The Best Free or Low-Cost Tech Tools for Startup Founders

Stella Guan
17 min readOct 25, 2022

How I learned to be relentlessly resourceful as a bootstrap founder

Last summer, I was cold-emailed by a PR firm in New York that claimed to represent a major news media outlet. The “offer” they presented was an opportunity to be featured by said media in “prominent placement” and “in perpetuity” for the bargain price of $8,000.

I was rounding the corner on course development for my design school, Path Unbound when I received this email. Although I was nowhere near ready to launch, I was tempted.

Path Unbound website homepage
Our school’s new homepage

After all, it’s a media outlet that everybody has heard of. The presumed SEO “juice” would be tremendous in boosting my company’s search ranking, or so I thought.

However, 8k is still a big number for a small startup, especially a bootstrap one that’s yet to generate meaningful revenue.

Something didn’t quite sit well with me. That’s when I started to ask around my network and posted my questions on SEO-related Facebook groups.

After confirming the legitimacy of the PR firm by asking my friends working in the media industry in New York, I wanted to see if the return on investment is proportionate to the amount of money they required.

My mixed feelings towards Facebook aside, I was very thankful that it existed, especially for the active groups.

In a matter of minutes after posting, I was able to hear from SEO specialists that the paid feature was not going to boost my ratings in any way not to mention the fact that most of my target audience do not tend to consume media from that particular news outlet.

“I’m sorry — we are not interested.”

As I hit reply and send, I let out a sigh of relief. I just saved myself eight thousand dollars.

Being Resourceful vs. “You Gotta Spend Money To Make Money”

This incident was yet another reminder that bootstrap founders need to constantly be aware of how they are spending money. Without the “runway” that VC-funded startups enjoy, we have to be extremely resourceful.

But haven’t we all heard of this — you gotta spend money to make money?