“Bootstrapping, to help (oneself) without the aid of others.” Ryan Smith started his first slide with that line at Startup Grind, a two-day tech conference that’s based in Silicon Valley, California, where he gave his speech on “Bootstrapping to $70MM In Funding.” Ryan Smith is the founder Qualtrics, a leading data and research software company based in Provo, Utah.
Qualtrics has just listed to be one of the “America’s Most Promising Companies” by Forbes, the same magazine that listed Ryan Smith as “America's Most Promising CEOs Under 35.” Smith certainly has a lot going for him, and the media can no longer ignore his success.
At Startup Grind, Ryan gave a little deeper insight on how he went from bootstrapping to closing a $70 million investment from a joint investment between Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners, a deal that any entrepreneur could have only dreamed to be a part of.
The old saying ‘Fortune favors the bold’ can easily be applied to the qualities that led to Ryan Smith’s success. From 2002 to 2006, he started up his company and stayed in his basement. “Bet on yourself. Eat what you kill. Stay focused,” said Ryan during the conference. Under that very same basement, over 1300 universities signed up for their services, those of which included 95/100 of the top business schools.
By the time they moved out of the basement in 2007, they’ve already had over 5000 clients and had sent more than one billion surveys. This eventually led to their funding from Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners. Qualtrics now has over 300 employees, more than double of what they had last year.
The startup appears to be something of an overnight success; in reality, it took them ten years to build. “I wouldn’t trade the first four years we spent in a basement for anything. Bootstrapping forced us to be extremely creative and to find gears we didn’t know we had. That experience is becoming even more valuable as we rapidly scale our business,” said Ryan Smith.
Many people in Silicon Valley believe in vanity, noting petty things like the numbers of page views and the amount of money being raised. Ryan Smith has shown the entrepreneurs and investors the power of bootstrapping: focus on value, build a successful company, and “nail it before you scale it”.