Zero to Sold: The Bootstrapper's Compendium

I recently published a 25,000-word compendium called “Zero to Sold”. I’ve written this guide over the last few months, in parallel to the articles and newsletters I have been publishing.

Zero to Sold is a compendium of all the stages of a bootstrapped business and the challenges you will encounter along the way. It contains stories and experiences from my time at FeedbackPanda, from the humble beginnings to the details of our exit (and the unchartered wilds beyond).

Every week, I will write at least one blog post on a specific subject that represents a section in Zero to Sold. Once the post is published, it will be linked directly from the compendium. That way, the guide will grow over time, adding in-depth articles to the concise and detailed sections of Zero to Sold every week.

Every Friday, I publish the Bootstrapped Founder Newsletter. Every edition contains a link to a poll that allows my subscribers to vote for next week’s article. So if my readers want to make sure I prioritize the articles you care about, they can subscribe to the newsletter and vote for what I should write first. That way, I get subscribers, and they get a real chance at affecting my priorities.

My newsletter is a channel for me to explore new and current topics while delivering stories and insights from my time at FeedbackPanda (and all the failed startups I was in before). I expect to add more sections to Zero to Sold from interesting topics that I find in the bootstrapping community, either through the links that I collect every week or the incredibly insightful conversations I have on Twitter almost every day. Of course, any replies added to this topic will be considered for this as well!

This is my first book. It’s also my first info product, so I am learning a lot about all of this every single day. If you have any suggestions, please reach out to me here, on Twitter, or through the contact form on the blog.



Thanks for posting this, @arvidkahl. I’m looking forward to having you on the podcast soon!


This looks amazing work @arvidkahl , and now I have to find time to squeez reading this into my schedule :slight_smile:

A few eyars back, in an effort to try and show people what starting-up a new business looks like in practice and because of my background in gaming I decided to interview a few bootstrapped gaming business founders near where I live (Cambridge, England, UK). I compiled it into a Udemy course at

Few dozens of people bought the whole course and gave me some feedback how to improve it - they wanted me to get into much more detail. I never got around to doing it. So I am thinking maybe I should try again. Maybe this time by getting help to plan it from people on this forum like yourself and @SteveMcLeod :thinking:

So I’ve read about 10% of it so far or maybe a bit more and I must say the English is great, unlike a lot of the more recent techie books I’ve read. And I am starting to enjoy the content too.

Parts of it can be improved in my opinion (e.g. the roles of a founder came into the conversation a little too early).

So I will write more detailed feedback as I read.

@arvidkahl I don’t know if English is your first language, but again, the writing is very good. Whatever you did to make it well done.

Four bits of feedback so far (and I hope these and future feedbacks help improve what you are doing):

1- It is important to know who is telling the story. Who you are, what credentials you have or what makes you credible to write the content, and why the reader should listen to you. This should come first I think.

2- The section about the roles, even though I understand why you would write it first, comes too early and too abstract. The abstraction lost my attention. A good friend of mine, who has 500k+ students on Udemy, has a teaching theory which, given his success, I cannot argue with: Always show people practically what the problem is first so they know “why” they should read the next part and only then teach them the important concept. So that’s why I felt it was too early. Also the lack of concrete examples very early on made the argument very abstract for me. I rather see the roles, and then read the bigger picture theory behind them.

3- Is there a reason why you are writing and publishing this? For instance, are you sharing to gain a larger audience online for a future business goal or are you doing it because you love writing? If it is the former I like to learn how you are embedding your goals into the writing? And if there is a financial goal then I would take you much more serious - because you are teaching how to make money but if your goal in writing that content weren’t making money then I see that as a contrast.

4- Seth Godin’s constant reminder that people love hearing “stories” makes me think maybe your whole book needs a binding back story? The more I read the more I feel the lack of examples that put all the content into perspective. A back story would have been great. Is there a real story, perhaps one you went through, that can materialise your explanations better? It is hard to imagine how all the descriptions translate to real life experiences.

Here is one example: “In B2B, you can learn a lot about market dimensions from trade publications and conferences.”

I like this to be followed up by an example of a real B2B business, a real trade publication or conference, and how exactly you would use the publication to extract the information for that B2B business. Trying to put it all together on my own makes me feel you didn’t care enough about your reader and left me to figure it out by myself!

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Thank you so much for the thorough reflections, Ramon, they are much appreciated. I like the honesty and clarity of your commentary. My native language is German, by the way, so thank you very much for the words of appreciation.

I will take this to heart. The Roles of the Bootstrapped Founder part has always been a bit overly theoretical, I will either remove or move it in the future.

I have also started to interweave the FeedbackPanda story into my writing more. This will be reflected in the compendium too, as I turn it into a book I eventually intend to sell.

I will reflect on your thoughts a bit more over the next week and make more changes. I am very grateful for the time you spent on telling me all of this. It is truly appreciated.

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You are welcome @arvidkahl

I am trying to build a successful business so reading it would help me too. So I will be reading and sending feedback.

turn it into a book I eventually intend to sell

But one question, wouldn’t it good to find a way for people to submit comments or contribute to the book somehow? Via a GitHub-like mechanism perhaps.

Absolutely. I’ve yet to find a service like Gitbook that would allow me to monetize the resulting content. I could track all my writing in Markdown files in a Github repository, but that would make licensing a bit harder, particularly when contributions and monetization collides. I love the idea though, this could be a whole other thing! Thanks for suggesting this, it’s something I had not considered before.

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I didn’t know about Gitbook. Why does it not let you monetise your book?

I did think about that when suggesting. Might be worth considering Google’s model of having a very specific “Contributors License” to allow them doing that. I guess QT must have one such license too.

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@arvidkahl there’s which lets you publish markdown and get paid.


Actually @unboot , you are right to mention Leanpub here.

I had seen it when looking at the open-source read-first-buy-later ML book titled “The Hundred-Page Machine Learning Book” by Andriy Burkov at

It’s new but an amazing read and already a classic in Machine Learning - I just love the quality of the content. But it’s not just a classic in ML, this should be a classic business study too of how to do “open-source” and “read first, buy later” book publishing and marketing the right way.

The “Hundred Pages” in the title grabbed my attention instantly as it resonated with my need (perfect marketing).
The “open source” and “read first, buy later” lent my trust to the author instantly - I looked inside and it was clear, concise, easy to read, to the point and covered all the topics I cared about as a beginner in the field and without any extra useless text - great quality.
I bought it on Amazon instantly too, because I love feeling the book in my hand and seeing how much of it I have gone through. Sold.

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@arvidkahl , (and others if you are reading this) would you read this article I published on LinkedIn a couple of years ago please and note down your first impressions and how you find the flow as you read/stop and post it back in here please?

There is a reason I am asking you this related to our conversation:

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