If your core customer is also your core user, you’ve got a perfect storm for bootstrapping. Go that route and go for it right now!
However, if you’re core customer and your core user are not the same people…you’re going to need money (likely lots of it) because you’ll need to relentlessly focus on your core user in the early days.
You won’t be able to really focus on your core customer until you’ve reached a healthy volume of core users (and the ‘healthy’ number is probably at least double what you think it is right now).
This is (likely very) risky.
Odds are you aren’t really going to get to that healthy volume, at least not as quickly or easily as you think right now.
So you should move a bit slower, spend more time and focus on strategy, and obsess about metrics and goals that move you towards the core customer.
The freemium model is an interesting mix, where often your core user will eventually also be your core customer…but the rub is that they don’t actually start that way. Which means you’ll have better luck starting with the 'core user’ approach.
In my case, I know my core user really well and if I’m being totally honest, I’m still a bit fuzzy on just who my core customer is (which btw is why it’s not a full-time, real, business for me yet).
I desperately want them to be the same so that I can go the bootstrapping route (because I know how to do that really well). But the more I dig into just who my core customer really is, the more I suspect the freemium model is the truth of my market…and that likely means I’m going to have to try and figure out how to raise outside capital sooner rather than later to have the chance/ability to relentlessly focus on the core user.
Anyway - it’s just one of the many, many things I continue to obsess and lose sleep over these days…how about you?
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
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