Running out of cash is one of the quickest ways for a startup to go out of business. As a primarily bootstrapped but capital-intensive business, managing cash flow at Backblaze was and still is a key element of our success and requires continued focus. Let’s look at what we learned over the years.
“Are you crazy?” “Why would you do that?!” “You shouldn’t share that!” were just a few of the common questions and comments we heard over the years when Backblaze shared information about our business that most other companies do not. What was the thought process behind opening up? I’d like to explore the positives and negatives of being so transparent as a company.
Perhaps your business is competing in a brand new space free from established competitors. Most of us, though, start companies that compete with existing offerings from large, established companies. Your job is to come up with a better mousetrap — not the first mousetrap. That’s the challenge Backblaze faced. In this post, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.
In my previous posts, I talked about coming up with an idea, determining the solution, and getting your first customers. But you’re building a company, not a product. Let’s talk about what the first year should look like.
If you launch your startup and no one knows, did you actually launch? As mentioned in my last post, our initial launch target was to get a 1,000 people to use our service. But how do you get even 1,000 people to sign up for your service when no one knows who you are?
In my previous post on how Backblaze got started, I mentioned that “just because we knew the right solution, didn’t mean that it was possible.” I’ll dig into that here. The right solution was to offer unlimited backup for $5 per month. The price of storage at the time, however, would have likely forced us to price our unlimited backup service at 2x – 5x that.
We were faced with a difficult challenge – compromise a fundamental feature of our product by removing the unlimited storage element, increase our price point in order to cover our costs but likely limit our potential customer base, seek funding in order to run at a loss while we built market share with a hope/prayer we could make a profit in the future, or find another way (huge unknown that might not have a solution). Below I’ll dig into the options that were available, the paths we tried, and how this challenge completely transformed our company and ended up being our greatest technological advantage.
Today Backblaze celebrates turning 10 years old. Tin is the traditional gift for a ten year wedding anniversary: a sign of strength and flexibility. Getting to this point took not only the steel to make the servers, but tin as well. How things have changed: 2007 2017 Team Five Founders in a Palo Alto apartment….