Bootstrapper's paradox

A few months ago @mijustin reflected on how long it takes a bootstrapped SaaS to reach decent revenue:

Five years. 60 months. That’s a long time to wait for a paycheque. Once Transistor hits $20,000 a month, that’s dependable, recurring revenue. With that kind of MRR, Transistor also becomes a valuable, saleable asset.

But at the beginning, before the product has proven itself, it’s all a big risk.

It’s easy to see why bootstrapped founders get stressed. It’s easy to see why many experience burnout and have to quit.

I found Justin’s calculations to be surprisingly conservative, but perhaps also level-headed.

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I find them opposite.

He starts with $1500/mo right off the bat. That was only possible because of the accumulated following Justin had for all the self-promotion work he did before, which in turn allowed him to sell himself to then the sole founder of, who, on his own part, was involved with Cards Against Humanity which became their first (and large!) customer even before the launch.

So no, not every SaaS can count on such good starting conditions.

Having said that, 5 years to 20K MRR is OK with me, personally. In fact, my “made it” goal is just 10K in MRR. I do not realistically plan to become a millionaire. I just want to replace part and eventually all of my consulting income which must go down as I get older and less capable. (Bad/good thing is that so far that consulting income only grows, and at a rate few SaaSes can match :confused: )

I also find these calculations optimistic. I run a B2B SaaS and linear growth is what I see. Exponential is (I think) only possible with B2C and its additional word-of-mouth advertising effects.

Bootstrapping a SaaS takes a long time.

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Crazy to look at this now.

Back in July of 2018 I was panicking. It was right before our official launch, and I was doing the math.

Jon and I signed our partnership documents in Feb 2018. We started working together with gusto. It was awesome!

But then, 6 months later in July 2018, the honeymoon was starting to wear off. We’d opened up beta invites, and had 51 customers and were earning about $780 in MRR.

And I was starting to think: We’ve been doing this for 6 months, not getting paid for our work. How much longer is this going to last?

So I did the math. I thought:

“Ok, if we double our MRR at launch to about $1,500, how long will it take to get to $20k?”

I wanted to be conservative because I wanted to be prepared for “reality.”

So when I saw that it might take 5 years, I started to freak out a bit. Because (for me) that was too long. I’d switched about 80% of my time to Transistor, and I didn’t think I could hold out for a paycheque that long.

What happened?

It turns out, we’ve been incredibly fortunate.

  • Since our beta launch in March of 2018 (16 months ago), we’ve done $123,070 in net revenue.
  • Our run rate right now is $238,000.
  • We’re at $19,795 in MRR

We started paying ourselves a small salary in April, and as soon as that happened my stress and anxiety just melted away.

We talked about this more on Build your SaaS:


Justin, that’s awesome! I really thought you were being way too conservative with your estimates at the time. But this is incredible!

It is almost like you wrote the book on marketing. Wait, you did… :slight_smile: