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Angus Williams
Works at Genova Design
Attended University of Technology, Sydney
Lives in Balgowlah, Sydney
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Angus Williams

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This is a long-form post written for a course I'm currently taking on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I'm writing about the processes involved in bootstrapping a startup, and the potential benefits it can hold for innovation, especially in a technology context. Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments, or any tools you've found that have helped you in your bootstrapped startup! 

Bootstrapping and the Entrepreneur
The current most hyped buzzwords in the entrepreneurial community - when it comes to the money involved in bringing a product to launch - are ‘venture capital’ and ‘crowdfunding’. Enticed by the seven-digit figures involved in the funding rounds of big-name startups like Groupon, Color, or Pandora, and the success stories of products born from successful Kickstarter campaigns such as the Pebble smartwatch, many entrepreneurs are overlooking a more self-contained, ambitious approach that its proponents would argue is a better fit for the processes of ideation and innovation so important to the DNA of a startup: bootstrapping. The process of bootstrapping refers to a self-sustaining business that supports itself without outside help or funding - and whilst it may at first seem counterintuitive to pursue one's business goals without seeking as much assistance as possible, the potential for advantages both tangible and personal make it a more than viable road to take in the right situation. 

The strongest advantages of a bootstrapped startup are the creative freedom it affords, the heavy focus on product that it requires, and the benefits provided by a shorter runway. Once a startup takes money from venture investors, or creates a public crowdfunding campaign, there is a level of obligation owed to the source of the newfound cash. Investors will have their own expectations, advice, and recommendations which an entrepreneur must integrate in order to remain in the good faith of the investor. This accountability, whilst it can prove to be an important check and balance in an the decision making process of an established public corporation, can often serve to stifle the creativity and innovation involved in the critical early days of a business. The best entrepreneur is a headstrong breed: he is self-possessed, passionate, and decisive in the choices he makes - by bootstrapping a startup, the freedom and independence that are such integral qualities of a successful idea are protected. 

Furthermore, with a limited budget available, a deeper focus on the product can emerge. By bootstrapping a startup, not only are the dollars limited, but they are also yours. It aligns your incentives to succeed with the success of the business: if the startup fails, you will be losing your own money. If it survives, and flourishes, you will do the same. The only way to achieve this is by fulfilling the need to build a better product for the customers - without the marketing budgets of a venture-funded company, the entrepreneur is forced to achieve this through focusing 100% on their product. No distractions. Pursuing alternative ideas, being able to start from scratch if the product doesn't work; both luxuries that can't be afforded to a bootstrapped startup. These factors heighten the potential for innovation - it creates an atmosphere where ideation is mandatory, and the ability to nail a product implementation that beats the competition is going to be more valuable than any marketing budget could possibly prove to be. Additionally, when the costs for developing a product are kept low by the absence of an R&D budget, this means that the potential for higher profit margins are maximised. Staying lean will keep the overhead low, and ensures that your exit multiple remains as high as you can get it. 

With less funding on hand, this also means there is less time to launch the product. This “shorter runway” effect lends itself to many of the processes also integral to design-thinking and ideation: rapid prototyping and iterating not only keeps your testing costs low, it creates a more well-rounded product by identifying weak spots more quickly than a more traditional product development process would be able to. It’s true that venture capital investment, or the funding raised from a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign can make your startup experience more comfortable, but this comfort more often than not just pads out the time frame available, adding weeks, months, or even years to your launch timeline and critically reducing your maneuverability and competitiveness in the market. 

However in 2013, the prospect of bootstrapping your startup is nowhere close to as daunting as it was in earlier times, especially when it comes to technology-based products. The innovator's dream of being able to not just envision a product, but also to have the skills to build it and the platform to sell it, has become a reality. There are a wealth of tools available to help build distributed, high quality products that harness the modern technologies that consumers continue to enjoy. The factors that this comes down to are education, “support” services, and the emergence of distribution platforms and payment providers that allow an online entrepreneur to monetize their product. My own experience developing a mobile startup is evidence of this - I’ve carried through each and every one of the steps myself, if that gives any indication of how possible it is. 

