(Note: This is the third of three posts from tech entrepreneur turned academic Vivek Wadhwa on “boostrapping.”)

I’ve written about the dearth of women and minorities in tech entrepreneurship. Timothy Bernard Jones, an African-American entrepreneur, is one of the rare success stories.

He founded in 2007, to market a SaaS application that enables users to integrate social media into business applications. It allows Oracle CRM to integrate data from Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, for example.

Having been an associate at a VC firm in his past, Jones decided to forsake VC and to bootstrap instead. He wants to build considerable value before seriously considering venture capital. With revenues in the “low millions of dollars” and having achieved profitability, Buzzient certainly seems on track.

I asked Tim how much of a factor his skin color was in his decision not to raise VC.

I wouldn’t say being black put either me or Buzzient at a disadvantage, but bootstrapping has been a big advantage. I have had absolutely no illusion about being able to walk into a VC pitch wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops and walk out with a term sheet.

I know that if I had dropped out of college, there is no way I would be considered “entrepreneurial” or “visionary”; I’d just be “a college dropout”. So, in my case, and for the company I lead, we’ve created a culture of self-sufficiency that is very different from the mentality I see with so many venture-funded companies.

Look, we’ve already outlasted tons of venture-funded companies, and I think that’s a direct result of the survival mentality we created early on.

What were the keys to your success?

The first rule is to relentlessly focus on your customers. We have Global 5000 clients, such as Xerox, Credit Suisse, and Perkin Elmer, who rely on Buzzient for social-media insights on their existing and prospective customers. VC-backed companies often go off on tangents based on business-school strategy sessions and the like; as a bootstrapped company you live and die by how happy and successful your customers are, and in keeping them so.

Everything revolves around customer focus; what people you bring into the company and when, what technology you build and what features you add to the specification; everything.

If we’d not focused as much on customers, Buzzient would not have made it through the recession.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs?

Don’t believe the hype and noise about how “easy” it is to do a startup and how money is literally falling from heaven into startups.

Every time I drive by Sand Hill Road, I see clumps of “fresh fish”, shuffling from pitch to pitch, who equate raising VC with having a successful company.

Look, this is hard; if you’re really building something of value, it’s going to be hard, and you have to be prepared to endure a lot. The finish line is liquidity for your shareholders, investors, and employees, not a VC raise.

I’d also advise entrepreneurs to not follow VC insights on what sectors to build companies in. VCs for the most part are following trends, not looking ahead of the curve. So, as an entrepreneur you fundamentally have to do something outside the scope of what VCs are currently investing in; if not you’ll end up doing yet another me-too company that doesn’t stand out.

That means you have to consciously ignore a lot of the noise about trends, who got funded, the “blah blah blah” of the tech world. That’s the only way you’ll be able to focus on creating your own unique value proposition.


All these entrepreneurs have great advice to offer, don’t they?

There are thousands like these who have paved the entrepreneurial trails—thousands whom you should listen to and learn from.

Read the other two parts of the blog posts: and