Hello to Canada’s SaaS Community,
Bruce Qi bootstrapped Launchpad from zero to $10 million in sales revenue in five years. Now he’s looking at higher mountains to climb. A week after his conference talk at SAAS NORTH, Bruce shared more about why he chose to bootstrap and how he plans to turn Launchpad into an “Anchor” Company.
- Bootstrapping is about responsible but rapid growth, in a profitable way.
- The first thing bootstrapping founders need is to understand the customer’s problem statement—the issue they are facing that your solution helps with.
- Bootstrapped growth comes from choosing the right go-to market (GTM) function for your unique circumstances.
Co-Founder/Producer, SAAS NORTH Conference Editor, SAAS NORTH NOW
Bruce Qi believes that any company fundraising from investors should have something very specific to spend that money on. However, he hasn’t needed to test his beliefs yet—Launchpad, the enterprise software integrations company he founded in 2018, is completely bootstrapped and has been profitable every year since its inception.
Speaking with SAAS NORTH after his conference panel talk, Bruce shared more about how he grew Launchpad in the early days.
From $500 seed funding to $10 million in revenue
The word ‘bootstrapping’ evokes multiple different responses and understandings. To Bruce, it’s relatively simple: responsible but rapid growth in a profitable way.
Since being founded in 2018 with $500 of Bruce’s own money to buy basic technology infrastructure, Launchpad followed this definition. The enterprise software integrations platform has been profitable every year, said Bruce, and has seen over 800% growth.
When talking about growing without outside funding, Bruce said it was a very intentional choice. Specifically, he wanted to maintain his optionality. This is not his first startup—it’s his third, to be precise—so he had an idea of how the world worked. Looking at what might be expected of him from a VC or PE investor, he wanted to go it alone.
“Understanding how the mechanisms and operations work—as an operator—when it comes to funding, it was a conscious choice made at Launchpad that we’re going to bootstrap,” said Bruce.
His strategy worked, with Launchpad growing from nothing in 2018 to over $10 million in revenue for 2022 with over 75 employees.
He’s quick to note he doesn’t hate the VC or PE world, though. Far from it. He recognizes certain businesses thrive with this kind of outside capital. It’s just that he prioritized his optionality over accelerated finances.
“There’s nothing negative on the VCs and piece on the investor side of things,” said Bruce. “But one of the key things for us is that we can stay agile.”
How to bootstrap a tech company
Growing to $10 million in revenue is no easy feat. Looking back on what Bruce calls the first two phases of the company’s growth—phase one was to “Build the foundation” and phase two was “Prove the revenue”—he shared three practices that helped the company get off the ground and grow.
Understand the market and customer problem statement: Bruce has worked in the integrations and workflow automation space for half a decade, giving him in-depth knowledge of what people might demand of a new solution.
“First of all, it’s understanding what the problem statement is that you’re trying to solve—and how common is this problem,” said Bruce. “And also what existing legacy solutions have been in place— or maybe there is a gap. Understanding where that problem statement, solution, and then the gap between the existing solution and the problem statement. The rest is a lot simpler.”
Leverage your network to get beta customers: Bruce worked his network heavily to gain some initial beta customers whom he felt needed the Launchpad solution. From there, he said his key priority was providing ROI against the problem statement.
“Oftentimes we see you have your CRM that needs to automate with your inventory system, with your procurement system, with your fulfillment 3PL logistics, and with your financials,” said Bruce. “So those are big glaring holes for many organizations. So once we understood that market problem and then provided the solution that can automate those systems, it generally became a very quick conversation about getting it set up.”
Pick the right go-to market (GTM) channels for your business: even the most well-connected founders can’t scale on networking alone. To continue getting early customers and grow more sustainable, Bruce turned to channel partnerships and direct sales as the company’s two core sales activities.
Bruce explained that in both cases, Launchpad offered the value proposition of filling a gap. With direct customers, the value of Launchpad is automating a workflow so the customer can accomplish a task (which usually means saving time or money). For channel partners, the value of Launchpad is filling a gap within their own product suite, enabling them to offer a comprehensive solution more quickly than if they built the solution themselves.
“If you identify the right channels, it is an amplification process,” said Bruce.
Building an anchor
According to Bruce, Launchpad has completed phase two and is ready for phase three: scale. The company has proven out product-market fit and its revenue growth model, doing so profitably from day one. Now, Bruce wants to turn Launchpad into both an Anchor Company within the BC Tech Ecosystem—meaning hitting $50 million in revenue and having over 200 employees—and then onto becoming a Centaur—meaning over $100 million in ARR.
At this point, Bruce isn’t sure whether growth will require outside capital. He acknowledged that the challenges of bootstrapping to $10 million are vastly different than the challenge of growing to $50 million or $100 million. However, regardless of whether Bruce courts investors or not, he has optionality—the power he’s wanted, and had, all along.
“Scaling beyond $10 million, oftentimes takes more fuel,” said Bruce. “But now we’re in a position where we’re profitable, we have proven the revenue, we’ve proven the growth, and proven the market. And then that optionality really now comes into play on how we want to achieve that $100 million revenue.”