In order to bootstrap a startup, it is important to understand that you will be taking on more roles than you would have to with outside funding. This is an admittedly daunting prospect, but the abundance of online education makes it a significantly easier task than it would have been five years back. Online training holds a number of advantages to traditional education: you can learn exactly the skills you need to accomplish what your product requires, you can learn in your own time, on your own schedule, and it is often free. The intricacies of design, development, and even marketing concepts have been democratized and made available in a way that no other generation has been able to enjoy, you need only an internet connection and a search engine to start gaining the skills you need to create your product. iTunes U, YouTube, and Udacity are all perfect examples of these resources; I picked up a deep understanding of mobile design from a weekly series on YouTube called Android Design in Action, and learned Android application development from scratch using a plethora of free online tutorials and practicing with the freely available SDK. 

Although as attractive as this availability of education may seem, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. There often isn’t enough time to pick up and perfect every skill set needed to launch a product. Fortunately, the startup world has solved this problem itself: a new field of support services has emerged, providing effectively plug-and-play functionality for entire product components such as back-end servers or database management for a low monthly cost. Parse (https://parse.com/) and Kinvey are two examples of this I’m familiar with. Parse, a backend-as-a-service startup recently acquired by Facebook, in their own words “allows your team to focus on creating a great user experience and forget server maintenance and complex infrastructure”. I had a back-end up and running within a day, with an abundance of API documentation available to allow me to integrate it into any modern software platform I chose. These tools, and others like them, are perfect for the bootstrapped startup: they reduce effort, and allow you to scale your costs with your user base: eliminating the high cost server solutions that previously served as a significant barrier to entry for prospective innovators. Without the need to learn deeply technical skills, entrepreneurs can now continue to focus on the user experience to deliver a high-quality product with a professional level of polish on a shoestring budget (pun intended). 

Finally, the revenue stream. In the previous decade of online startups, it was often difficult to monetize an idea, not only because of social factors such as a reluctance to conduct transactions over the internet, but also because the platforms for conducting these transactions were arcane and difficult to implement. Fortunately, for the bootstrapped entrepreneur, this is no longer the case, as both independent payment providers and entire commerce platforms such as the iTunes and Google Play application stores have emerged to handle the money themselves. Payment providers like Stripe (https://stripe.com/) allow product creators to easily monetize their creations without having to gain payment accreditation, and seamlessly integrate payment forms into their own websites for their own products; levelling the playing field between big business and no-budget startups. Furthermore, app stores for every platform make it straightforwardly simple to monetize an application and distribute it to the masses. These stores not only act as a distribution platform, but also as a low-cost marketing platform to showcase your idea and product. 

Every product and every startup exists in its own unique context: there is no catch-all funding solution for how to make an innovative dream happen. What may suit one project may be completely wrong for another, but it is the sign of a strong entrepreneur to be able to recognise the opportunities in each and choose the right course of action. Bootstrapping a startup affords a number of advantages, namely a higher level of creative freedom, focus on product, and the benefits of the shorter runway effect, and it is easier now than ever to forgo the pitching/funding round cycle and crowdfunding campaigns and pursue the DIY approach due to the abundance and accessibility of online education and support services available. Bootstrapping may indeed be stressful, but keep in mind that if you succeed, it can prove to be incredibly rewarding to know that you’ve done it on the strength of your own merits. 
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Angus Williams

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Ski slopes of Thredbo, NSW
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good one
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If I end up working in an environment, and with people of this particular brand of passion and attitude, then I think everything will be going pretty damn well!

Consider the fingers crossed, and congrats to +TwentyFive Squares for their work so far.  
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Angus Williams

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Here are a couple of early screens for an app I'm developing for my university mobile apps dev class. The app revolves around using the Rdio music API to allow users to create virtual mix tapes to share with their friends, using a photo of their own choosing as the mix "cover". The focus is on imagery, and making playlists more personal than a text link shared on Spotify/Rdio etc - scrolling through your mix collection allows you to relive a memory through both sound and image, which I thought could be a pretty cool idea.

Just wondering what people think so far! I'm working out some pretty cool stuff with gestures and fragment transitions as I go, so I'll upload to Google Play when I'm done to give a more complete look.
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Any specific examples? I've done some quick searches but haven't found much.
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Angus Williams

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Hey everyone - the latest Google Play Music app has a really cool ActionBar transparency transition when scrolling in the playlist screen. Does anyone know whether this kind of transparency animation (doesn't have to be on scroll) is available pre 4.2, and how to go about a similar implementation, as a few resources found have mentioned that animating the ActionBar isn't available pre-JB_MR1? 

