Bootstrapping a Tech Startup

By: Joemar Matulac

“We have an idea! We know how to code. Hmmm, let’s set up a tech company.”

These are the common conversations we hear in co-working space, tech conferences, and even in coffee shops where nerd people hang out. The art of ideating looks so easy right? But no. Ninety percent (90%) of startups fail, according to Forbes. Two of five companies I worked for the last 10 years were startups, thus I can tell.

In 2008, I joined a 4-year-old, Hong Kong-based company with a satellite office in Makati, Metro Manila. The experience is priceless. But none of the processes of founding and sustaining one is easy. We really need to deliver our KPIs or else, we fail. What makes a startup interesting though is the culture and the people you do the groundwork with. Some companies are very fortunate to have been backed by investors both foreign and domestic, with added power by its talents who are indispensable.

At present, I am connected to SafeSat, a tech company providing GPS and Integrated System founded in Iloilo. In terms of capitalization, it cannot be considered a startup anymore. Nonetheless, it does not exempt us from the challenges of startups. In order to keep us going, everything must be in synergy. From executives, middle managers, sales and marketing, up to down the line. The commissioned project must be completed on time, else it will incur costs or exceed the allocated budget. Product development for public consumers is much harder. There are a lot of them outside, and everyone has their own expectations. Sourcing for local talents within the region is neither easy. Fresh graduates want to go out of the province like Cebu or Metro Manila. Those who are left here don’t want to be in the software development league, and would rather go for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for the obvious reason – better compensation.

That’s just a slice of the pie. Next comes putting funding in the picture – the amount of money being poured for development in order to hit the targets. Our CEO and our marketing arm must understand how to incorporate technology into the basics that need attention, now more than ever. This includes healthcare, transportation, logistics, philosophy, governance, and even financial. And our CTO? She is one of a kind. She has superpowers. I joined the team last 2013. And how exactly do we bootstrap a tech company, which is likely to grow from a startup?

We started by noting that a great idea is not enough. We need to work out and test our idea. We need funding for it. We need to execute it. We need to market it by ourselves. We need to pitch it. And we must know how to fail slow but fast to recover. We need to go back, identify what gap we are bridging, and address the problem those people are experiencing.

Tech Startup is not just about ideas or developing something. Our product should be marketable and is a solution to a problem that the majority experience. In order to realize this product as a solution, tech startups need a starter or bloodstream, more known as capitalization. And if the product is already viable, capitalization will be around the corner. These are people, company or government agencies who will bet their money on your product.

You have an idea? Are you tech savvy? Create a simple product that works at the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) first. Always test. Then look for the right people, which includes entrepreneurs with a vision to scale your product, a sales and marketing person, a pool of developers, testers, and business analysts. In starting, don’t be surprised that the 3 of you in the team might be doing all of these things at the same time.

Joemar Matulac is an experienced IT technical consultant and system developer with 10+ years of experience in managing technical teams and developing/designing/architecting web 2.0 and mobile-enterprise solutions in various platforms for a broad range of industries. He is currently working as Business Development Officer at Satellite GPS Asset Management and Tracking System, Inc. bridging the gap between business needs and technology.