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Bootstrapping Intro CRM Alpha

Intro CRM is an independent, bootstrapped project. I’m funding the business entirely through proceeds from my consulting business (Kenny Consulting Group, LLC) which will explain a few early decisions I’ve made about how to get this off the ground. I’ll talk through that further below and also share some open questions I’m still thinking about.

Why Start This Project

I’ve been using CRM software for over a decade, working primarily in and for small organizations. I’m building the tool I wish existed. The three main problems I want to solve for entrepreneurs are:

  1. Visualizing your potential business right now. Typically conceived of as a pipeline with Kanban-style boards, I think there’s a better way to do this. Relationships aren’t linear, they don’t go left to right.
  2. Tracking your future business. CRMs are built for salespeople, not entrepreneurs. Basic cash flow forecasting would be helpful so you can anticipate what sales activities you should do today.
  3. Getting out of the way. Most features are built into CRMs so managers can have visibility into what their employees are doing. Entrepreneurs don’t need this. Busywork tools get rightly ignored.

And as you get rolling, provide insight into what CRM is the best fit moving forward. I believe in sales, you learn by doing. Built-in templates for different sales approaches will help you conduct customer development and see what works. Then if-needed, use that knowledge to migrate to a more complex system when you’re ready to grow your team.

I’m building this tool as quickly as I can because I want to deploy it in my client work right now.

Why Start This Way?

I want to build a business that lasts and I want to build a business that supports my personal lifestyle. I believe an independent, bootstrapped company is the best fit based on the dozens of companies I’ve had close exposure in my career so far. I’m not interested taking conventional angel investments or venture capital (though I’d take a call from Indie.VC or TinySeed any day of the week).

I think this business model best aligns me with the customers I’m hoping to serve and it will give me a platform to advance privacy-conscious approaches that are rare in sales and marketing technologies.

Build a product, set a price, make it better. Rinse and repeat. Work sustainable hours, treat employees and contractors well, try to make the world a little bit of a better place. My wife and I are fortunate to be expecting our first child—a girl!—in September. I want to be around to support whatever she’s into, whether it’s soccer or playing the tuba.

I’ve wanted to build this kind of company since first seeing David Heinemeier Hansson’s talk at Y Combinator’s Startup School in 2008:

David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) created Ruby on Rails and is the CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals). They recently launched a new email product HEY.

Where We’re Starting

Here’s a quick tech stack overview:

  • Web Application: I’m using the NoCode platform Bubble to create a functional minimum viable product that I plan on deploying in my own business and to drive client work. I’m currently using the free Hobby tier to get started.
  • Web site: This is currently hosted on a basic, personal WordPress site. The only analytics I’m using right now are the ones baked in with WordPress. I’m planning on getting setup with Fathom in the future.
  • Email Newsletter: I’m setup with the free tier on MailChimp, with tracking disabled on all campaigns.
  • Project Management: I’m setup with the free tier on Basecamp, which I’ve used for many projects and is a massive inspiration for my work.
  • Entity: Intro CRM is registered as a Trade Name under Kenny Consulting Group, LLC. I’ll be relying on my current business’ infrastructure for the time being, including: accounting, email, project management, phone number, etc.

You can see a preview of what the current homepage looks like below:

Screenshot of the IntroCRM homepage in June 2020.
Plain and simple look at the Intro CRM v0.2 homepage.

Will It Be Open Source?

Working in Open Source since 2014, I have learned there are many ways to do it. Freely licensing code and media, using open source tools and supporting those who make them, open access to data and information, and documenting how a product itself works.

To bootstrap this with the tools I’m using, I’m constrained in how much can be open source in the first place—nothing useful, right now. My first priority is getting this off the ground and serving my consulting business clients. However I’m actively thinking through all this and the best ways I can contribute to the open source community through this project.

Where We’re Going

As the app gets built, my current plan is to offer a paid version and gradually upgrade the infrastructure. If an incremental approach isn’t viable, then I’ll save more money up to do a more substantial v1 release of the product. So far, this approach seems viable. For guidance, I’ve joined Indie Hackers and am excited to learn from that community as I build.

Intro CRM will (hopefully) become a proper, cross-platform web application. Looking to HEY as inspiration, I love how they’ve supported Linux, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, plus you can access HEY from several web browsers.

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