Introducing The Startup Guild

Start Small, Get Big – No Investment Required

I wrote Entreporn, The Fallacy That Wastes Your Life out of personal frustration at how the funded route and swinging for the fences has failed me.

When I posted I had no idea the amount of interest it would generate. Viewed over 50,000 times, I received a flood of emails from people supporting the main thesis and calling for action.

The massive interest in the post served to solidify in my mind that there is need for one (or more) systems that can facilitate many thousands of entrepreneurs to “start small, get big” without the requirement to chase limited VC funding or incubator placements.

My idea is to create a system called The Startup Guild that is somewhat like a distributed and virtual version of YCombinator. The Startup Guild would use game mechanics to help track and match up participants into self supporting mastermind groups. As an analogy, if YCombinator were client-server, the Startup Guild would be a torrent tracker.

The main premise of the guild would be to help entrepreneurs build their first profitable business via the unfunded route of bootstrapping, however there would be nothing about the guild to exclude participants from seeking funding or placement at an incubator.

Problems The Guild Would Try To Solve

  • How can I build a start-up with no investment?
  • How can I meet like minded entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off?
  • How can I keep motivated and be held accountable?
  • How can I find a business partner?
  • How can I build a startup if I’m not based in Silicon Valley?

The Startup Guild – Potential Components – A reddit style link rating & comment system dedicated to articles related to “no-investment, start small, get big” – A “guest post” blog with articles from people who have had success with “start small, get big” approach – A toolkit with information & resources about “start small, get big” – A system to publicly track entrepreneurs progress and match up mastermind groups

In my mind the key to making a distributed human network like this become successful would be to facilitate the creation of self supporting micro-groups. Mastermind groups.

The entrepreneur tracker would use game mechanics to match up mastermind groups and ensure that each group had a spread of experience. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a group to consist of 1 person making $100k/month and 6 others just starting out. I had in mind the idea of each person within the system having a current status badge. Using game mechanics the system could also encourage competition between mastermind groups and individual entrepreneurs.

Here is a very rough example of what I’m talking about:

  • Apprentice – Just starting out (A1)
  • Novice – Have 100 registered users (N1)
  • Mentor Level 1 – Already earning $1000/month (ML1)
  • Mentor Level 2 – Already earning $5000/month (Ml2)

The tracker would match up a group like: A1, A1, A1, N1, N1, ML1 – The group might then be called “The Big Lebowski” and be tracked against performance. Think baseball league.

Get Involved

If you would like to follow the progress of the Startup Guild as it pops into existence sign-up to this mailing list.

If you would like to help build the tracker or curate the toolkit please send me your ideas, passion level, commitment level & experience.

StartupGuild now exists and has over 500 members. You can join here.

Check out my tech startup podcast TechZing. Maximise your downtime by listening to us while you code, commute, work-out or do the dishes!


  • Jeff Epstein says:


    Love the idea, count me in as one of the first to formally become a member!

  • bcurdy says:

    A noble cause worth executing upon. Count me in too :)

  • Noah Gibbs says:

    Love this idea! It’s also worth looking at the Micropreneur Academy and the related book (“Start Small, Stay Small”) if you haven’t.

  • As both a fellow bootstrap company creator AND a VC backed company creator, I loved your article. Given your mentorship levels, it looks like you are tackling bringing together people at the very beginnings of starting their own micro-isv. Instead of starting from scratch, I wanted to point out a discussion forum that has been going strong for close to a decade at

    Also, Q&A related to the idea of starting your own business, especially bootstrapped businesses, or getting off the ground, figuring out marketing, and how to make the first $1, is happening right now on the Stack Exchange site.

    If there’s some way I can help make this into a reality, let me know. I’d be glad to volunteer.

    • Justin says:

      I do see the main value of this being in the entrepreneur tracker enabling the facilitation of matching up people with the right level experience. Your point of re-using existing resources is noted :)

      I know at first site it sounds like a newbie match-up system but I think it could also work very well to match up people who are experienced startup owners moving from, for example, the growing pains of a 10 person company to a 100 person company.

      Quora has shown us that high level execs can play in the same system as newbies in this space.

      Regarding your offer of help (very kind by the way).

      What aspect of a project like this would you enjoy participating in?

  • Michal Mocny says:

    I am right now at this moment building myself a lifestyle business, working alone in the evenings and weekends.

    I am seriously trying to solve each and every one of the five “Problems The Guild Would Try To Solve”.

    Count. Me. In.

  • saar drimer says:

    “Solopreneur” here. Great initiative… I’ve signed up! Looking forward for lots of activity…

  • Pitchups says:

    Wonderful idea – and echoes our own thinking and philosophy about startups. There are vastly more entrepreneurs who deserve a chance to be heard and to connect with the right partners – (and not just for funding) than all the Y combinators of the world combined. Which is why we just launhced – a website that lets anyone submit their startup pitch to the world and get instant feedback in the form of votes and comments. The aim realy is to use this as a hook to build a community and allow people to find the right connections and partners. There are always ventures and iudeas that do not fit the conventional funding model – but that could still be very succesful as a business – with the right connections and partnerships. We see many synergies with what you are doing with startup guild so would love to connect and explore this further.

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  • expert says:

    Can’t wait to join!

  • Another useful thing would be something like a job board. Where one solo entrepreneur can trade his time+talent for another. Like a dev (me) looking for a graphic designer.

  • Weaves says:

    looking forward to joining! I’ll be an A1.

  • Dex says:

    I know that I am in the minority here but I absolutely hated your article. I think you and Amy Hoy promote mediocrity. It’s ok that you have accepted this for yourself but trying to get others to settle for the same thing is just BS. I dont care how many times I fail I love swinging for the fences and i dont do it for TC or anyone else other than myself. IMHO your article insinuates that people who swing for the fences are obsessed w/ funding and valuations etc.. this is another point that i disagree with; all I care about is creating bad ass products that deliver value to customers. I wish you luck with but I think the world is very lucky that Zuck, Twitter guys etc… dont think like you. I might die broke on the side of the road but I will die knowing that I tried to do something epic. Not just trying to make myself a “lifestyle business” but something that really matters and adds value to peoples lives. That “dream” is part of what makes startups great to me and just waking up everyday trying to change the world means I am not wasting my life.

  • Joe Williams says:

    Justin, we are working on something similar to this at, but we are interweaving it with the fund raising process. I would love to chat about your tracker.

  • Jake Butler says:

    As someone who has worked for several startups but has struggled to take the leap on his own, I think this is an awesome idea!

    I’d love to be an early apprentice.

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