It’s been said that fortune favors the bold. This is certainly the case with tech startups: in many cases, having the courage to move forward without external funding often pays off in spades further down the line. Despite this, activity to attain tech startup funding is on the rise across the globe—The Startup Funding Trends 2016 Year-End Report revealed that the second half of 2016 saw a 5.5% increase in funding applications, compared to the first half of the year.
These days, however, the reality is that most tech ventures can be launched with little or no money. The following are 17 successful startups that launched without seeking outside investment and venture capital.
The Scale Factory’s ReadScale combines open source tools and DevOps approaches into a consolidated platform for today’s software development teams. The company was founded 8 years ago and continues to operate without outside investment.
MailShake—formerly LinkTexting—is a platform for mobile email and content marketing that drives over 200,000 mobile app downloads a day. The company was bootstrapped by its founder with no outside funding or investors.
Litmus’ email marketing and UX testing platform allows organizations to streamline their web/email testing efforts across multiple devices. Founded in 2005, the company launched in a weekend using a second-hand computer and $800. Today, prominent brands such as jetBlue, Zillow, National Geographic, and Salesforce use the Cambridge-based startup’s solution for their email marketing efforts.
Tel Aviv-based Optimove offers a SaaS-based solution for the automation of personalized customer retention marketing, in use by over 250 customer-centric brands, including 1-800 Flowers, Chubb, Freshly Adore Me, Bethesday, and eBags, to name a few. The company bootstrapped its operations for 6 years before recently taking on $20 million to grow the company.
Grasshopper’s VoIP phone offering beats out competitors with its lower subscription cost and streamlined signup process, and has been recognized by CNN, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Inc. 500, among others. The company was founded by two college students without any outside funding or seed capital.
Paint Nite’s online platform allows users to find local events pairing wine with art/painting. The company’s founders were able to put off raising venture capital through their innovative business model, generating $30 million in revenue the year before getting funded.
AdaFruit is a leading DIY electronics etailer with 85 employees and $33 million in revenue per year. The company was founded by an MIT student, sans funding, who saw a market opportunity for assembled DIY kits comprised of off-the-shelf parts.
Scentsy is a leading online destination for all things scented candle-related—the company reportedly generates $545 million a year in revenue. The founders reportedly bootstrapped their way to success, peddling their wares at swap meets in lieu of paid advertising.
ShowPo is an online fashion portal and ecommerce website that, by all measures, is a success: the company generated over $10 million in revenue in 2015 (shipping to over 50 countries) and boasts over 1.1 million Instagram followers. The company’s founder bootstrapped the startup with $40,000 of her own money in her parent’s garage back in 2010.
GoFundMe is a leading crowdfunding platform that allows users to raise funds or give support for a myriad of causes. The company’s founders were able to bootstrap the company until it reached a valuation of $600 million.
Like AdaFruit, SparkFun is a leading online portal and etailer of DIY electronics kits and parts—the company boasts revenues of $32 million/year and has 154 employees on its payroll. The company was launched in the founder’s dorm room with no outside funding.
Envato is a leading conglomerate of digital marketplaces for creative assets. Some of its leading online properties include ThemeForest, AudioJungle, and GraphicRiver, to name a few. The company reported $50 million in revenue and over 6 million community members in 2015—not bad for a company launched from a garage with $90,000 in personal startup capital.
ConvertKit’s email marketing platform for professional bloggers was la unched with $5,000 of the founder’s own money and a 20 hour/week commitment. Today, the niche platform is chipping away market share from leading players in the space like Mailchimp and GetResponse.
ClickFunnels’ platform allows users to easily create website landing pages customized for different types of marketing funnels. Bootstrapped by its founder in 2014, the company now reportedly earns between 1.5-2 million dollars a month in recurring revenue.
BuzzSumo’s popular content marketing platform allows users to identify popular/trending topics for optimal traffic generation efforts, social shares, and viewer engagement. The company was launched without the help of outside investors—12 months later, it exceeded $2.5 million in revenue.
Jungle Scout’s product research platform allow users to glean sales opportunities from online metrics such as review count, estimated sales and revenue, and more. The company was bootstrapped by its founder with no outside funding—less than two years later, the company was generating $800K in monthly revenue.
SimpliSafe’s award-winning home security system in use by hundreds of thousands of customers; the company generates hundreds of millions in revenue and recently received $57 million in venture capital funding from Sequoia. The company was bootstrapped by its founder for 8 years before hitting pay dirt.
These 17 startups are proof that entrepreneurs need not break the bank to break ground for their startup ventures. For these tech founders, passion and elbow grease have proven to be far more instrumental than venture capital.