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8 Lessons From A Bootstrapped Software Company

The journey of BluBird Interactive, a Dhaka-based software development company, is a fascinating story of entrepreneurial grit, perseverance, and continuous reinvention. Founded in 2013 by Ashique Hassan and Kazi Shahinur Rahman, two childhood friends from Satkhira, BluBird has weathered myriad challenges to emerge as a 30-person team serving international clients. 

A true bootstrapped success story, the company’s climb from a fledgling two-man outfit to a thriving mid-sized software development company with clients in multiple markets is replete with vital lessons for aspiring founders. 

We published a long-form interview with Blubird founders in February that we very well received. In this article, we distill 10 lessons from the company’s journey for founders looking to build successful bootstrapped companies in Bangladesh. 

1. Persevere Through Adversity  

BluBird's journey is rife with unexpected challenges and tribulations - extortion threats, office thefts, revenue shocks, employee churn, and personal crises. The company faced almost all kinds of challenges in the first two to three years of its journey. Some of those challenges were mortal in nature.

There were instances where BluBird founders distantly entertained the idea of shutting the business down. As Ashique recounts their nadir in 2016-17, "After much discussion, we decided we would see it through to the end...if we gave up now, we would never get a second chance to return." The founders' refusal to give up proved pivotal. 

Building anything meaningful is a hero's journey. You have to endure the trials and tribulations to get the rewards. 

2. Find Ways to Overcome Your Limitations Through Complementary Partnerships

While largely self-reliant, BluBird tapped external expertise through consultants and vendor tie-ups when required. At one point in their journey, BluBird was struggling to deliver client projects due to talent shortages. The company had to abandon several projects and failed at several others. The challenge was it couldn’t afford new talents at the time. At the same time, it struggled to deliver the required quality work with its existing talent pool.

After much thought, the company found a hack to overcome the challenge. It started to work with external consultants for specific skills and needs, which helped it to overcome its internal skills gap. 

As Ashique explains their mid-journey consultant hires, "These new consultants helped our people in solving problems....our project failure ratio came down to almost zero."  

3. Change Relentlessly to Stay Relevant  

BluBird's technical evolution is a masterclass in identifying and adapting to industry shifts. Throughout its journey, the company has regularly pivoted from one strategy to another, one product to another whenever it felt the change in the market.

For instance, it started by providing several services including content writing in 2013. After a year or so in business, the company stopped offering writing services to focus fully on its software business. Writing service was a good business but with a full pivot to software, it moved up to a higher-value product. It did the same with technology, moving from one tech to another based on the changes in the market. 

"If we had not made that change at that time, we might have been in a different place and situation," says Shahin about their timely switch from Codeigniter to Laravel in 2015, amid the PHP framework's rising popularity. Similarly, the duo constantly re-skilled in emerging frontend technologies and are now exploring AI integration. As Shahin remarks, "Entrepreneurs should spend time learning and educating themselves."

4. Avoid Field of Dream Syndrome, Market Your Product Aggressively 

For the first five years, BluBird relied solely on word-of-mouth marketing, a mistake Ashique rues: "We didn't invest in marketing...which was a major mistake." Learning from this lapse, they now have a dedicated four-person marketing team and a consistent strategy of investing at least $100 monthly regardless of immediate returns.  

Many early-stage founders suffer from what is now called ‘field of dream syndrome’ named after a quote from the movie Field of Dream, which says “If you build, they will come.” But in reality, unless you market your products and services well, no one will come. This is more true today when the noise in the marketplace has reached such an unparalleled level, without meaningful promotion even the best product will fail. 

5. Diversify Your Business, Limit Client Concentration Risk

An over-reliance on a single major client proved disastrous for BluBird when a major US client stopped sending work in 2016. Having learned this lesson, they now cap individual client revenue contributions at 20%. "We have applied this strategy consistently to avoid similar challenges," says Ashique.

6. Manage Cash Flow Prudently 

Most businesses die because they run out of money. BluBird started as a bootstrapped company and the founders made it a point to make money from day one. It helped the company build a strong financial strength in its early years. While the company made several costly financial mistakes, it also learned from those mistakes and eventually developed meaningful financial discipline. 

For instance, in their cash-strapped early days, BluBird was wary of spending on areas like marketing. Recounting this phase, Ashique says, "Each penny was hard-earned, so we were extra careful before spending any money." The pandemic, however, allowed them to reallocate saved office rent towards better talent acquisition. A balanced approach to cash management is key.

7. Use Your Mistakes, Never Stop Learning

"We did so many things in those days, investing our time, efforts and money that we find quite funny today when we look back," reflects Ashique Hassan. A lack of mentors meant BluBird's founders had to learn through trial and costly error in the early years. As Kazi Shahin notes, "Being able to make the right decision at the right time is incredibly have to understand the market shifts, your strengths and weaknesses, and choose accordingly." 

The best part of BluBird is that the company has always made it a point to use its mistakes to learn about the market and business and worked doubly hard to not repeat the same mistake twice. 

8. Pay Attention To Your Culture

BluBird cultivates a culture centered around professional growth and work-life balance. With policies like a "no-questions-asked leave" and quarterly "Discussion Days", the company nurtures an environment conducive to productive remote work. "We have tried to create a culture that enables our people to be productive," says Ashique. Their 360-degree feedback mechanism with frequent salary appraisals motivates employees to become top industry talent.  

At BluBird, leadership roles are open to all staff demonstrating merit. "We regularly tell our team that the CEO and CTO positions are always open...anyone can fight for these positions," asserts Ashique. This egalitarian philosophy, complemented by processes like open salary discussions, cultivates a culture of trust and meritocracy.  


Our lesson at Future Startup over the years is that entrepreneurship is a learning problem. Building a company takes a long time because learning important skills relevant to venture building takes a long time to learn. 

One key lesson for us from the BluBird story is that the company has consistently learned from its own experience and changed its strategy, products, and business accordingly. It takes an incredible amount of courage and genuine humility to accept our mistakes, learn, and change course when things are not working. 

The second lesson for us is the importance of keep trying. Perseverance is perhaps the most common denominator behind any meaningful success. If you keep trying hard enough for a long enough time, you will certainly find a way. As Shahin signs off, "If you start something, you have to stay the course and must not give up." 

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

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