Funding your startup with sales revenue aka customer funding (part 3 of 5)

Here’s the second most popular way I see founders get across the Traction Gap between MVP and sustainable revenue traction.

It may seem obvious, but it’s less common than you think.


This is hard because you have to create enough sales revenue to sustain your business when the product still kinda sucks, you don’t have leads or salespeople, and the founder does all the work.

THE FOUNDER is doing the selling the hard way. Cold calling potential customers, doing crazy deals with big clients, flying all over to close business, adding features this week to close the next deal.

This is the definition of “do things that don’t scale” before you have leads, salespeople, processes, and a mature product.

You had self-funding to build your first product. Now CUSTOMER-FUNDING and frugality can create enough revenue to fund the product, team, and marketing.

But sometimes I hear things like this:

“I can’t just go out there and sell this without a mature product, a sales team, and a great website with inbound leads from content marketing.”

Really? I wouldn’t bet on that.

Savvy investors won’t bet on that either.

Many founders who made it to sustainable revenue traction without big funding JUST FIGURED OUT how to get enough customers, revenue, and some growth momentum.

Here are creative early gap-crossing sales tactics I have seen in the last few months:

– The founder personally calling, demoing, closing and onboarding the first 100 customers
– Selling a small subset of the future product that people will buy right now
– Visiting industry trade shows and networking like crazy to get leads
– Building an active community of like-minded potential buyers
– Creating great content that builds a following
– Getting a relevant celebrity or influencer endorsement
– Being a useful networker (not a spammer) on LinkedIn
– Partnering with a business that already sells to your target market
– Super-targeted and efficient paid advertising
– Sell to your customers in your other product or services biz

What doesn’t work most of the time?

– Hiring someone to spam your prospects with calls, emails, and LinkedIn DMs
– Crude and expensive paid advertising
– Writing lots of SEO content and expecting quick results
– Hiring salespeople who don’t know your target customer and their problems
– Delegating the revenue-starting problem to a low-level marketing or sales manager

There’s a little “fake it ’til you make it” that shows up here.

If you’re offended by that, should you really be a startup founder?

Here’s another way to say it for the practical and savvy founders out there:

If your software product is so good and your customers have real pain, shouldn’t you be able to SELL ENOUGH to customer-fund your business and not raise much or any outside funding?


Many successful bootstrappers SOLD their way across the traction gap. And then kept going.

What creative ways have you used to start your startup revenue?

Here are all 5 parts of the series on funding your way across the traction gap. 

  1. Crossing the dreaded Traction Gap between MVP and sustainable sales
  2. Funding your startup across the Traction Gap with your day job or services business
  3. Funding your startup across the Traction Gap with sales revenue aka customer funding
  4. Funding your startup across the Traction Gap with angel investors
  5. Funding your startup across the Traction Gap as a 2nd time founder

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