Tips for bootstrapping your e-Residency startup

An interview with e-resident Zoltan Gero about his new e-book on bootstrapping and email marketing

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Zoltan Gero became an e-resident and started his Estonian company in 2017. Through his company, he publishes e-books, video courses, and programs, and advises clients on email marketing. He also writes about productivity and how to start a company with minimal capital on automatizely.com.

Zoltan is set to publish a new e-book Emailology about bootstrapping and email marketing. He is also the author of Restart, a workbook with 20 questions to help restart your life, especially if you’re in some sort of crisis. Facing brain surgery, Zoltan was given a 30% chance of survival. This experience transformed his approach to life, and led to him writing the book based on the life motto that time is our most scarce resource — not money.

Despite facing such a traumatic experience, Zoltan has an incredibly positive attitude to life and an infectious sense of humour.

The memes included throughout this blog post are all from him, as he explains,

“I think it’s wise in life to concentrate on humour, when faced with challenges!”

Over the last few months, I’ve been chatting with Zoltan on Linkedin and by email and following his progress to publish his new e-book. I realised from our conversations that Zoltan has a lot to share from his personal and professional background that might help aspiring e-residents turn their business idea into reality.

I was therefore driven to write this blog post sharing Zoltan’s thoughts and initiate a conversation in our community about these topics.

So please feel free to share in the comments your views and experiences on bootstrapping and making the best use of your precious time!

Tell me about your journey to e-Residency?

I wanted to establish a company but I didn’t want to establish it in the country I was born. It would have come with a lot of recurring costs before I made any money.

After a friend recommended e-Residency, I read the articles and wondered: is it real? Can I really establish a company without being in Estonia? I did my research and in a week I registered. It was a “new thing” back then. I was an early adopter, a real evangelist. I was pretty excited. I felt like an ambassador and guinea pig at the same time.

I write and publish my recommendations about e-Residency freely and, even though I’ve never been to Estonia (yet), I’ve convinced dozens of people to become e-residents.

More importantly: a programme like this gave me back hope. At a time when many countries are heading in a direction I disagree with, i.e., closing themselves off from the rest of the world, Estonia is allowing its digital services and business environment to be open and easily available to all. By becoming an e-resident, I am freely expressing my opinion on this topic and voting with my virtual feet.

I’ve read that Estonia considers itself the first “country as a service” for people around the world. The reason why countries exist in the first place is to provide foundations for us to build and grow, so in my view this is a welcome move and one that more governments should take up.

As Andrew Henderson — the author of Nomad Capitalist — puts it: go where you’re treated best.

Tell me about your business?

I help thought leaders, starters, creatives, authors, and startups build their email list, turn their expertise into a product, and make a living from it.

I’m in the early stages at the moment, but excited for the future.

Tell us about your new book, Emailology?

It’s about bootstrapping and email marketing.

I will self-publish it by the end of this year but you can pre-purchase it now. It will also be available on Amazon. And for first purchasers, I will help you implement the key learnings.

I stand for bootstrapping. I am a firm believer that anyone can start a company, even with limited money or investors.

I’ve written the book for people who want to start their own company but for one reason or another are afraid to take the first step, in general because they perceive that they will need a lot of money to start a business.

The truth is that while having money might speed up the process, you don’t need much to get started. Launching a business without funding is called: “bootstrapping” and it’s common in the business world. I call it a skill because it’s learnable.

And now, bootstrapping is more relevant than ever because of the economic downturn.

It’s a hard path but it makes you incredibly resourceful and builds your confidence: whatever challenge or obstacle you face, you’ll know that you can handle it, and if you implement a few key steps, you’ll be sure that your solution is needed.

In your experience, what are the key things to start a bootstrapped company?

The best part of bootstrapping is that by selling your business concept first, you don’t need capital from investors. You validate your idea by seeking to identify paying customers and for those customers to provide the initial funding.

I believe that at the core of bootstrapping are 3 key components:

1. Validation: sell first, build second

Many tech start-ups build their product in a cave and don’t show it to anyone. This is a big reason why they fail. Validation allows you to gather evidence that your concept has a market: it solves real problems for people willing to pay their hard-earned money for your solution.

2. Build an email list of potential buyers

Build a list of people who might be interested. Use email because it’s the only real online asset. There are plenty of ways to build a responsive email list. Pick only one to focus on more than anything.

3. Conversion Mechanism.

How will you sell your product? This process uses methods such as sales pages, product launches, webinars, 1:1 calls.

You can read more on my blog.

Plus, I put together an entire Email List Building Mini-course. It’s especially targeted at those who are starting from ground zero or a very small list. If you’re interested, you can sign up
here
:

How does e-Residency fit in here with your 3 step method?

There are 4 important things I want to mention about bootstrapping for e-residents in particular:

1. Keep recurring costs down

When you start out, every penny counts. Recurring costs are your enemy. This is why I recommend e-Residency. It doesn’t involve high recurring costs while you are in your early stages and may not be generating income.

2. Bureaucracy is the enemy of creativity

What I love about e-Residency is the simplicity. I’m thankful that I don’t have to handle administrative hassles. I will leave that to service providers and experts!

3. Failure is a part of your journey

I tried many ventures. We had a product on Amazon US; a webshop in the UK; I provided services as a freelancer; I published Kindle e-books; I’ve failed with software startups; many attempts — and all started with a failure.

In other countries you’re punished for failures. It took even longer to exit from my not successful attempts than the attempt itself. Through e-Residency? The system doesn’t punish you for mistakes and failures. You can try until you succeed.

4. Values matter more than transactions

You vote with your money, not just once in every 4 years, but with every single transaction and more importantly: the tax you pay. Even if you are not able to move to your chosen country physically, you ‘vote’ with your taxes. I’m happy to set up my business to support a system and country I believe in. For me, a few % difference in taxes doesn’t matter. Principles or values matter.

Credit: imgflip.com

Where can people learn more and stay up-to-date with your work?

Sign up to my newsletter where I blog about productivity, bootstrapping, and email marketing.

If you want to build a responsive email list to help you validate an idea, then you will enjoy the insights from my newsletter.

And if you’re interested in bootstrapping, leave a comment below. I’m always looking for feedback from the e-resident community.

As I say in my book,

“I was born on a planet and not in a country”.

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