26 Jun 2024 · Culture

    Zero Budget Big Dreams: Starting a Tech Startup from Scratch

    8 min read

    Bootstrapping a tech startup by yourself or with a small team with no money is no easy feat, but it is not impossible. In this article, I’ll highlight how you can save your cash resources when trying to start your startup and the right mindset you should have.

    Being a tech entrepreneur is one of the most exciting and rewarding ventures you can embark on, whether you’re a developer or someone interested in starting a technology business. It’s fascinating and beautiful to see something you started come to fruition as people pay to use your product. But how do you plan a startup when you don’t have any money?

    Is the problem real? Will target customers pay for your solution?

    Is the problem you’re trying to solve real? This question is shockingly important, as many founders create products that don’t solve any real issues, or solve problems that people are not willing to pay to resolve. I recently conducted a survey for a product idea I had, and I was surprised to find that while the participants acknowledged the problem my product aimed to solve, they weren’t willing to pay for the solution.

    The leading cause for startup fail is lack of market need. In other words, about 42% of startups fail because they find no customers willing to pay for the proposed solution.

    tech startup

    For your startup to make any profit at all, you need to build something that people are willing to spend their money on, if not it will likely fail.

    Team and Planning

    When establishing a team for a startup that does not involve substantial money, the most important issues are strategic planning and resource management. It is wise to have a small and flexible team with varied skills that are important in the first steps of the startup. Many times, this involves having co-founders or first employees who can take on different hats, such as designing and marketing the products, while at the same time handling operations activities.

    If you’re not a technical founder, and you don’t want to get bugged down by taxes and organization structure, you can find yourself a technical cofounder at techcofounder. If its someone you’re acquainted with, that’s even better, as it makes communication and decisions much easier.

    Since you’re trying to get up and running quickly, it’s best if you get a cofounder that is really technical and know what they are doing and wouldn’t need to get another set of helping hands since they are able to wear many hats in the organization. Another way you can go about this if you have the time is to learn how to code. This route is time-consuming, and it’ll be smart to have another source of income to sustain yourself while you learn to code and build your startup by the side.

    On the other hand If you’re a technical founder seeking a non-technical co-founder, the challenge lies in effectively selling your vision. Successfully doing so can significantly reduce startup costs and the time needed to develop your MVP.

    Let’s get into fun part of how you can spend little to no money by leveraging some free tools when building your startup.

    How to spend little to no money?

    Many people give up before they even try to build something because of the mindset they’ve created, thinking they need a lot of money to start. Their grand idea is almost immediately dismissed due to concerns about the resources they’ll need to make their dream a reality. In this section, we’ll discuss how to start with almost no money. We’ll cover starting lean and later touch on open-source tools that you can leverage for free in your startup journey.

    Build an MVP

    tech startup

    Speed is very important when trying to ship your product. Because of this, you’ll need to prioritize building a minimum viable product for your business. A minimum viable product should contain the main features that solve the problem your target customers have. Any other feature that does not solve that problem should be on the sideline. In the words of Eric Ries who wrote The Lean Startup

    The lesson of the MVP is that any additional work beyond what was required to start earning is waste, no matter how important it might have seemed at the time.

    As a founder it’s easier to build out your MVP if the you have personally faced the problems you are trying to solve. This experience with the problem makes you really experienced in tackling the problem by drafting a quick solution through your MVP.

    Adopt an iterative development process, launching with a basic yet functional version of your product, and refine it based on feedback from initial users. This method not only saves upfront costs but also ensures that further investments are guided by actual user demand and feedback, maximizing every dollar spent.

    Leverage free and open-source software and tools

    When building your startup, try your best not to drop a ton of money on expensive tools and services just to get your product live and working, instead utilize free and open-source software tools and services for development, design, and project management to cut costs significantly.

    Let’s look at some of these tools below:

    1. Developing Your Product: Use open-source software like Git for version control and GitHub for repository hosting. Use frameworks like React, Vue.js, or Angular for front-end development and Node.js, Django, or Ruby on Rails for back-end development.
    2. Designing on a Dime: Use Krita for image editing and digital painting. For designing sleek vector art or layouts, try Inkscape. Additionally, if you’re looking for a collaborative UI/UX design tool for your team, a good choice would be Figma.
    3. Setting Up Shop Online: Build your website with WordPress. It’s not just for blogs—you can create full-fledged business sites with it, and there’s a huge community for support.
    4. Staying Organized: Keep your projects and tasks in line with tools like Trello or Asana. They’re great for mapping out what needs to get done and tracking progress. Notion is another excellent tool for project management and documentation. Basecamp offers an affordable plan, and Operately, which is being developed by the founders of Semaphore, is a promising open-source option.
    5. Communication is Key: Don’t let communication costs creep up. Use Discord or Slack for messaging; both are perfect for small teams.

    Marketing and scaling at no cost

    In your company’s early days, you need to get creative and cut costs by leaning into low-cost marketing ideas for startups. Think PR, partnerships, content marketing, and crowdfunding to get your product out there without spending a ton. These strategies are key to ramping up your growth and boosting your revenue without the hefty price tag.

    Here are some tips to save cost while trying to market and scale your startup:

    • Leverage Social Media: Utilize platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to share engaging content about your startup. Regular posts, engaging with other users, and using relevant hashtags can help spread the word without any cost.
    • Content Marketing: Start a blog or YouTube channel related to your industry. Providing valuable content can attract an audience, build your brand, and establish authority in your field.
    • Networking: Attend free industry meetups, webinars, and other events to network with potential customers and partners. Building relationships can lead to opportunities and exposure.
    • Partnerships: Collaborate with other businesses to offer joint promotions or barter services. This can open up your products to new audiences without incurring direct marketing costs.
    • Customer Referrals: Encourage satisfied customers to refer others. Offering incentives can boost this effort, which can be a powerful tool for organic growth.

    Having the right mindset

    Before you start building on your startup, it’s important to have the right mindset. Resilience and a strong problem-solving attitude—as these often determine your success. Many founders falter due to a lack of resilience in following through with their plans. A resilient mindset acts as an antidote to skepticism, powering you through your startup journey.

    While building your startup, you may face numerous challenges including failures, setbacks, and rejections. Having a resilient mindset during this period can be crucial to whether your startup fails or succeeds. You also need strong problem-solving skills that focus on actual problems needing resolution. Keep your focus on how your product or service can benefit your customers.

    I’ll end the article with this quote by Nelson Mandela

    “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”


    In this blog post you’ve learned and gotten insight on how to build your startup with little to no money and the right mindset to have when building a tech startup. Hopefully, the knowledge gained from this tutorial would be able to guide you in your journey as a successful entrepreneur.

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    Writen by:
    Uma is a software developer who is familiar with a variety of different web technologies and frameworks. He is also keen on finding ways to explain things as simply as possible.
    Reviewed by:
    I picked up most of my skills during the years I worked at IBM. Was a DBA, developer, and cloud engineer for a time. After that, I went into freelancing, where I found the passion for writing. Now, I'm a full-time writer at Semaphore.