Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur: Todd Gardner on Bootstrapping

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ToddGardnerThanks to Split Rock Partners for underwriting the Entrepreneur 2 Entrepreneur series.

Todd Gardner is the co-founder of TrackJS, a Minnesota tech startup that reached revenue through organic growth on accord of its own bootstraps.

What does TrackJS do?

TrackJS solves a hard problem in a unique way. The last few years have had a tremendous growth in JavaScript web applications—but the tooling to monitor and debug them has not kept pace. TrackJS helps our customers by understanding how their web-apps are running in production; and when an error
happens, make sure the developers have all the information they need to fix it.

What traction in the market have you experienced?

Eric Brandes, Nick Pelton, and I spent over six months in a beta—and 3 months before that with prototypes. We gathered tons of information about the diversity of web applications, how they break, and what information our customers would need to fix them. We we’re wrong a lot—but we learned quick.

TrackJS left beta in March, was cash-flow positive in June, and is growing steadily today at about one new paying customer every day. It’s a very exciting time for us, and our growth signals us that we have good product-market fit.

Split Rock Partners

Was raising money an option or was bootstrapping the company the plan out the gate?

I’d love to tell you this was our grand plan from the beginning—but it wasn’t. When we started, it felt like money was flowing easily—so we tried to raise. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a local partner to invest. They all wanted to see some revenue before jumping in.

This was a little discouraging, but we still thought we had an awesome opportunity, so we pressed forward. Every success since has further emboldened us. We’re haven’t taken any investment yet, and we have no plans to. We can see a path to grow this into something awesome on our own.

Has bootstrapping has affected your business so far, one way or another?

Business-changing positive benefits. Because its from our own pockets, we are all keenly aware of the cash-flow in the business—and our runway is short. This forced a lot of important conversations on priority. We’ve given a lot of considerations to our core feature set, capturing and context of client-side JavaScript errors. This was to the detriment of other day-to-day business capabilities that were pretty rough.

This focused allowed us to get to a really competitive product quickly. Without the urgency, we would probably still be building business and automation systems for a unproven product.

What’s been your biggest entrepreneurial lesson learned to date?

We should have charged for the service earlier; and we should have charged more. I recall conversations we had early on with our advisors about whether to charge for the service, or try to grow first—and it all seems so silly now. We thought if we were free, we could become the defacto error tracking tool and monetize later. The obvious fallacy is that without revenue, we lack the context to understand the value we provide—and who is willing to pay for it.

What’s next for TrackJS?

We’ve zeroed in on our market and our best customers, now we’re filling out some business capabilities and automation that will free up some more time for us, and ramping-up promotion of the service. We have a solid product that solves some really interesting problems—now to share that with the world!

What advice would you have for your startup tech peers?

Don’t waste your time pursuing investors—when you’re ready they will come to you. Run to revenue, it’s the most important metric you have to know if you are really solving a problem.

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Comments

  • Track Fan

    TrackJS is one of those companies that solved their own problem first. They kept having to write debuggers on their consulting gigs and they thought “Why bother writing a debugger every time, let’s just build our own tool for every time” and so they did and then they thought “Why not offer this as a service?”

    It’s great to have seen this company grow and to bootstrap it. I first met them when they had just one client testing their product and I knew they were on to something. Good luck and keep up the awesome work!

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