Cheers!
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I feel like I should probably be in the Developer community, apologies :P
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Angus Williams

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I went to Taronga Zoo the other day for the first time in 7 or 8 years - coincidentally the first time I've ever seen the lions actually present and got a couple of nice snaps 👍
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Almost every "integration" listed here comes under the banner of legacy Google services. Reader didn't provide a service that benefited from being owned by Google - and when they operated it, no other service would be able to compete purely by using the same account users use for Gmail, Plus, Maps, and so on.

It makes much more sense to open up the RSS space to innovation from smaller groups, as there haven't been any new or exciting developments involving RSS in a number of years. Already we've seen  companies such as +feedly take over the reigns, and provide integration for a number of impressive apps such as +TwentyFive Squares's Press, +IFTTT+GReader  and so on. 

The key issue is that if smaller companies are both able, and better suited to iterating and innovating in this space - as Feedly and others have demonstrated since the closure announcement - then it makes sense for Google to shut it down. It didn't benefit from their scale and newly focused stable of products, and despite using it every single day for the past however many years, I'm actually glad now that they made the smart decision. 
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Hey all -

It is around a month old, but I found this episode of the Iterate podcast, featuring the developers and designer behind the fantastic Press RSS Reader (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.twentyfivesquares.press), really interesting. They talk about their general design/development philosophy, including why they made certain decisions regarding which versions of Android to target, and what their approach was to the experience they wanted to create. 

Could be helpful for both developers and designers, but I feel like the focus on user experience and product design suits this community a little better. Hopefully someone finds it useful!

http://www.imore.com/iterate-46-beck-ohms-urbanick-and-press
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A few episodes before that had the team that works on PocketCast talking about why they chose to go "android first" for their application. Worth a listen 
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Are fragment-based ViewPagers supported inside a Fragment these days? I recall nested fragments not being supported in the past, however from what I can tell, the new Google Play Music app is run out of basically the one Activity - changing Fragments based on the selected navigation item, and one of these (the Library page) seems to have its own ViewPager. Unless it's creating the ViewPager at the activity level, actually, but that seems like it would be a messier solution. 
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Thanks +Adam Powell. I've reworked my app structure to consist of a top level main activity, which dynamically swaps around fragments depending on which navigation item is selected. When the user drills down into a second level activity, I've launched it as startActivityForResult, and set up the drawer inside to finish that second activity and send a result code to the top level activity to swap around fragments if needed.

Not sure if it's 100% the best way to do things, but it seems to be working pretty smoothly so far :)  
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I think +Marissa Mayer may be my new tech strategy idol. If someone had told me 12 months ago that +Yahoo! would be doing anything worth catching my interest, I'd probably laugh... And now they're emerging from the black depths of irrelevance with a well designed stable of products built both internally and garnered from strategic acqui-hires externally.

The results of her focus on product and willingness to trim the fat of Yahoo's range of traditionally "me-too" applications is pretty amazing to see in action, and I'm definitely interested to see where this will go in the future.

Just goes to show that with a keenly focused vision and a motivation to do things, even a company as infamous for outdatedness as Yahoo can still come back from the brink of obsolescence. 
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Have him in circles
1,312 people
Mike Williams's profile photo
Andreas Harb's profile photo
Work
Skills
UX/UI/Product Design, Android, HTML, CSS, JS
Employment
  • Genova Design
    Front End Developer, 2014 - present
  • PC EFTPOS
    Customer Service, 2012 - present
  • Optus
    Operational Project Management, 2013 - 2013
  • Google
    Student Ambassador, 2012 - 2013
  • Ninemsn
    Front End Mobile Dev, 2011 - 2012
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Balgowlah, Sydney
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Interested in everything Google/Android, music, TV, film, and comedy.
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All I've ever wanted was everything and all at once.
Education
  • University of Technology, Sydney
    Bachelor of Information Technology, 2011 - 2013
  • St Joseph's College Hunters Hill
    2005 - 2010
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February 27
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the bartender secually harassed me! Lol jk the cocktail was great. I love cock!
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This place is brilliant. Home to the Sydney Lomography Store as well as being a unique and interesting boutique gallery in its own right, the Blender Gallery is one of my favourite places in Paddington. They'll gladly develop any of your oddball lomographic films, and the girl who works there, Tali, is probably the most helpful people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. There's no end to her knowledge of cameras and analogue photography in general, and in my experience she's been more than happy to talk for as long as you want about anything photography related. They also host a variety of exhibitions, and the launch events often feature local bands to add some variety to the night. A really great place.
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Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
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