Answer from Craig Lillard, Host of The Traffic Show and Founder of RevoStock
My 10-year-old start-up imploded about a year and a half ago. We were an entirely self-funded and bootstrapped online stock media marketplace. We had about one million products online and we competed with some of the biggest stock media companies in the world. While the company looked large to many, it was quite small and automated.
About six years in we were sued by a very well-known and notorious patent troll. As a small, bootstrapped company, we couldn't afford to settle, nor could we afford to fight the suit. We hung on for a couple of years as I got the suit dismissed (which is a crazy story for another day).
So much damage was done during that period. It was a perfect storm, of sorts. Before the suit we had constant growth, but the suit marked the beginning of the end. We held on for two more years until everything fell apart.
So, you know when people are asked, "What would you do if you had to start over from scratch?" Yeah, that was me. I started over from scratch.
Around the time I shut down the business, I had a bit of an entrepreneurial ego that I wish I did not have. I had started and grown two successful businesses in about 16 years, so it had been a long time since I had a real job. To me, that was NOT an option. I absolutely had to succeed on my own.
I had a number of start-up ideas and that was the ultimate goal. I began to get one off the ground, but I realized I had to make money first. So, I started a digital marketing company. Bootstrapping and building companies from scratch had given me a lot of real-world experience in many areas, from PPC to video production, coding and design.
The problem was I had no networking experience. My companies were all built online. It took me some time to realize that most local businesses use internet marketing as a way to add to their book of locally networked business. They don't use it as their foundation. Once I started networking, I began to get some regular clients. With clients, I am starting to kick in my digital marketing plan to keep things growing.
However, creating another start-up is my eventual goal. It took me a year before things started looking up again. It was a VERY hard year. Without a doubt, it was the hardest year I have ever had to go through. It was Intensely humbling, but rewarding. Everything is a learning experience. I know now that if I ever start a business again, I will be ready and more knowledgeable than I was before my last start-up failed.