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The Customer-Funded Business: Start, Finance, or Grow Your Company with Your Customers' Cash




The Customer-Funded Business: Start, Finance, or Grow Your Company with Your Customers' Cash

John Mullins

ISBN: 978-1-118-87885-9 September 2014 304 Pages


Who needs investors?

More than two generations ago, the venture capital community – VCs, business angels, incubators and others – convinced the entrepreneurial world that writing business plans and raising venture capital constituted the twin centerpieces of entrepreneurial endeavor. They did so for good reasons: the sometimes astonishing returns they've delivered to their investors and the astonishingly large companies that their ecosystem has created.

But the vast majority of fast-growing companies never take any venture capital. So where does the money come from to start and grow their companies? From a much more agreeable and hospitable source, their customers. That's exactly what Michael Dell, Bill Gates and Banana Republic's Mel and Patricia Ziegler did to get their companies up and running and turn them into iconic brands.

In The Customer Funded Business, best-selling author John Mullins uncovers five novel approaches that scrappy and innovative 21st century entrepreneurs working in companies large and small have ingeniously adapted from their predecessors like Dell, Gates, and the Zieglers:

  • Matchmaker models (Airbnb)
  • Pay-in-advance models (Threadless)
  • Subscription models (TutorVista)
  • Scarcity models (Vente Privee)
  • Service-to-product models (GoViral)

Through the captivating stories of these and other inspiring companies from around the world, Mullins brings to life the five models and identifies the questions that angel or other investors will – and should! – ask of entrepreneurs or corporate innovators seeking to apply them. Drawing on in-depth interviews with entrepreneurs and investors who have actually put these models to use, Mullins goes on to address the key implementation issues that characterize each of the models: when to apply them, how best to apply them, and the pitfalls to watch out for.

Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur lacking the start-up capital you need, an early-stage entrepreneur trying to get your cash-starved venture into take-off mode, an intrapreneur seeking funding within an established company, or an angel investor or mentor who supports high-potential ventures, this book offers the most sure-footed path to starting, financing, or growing your venture.

John Mullins is the author of The New Business Road Test and, with Randy Komisar, the widely acclaimed Getting to Plan B.

Why This Book? xv

1 Craving Crowdfunding? Pandering to VCs? Groveling to Your CFO?: The Magic of Traction and the Customer-Funded Revolution 1

2 Customer-Funded Models: Mirage or Mind-Set? Old or New? 39

3 Buyers and Sellers, but Not Your Goods: Matchmaker Models 70

4 Ask for the Cash: Pay-in-Advance Models 98

5 Recurring Revenue: Subscription and SaaS Models 125

6 Sell Less, Earn More: Scarcity and Flash Sales Models 153

7 Build It for One, Then Sell It to All: Service-to-Product Models 177

8 Make It Happen: Put a Customer-Funded Model to Work in Your Business 205

Acknowledgments 239

Notes 243

About the Research 267

About the Author 271

Index 273