it is a fun (albeit sometimes hard) ride.

Answered 11 years ago

This is case specific. Here are a few things I would consider from my experience with MVP's:

- focus on usage, not number of people using
- # of Downloads
- # of Downloads that use product (tie this to relevant metric e.g. if you're mint this could be linking 2 financial accounts)
- Whether people will pay you to use your product
- if freemium model, what % are paying and how can I convert more of them
- are you creating an investable story - e.g. there is a big market, I am solving __ problem, X # of people have this problem, y/x are using my app with no marketing, X LTV is Z, and no I need money to find more X's etc
- you personally still like what you're doing

Hope this was helpful. I am happy to chat more about this in more detail

Answered 11 years ago

I don't know what the others think of the concept of MVP but I HATE it. There is no better way to turn off your users than to give them a minimum viable product. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to review or beta a new product only to find it was an MVP (i.e. it sucked). I never go back.

You only have one chance to make a first impression. Don't blow it. Make sure your definition of viable means "knock their socks off".

Now to your question: There are only three milestones you should care about:

1. First revenue ship. i.e. when people will actually start paying you for your products.
2. Break even. When are you bringing in more money than you are spending (you should include paying yourself in this calculation).
3. Profitability.

Answered 7 years ago

Every successful business has some very crucial milestones along the way. One key difference between a bootstrapped business and a VC-backed business is the sequence these milestones happen.
As a bootstrapper, I think of these key milestones you must look for:
1. Store front/product/service launched and ready for a sale
2. First sale to a paying customer -- proof of concept
3. Revenue exceeds expenses -- profit
4. First non-owner employee
5. First founder vacation -- business runs without constant supervision
6. First million-dollar year -- established a consistent customer base and repeatable product
7. First 10-million-dollar year -- sustainable growth demonstrated, systems working smoothly
The key thing here is that profit milestone is as early as possible. When bootstrapping, that absolutely needs to happen as fast as possible, because that is what fuels the rest of the growth. With bootstrapping, your money comes from customers, not investors.

Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

There are a few key milestones that most bootstrapped startups go through. One of the first is developing a minimum viable product (MVP). This is a version of your product that has the minimum features and functionality needed to validate your idea and test it in the market. Another milestone is getting your first customers and generating revenue. And then there's scaling up and growing your customer base.The first step might be to define your target customer and understand their needs. Once you know who you're building for, it will be easier to figure out the core features of your MVP.Let's start with the type of service you want to provide. Is there a specific healthcare need that you're hoping to address? Are you thinking about providing general medical care, or something more specialized? If so chat me up so i can shed more light on that

Answered 6 months ago

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