April, 2010. The party bus was rolling down the highway from Dublin to Kilkenny; it was upholstered in sparkly red and orange vinyl and full of my favorite kind of nerd, and I was perched on the stool in front with a mic clutched in my hand. I had just finished an impromptu little story about how I bankrolled Freckle’s slow SaaS growth by selling infoproducts (including the very first proto-30x500!).
This was the first time I’d ever explained my Be Your Own Angel Investor approach in public.
Paul Campbell (organizer) and Randall Thomas on a Funconf party bus, by adelcambre
Apparently the audience was all pretty liquored up already, cuz only one dude had a question for me:
”So what advice do you have for people without a finance background?”
Having had a beer or two myself, I think I replied, ”Huh!? What? I don’t have a finance background!”
And that’s true. I have no finance background. I don’t even own any stocks. But, I have been earning and handling my own money since I was a preteen. Why? Because that was the only way to get anything I wanted. I scrimped, saved, worked, bartered, and sold all my My Little Ponies to buy my first (very used) Power Mac back when I was 12.
Now that’s probably quite different from your background; I learned very early on that all my ”computer friends” were from much wealthier economic backgrounds than me. They never had to do all that hustling.
Which means we think very, very differently.
For example: the name 30x500.
Why on earth did I name our big, important class a bunch of numbers?
It’s hard to say and… weird.
But that ”finance background” thing again: Back when I was starting up my software + info biz in 2008-2010, I often talked to my friends about startups and money. It came up a lot.
I must have had this exact conversation 50 times with different people:
- THEM: ”I need to get VC to start a thing.
- ME: ”Why?”
- THEM: ”Because I need the money to live on?”
- ME: ”Uh… like, how much money do you need to happily live on?”
- THEM: ”I dunno…”
- ME: ”Err, are you sure a multi-multi-million dollar moon shot with all those legal entanglements and meetings and contracts and hiring and stress is really worth it to have a nice salary?”
- THEM: ”What? How else am I going to get a nice salary? Other than taking a regular job, duh.”
- ME: ”Welll, if you skip the VC, and figure out a way to get only 500 people across THE ENTIRE INTERNET to pay you $30 a month, that’s $180,000 a year. Pre-tax, sure, but that’s a pretty nice salary, no?”
- THEM: ”WHAT? I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT LIKE THAT. WHAT IS THIS BLACK MAGIC?!”
- ME: ”…Math?”
You would not believe how shocked my friends were by my simple formulation. And I was amazed that they were amazed. Literally, a 3rd grader could do it. Didn’t everybody think like this? Nope!
Now, remember, this was in 2008, 2009 and 2010…
Well before ”bootstrapping” was a word on anyone’s lips. The conversation had two poles only: EMPLOYED, or VC BACKED. And because these folks had never been anything other than employees (or dreamers), they thought a salary came from only 2 places: a boss, or a VC. They never asked:
”What do I need, and how [else] can I get it?”
That’s why 30x500 is called 30x500. Because that simple little equation both shocked my very smart friends and changed their viewpoint, instantly.
30x500 is more than a name, it’s an approach to breaking down a big goal into lil achievable components.
You know, Stacking the Bricks. Making a Tiny Product First. Finishing Your Drafts. Creating Feedback Loops. Building Habits. Thinking like a Blacksmith.
So, the name stays.
Even if it’s hard to say. It’s got a reputation of its own now. Bootstrapping has become something people want.
And those people know that my approach to business is just as pragmatic, no-nonsense, logical, and step-by-step as the name.
Take the right steps. Take them over & over.
Work with facts, with reality, and let that be your guide. Just like $30 a month, it will add up.
You don’t need a finance background. You only need to be willing to find an incremental system and stick to it. You need to be willing to question your assumptions.
You need to ask yourself: ”Well, what do I need, and how do I get it?” And then build up to it, brick by brick.
But where do you start?
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