Bootstrapping Our Way Back From the Collapse


Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year (along with broader financial markets) the question at the top of my mind has been, “What next?” or maybe, “Where to from here?”

From my perspective it is clear that small business must be a top priority in the coming months and years. There are approximately five million small businesses in the United States with fewer than 20 employees. Another 20 million moms and pops endeavor day in and day out without employees. Let us hope that in the coming decade those numbers will double, then triple and quadruple. Here is the most powerful engine of economic growth and sustenance. Here is our way back.

I’m a serial entrepreneur who founded three companies after earning my master’s degree from MIT. I continue to work as a technology entrepreneur and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. I’ve seen how entrepreneurs like RightNow founder Greg Gianforte found ways to get started without capital and how they have been able to create a great many options for their businesses. I believe entrepreneurship is the only sustainable path forward to a healthy economic world order.

So if the next Google is to emerge–and bring with it thousands of new jobs–it must get started where there is not only hope, but available opportunities. So it’s important to create and sustain a startup culture, to cultivate a supportive community and the kind of economic conditions where entrepreneurs can not only start businesses, but also survive and thrive at a higher rate.

To achieve this we must answer a couple of questions: Why don’t more businesses get off the ground? And, once up, why do so many fail?

I’m in an unusual position to give this some thought, as I also write a weekly column for Forbes and the business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy. Through much discussion, writing, and brainstorming on each topic, I have arrived at a core thesis: Not just entrepreneurship, but bootstrapped entrepreneurship is the true weapon of mass reconstruction.

So it was with great interest that I read Bruce’s post on bootstrapping from a San Diego Venture Group’s panel discussion in May. In that article he shared lessons from “business leaders and Baron Munchausen.” Likewise, I explore the ways a dozen entrepreneurs define bootstrapping and how they have mastered the art of doing … Next Page »

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Sramana Mitra is the founder of One Million by One Million (1M/1M), a global virtual incubator that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. Sramana has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Follow @sramana

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