Entrepreneurship · Financial planning

How to begin a business with no personal investment ?

Marion Lemoine Hi ! I'm Marion, I am digital marketing manager for a french messaging app startup.

March 9th, 2017

I would like to begin something with a co-founder (friend of mine) but we both don't have any ressources to invest in our project.

Andre Sr. Managing Partner | Business Funding | Speaker | Mentor

March 9th, 2017

This notion that you can start a business today with no personal investment is insane. Work, save, beg and borrow (friends, fools & family) to acquire what you need to get pass a proof of concept stage (preferably revenue generating), then think about approaching legitimate investors!


March 9th, 2017

Not having any money is undoubtedly the best situation to be in, to start a business, because if you have money, you will probably waste it anyway. For example, you can sell someone else's car without owning it, as long as he agrees you to do it. You can find customers for containers that have not even arrived in port yet and that you don't even own. You can also perfectly well sell a house that does not belong to you. If you had money, you would possibly try to buy it before selling it. Wrong. No need for that. Having money only encourages you to make more mistakes. If you need money to spend on transport, you could talk your supplier into advancing you some cash. If he believes that you will do what it takes to sell his stuff, he may very well pony up the money, just to encourage you. You only need a very small number of people to believe you -- possibly only one -- and cut you a bit of slack, to be in business.

K. Robbins Head Moose at Moose WorldWide Digital

March 9th, 2017

@Andre Sr. I started my business 6 1/2 years ago with nothing and here I am thriving. So I guess I'm insane.

There is a MUCH simpler answer. Forget about investors. The idea that there are VC's and angels lined up to throw money at software businesses is a fantasy that permeates silicon valley and therefore the web. Does it happen? Sure. But it's a lot like wanting to be a movie star, for every ten thousand that try only one succeeds.

VC's are far more likely to invest in something that 1) Is unique. And by unique I don't mean "Just like X but better" 2) Has positive cash flow 3) Has a management team with the experience, and the smarts to get it done. If you don't have all these things you are probably not going to get the big bucks. Are you willing to give up control?

A better approach is to start a service based business, which requires very little startup capital, and then use the income from that business to launch your product. Running a professional services business will teach you how to run a business, manage clients, manage employees, build operational systems, setup accounting, and vet all the partners and eager helpers. You might discover that running this type of business is personally very rewarding, as well as allowing you to live the lifestyle you desire.

Good Luck!

Thomas Ruge Driven, Passionate and Curious

March 10th, 2017

Without knowing exactly what kind of business you are considering, here is my advice, start contracting in the area you want to launch your business:

I.e. if you are planning to create a business around a new product you are going to develop, start offering development services to customers in your vertical and build the product in your free time that's not occupied by contracting.

This approach has a lot of advantages:

1. You can leave your full-time job and feed yourself while focusing on your business without any personal or external investments

2. You learn invaluable insights about the market you are going to enter even before your product is ready, which allows you to pivot your business or tweak your product earlier in your startup cycle.

3. You are already building connections to potential customers. This will make it much easier to sell when your product is finally ready for primetime. Those contracting customers will also be a great resource for feedback on your product you are going to launch.

4. You have much more credibility in the vertical you are going to launch from the get-go, gives you an advantage over your competition.

5. You start building up your company's financials. Your P&L will have something to show for, and you are building up your balance sheet. After 2 years in operation, you can qualify for debt financing (i.e. SBA loans) and might be able to avoid external investments like VCs altogether.

6. Plan B strategy. The contracting business gives you an alternative should you not be successful with the business you are trying to launch

From first hand experience, I can say this approach is hard work , since you are essentially building two business, your contracting business and your actual startup, sleepless nights are guaranteed. Staying focused on your goal of building your startup is crucial, it is easy to get distracted when your contracting deals pay good money.

