We sell saddles here

I recently re-read Stewart Butterfield's famous essay, We Don't Sell Saddles Here.

Back in 2013, this was his manifesto to folks building Slack, two weeks before its initial release.

Under the headline "Sell the innovation, not the product," Stewart says pointedly:

"What we are selling is not the software product. We’re selling organizational transformation."

This quote distills the difference between VC-backed and bootstrapped startups.

VC-backed startups are trying to create wholesale changes in human behavior. They're not selling "software," they're selling "organizational change."

In this same section, Stewart continues:

"What we are selling is not the software product. People buy “software” to address a need they already know they have or perform some specific task they need to perform, whether that is tracking sales contacts or editing video."

This is where bootstrapped startups are different! We're not trying to create new paradigms; we're looking to "address a need customers already know they have."

Put another way:

The goal of bootstrapping is not to change the way people behave.

Funded startups are raising gobs of money because they're trying to do something profoundly difficult: change the way people think, feel, and act.

But we bootstrappers don't have enough money or time to do that work.

Instead, it's our job to recognize where people are already in motion and build solutions for the direction they're headed.

We don't create the waves; we ride them.

Justin Jackson

Published on September 13th, 2019
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