Good luck,


Ali Mahmoud Enthusiastic entrepreneur, Business Analyst and PM

March 9th, 2017

Hmmm. Yes you can do this and get investment but it will be hard. Because most of investors won't pay for something without seeing a clear product, or predefined return. However, there are several things you should get it ready before pitching your idea or your project to any investor, which are:

- Prepare a prototype (wireframes, manufactured prototype, clear illustration..etc)

- Prepare your Business Model canvas

- Prepare your business plan (No need to be perfect and also don't rely on the online templates)

- Prepare your pitching presentation

After you get all of these elements complete, you can start searching for an investor.

Where to apply for getting an investment:

- Accelerators (You may not need to have the above list completed)

- Business Incubation Centers (You may not need to have the above list completed)

- Angle Investors (You will need to get all elements above ready)

- Crowdfunding websites (KickStarter, Indigogo..etc)

- Crowdfunding from friends and family.

As an advice,

Try to utilize your current capabilities. Even if you need to learn something new that would make the process of the project shorter. Don't go for investment from day 1. You will need lots of efforts. Plus, you both will sacrifice a big portion of your shares.

I would be glad to help you going through the whole process.

Thomas Ruge Driven, Passionate and Curious

March 10th, 2017

@K. Robbins

I couldn't agree more, Bootstrapping your company is the most rewarding and satisfying way to build your business. Forget investors, chasing investor's money is a huge time sink, during this time you don't do anything on the customer or product development front and dealing with investors is a huge pain in the a...

I created a typical Silicon Valley startup with VC money and we sold it to a large chip manufacturer in 2008. Even though we had a successful exit, I barely got any money from the deal, even though it was my company. And it was a nightmare to deal with the board. The biggest walk-away for me were the experiences and one of my lessons I took with me is:

Avoid investors as long as you possibly can! They are running your company and your life when they get hold of you!

Btw, it's a great time to delay/avoid equity financing, with interest rates at historic lows, debt financing is a great alternative to investors.

This time around, I am bootstrapping and I couldn't be happier. I am only accountable to myself and I can do whatever/whenever I want.

Abheek Bose Entrepreneur in all things tech

March 11th, 2017

Seems like you are in an exploratory phase. Best approach would be to find something which interests you AND you are good at. Then use your network to find a potential client and understand what offers you can make them. Do not worry about how much you will be earning at this point, rather focus on how best you can solve the customer problem. Customer validation is the key to any successful business and happy customers are more than willing to give you more business and more references to others. This is how great businesses are built. Hope this gives you some clarity. Would be happy to discuss further.

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

March 14th, 2017

Use the time when you have no financial resources to do your planning. There is no excuse for lack of planning. At this time you will write your business plan, explore options, and research assumptions. You will never have such a durable opportunity to find the potential problems and figure out ways to mitigate risks as before you get started. If you don't do it now, you will never have more time later to fix mistakes.

Ideas are for all intents and purposes, worth almost nothing. It is the execution of an idea that has value. DO NOT start your business until you have your plan fully in place and you have determined what resources will be necessary to survive. Flying by the seat of your pants is sometimes fun, but not when you lose your shirt in the process (fashion puns intended).

Thomas Sutrina Inventor at Retired Pursue Personal interrests and family

March 9th, 2017

First of all you are making an investment, it just is not money. You need to show investors the value of that investment is so great that you reduce their risk. You have a lot of work going forward, that is an investment that should have more value then dollars. Dollars earn a rate of return of less then 20% typically. The investment of brain power can be many times the value of those hours of think working in dollars. I have a patent that did not turn into a product, however; my investment was an hour (not counting the thousands of hour to learn how to invent and have a back ground but that is spread over everything). It was not the one in fifty products launched by S C Johnson for that year. If it was what would be the return?

Marion Lemoine Hi ! I'm Marion, I am digital marketing manager for a french messaging app startup.

March 13th, 2017

Hi everyone ! Thanks again for all your advices. I feel much better and optimistic thanks to you all.

About our idea : we want to create an e-commerce fashion brand with an innovative way of proposing our products to our customers in the website. So we need a nice and simple website (I have already begun to learn code but it's tough !). And we also need to design / create our products and create a logistic mechanism that works well.