Craig Vodnik

Co-Founder, cleverbridge

Craig Vodnik is unique among entrepreneurs, and it’s not because he has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

What is it then? Craig co-founded and bootstrapped a company to profitability in a mere two years. That company is cleverbridge, a full-service billing solutions platform for software and subscription businesses.

When it first turned a profit in 2007, Craig was the only employee in America (his three co-founders were all former colleagues headquartered in Cologne, Germany). Today, cleverbridge boasts offices in Chicago, San Francisco, Cologne, and Tokyo.

And somehow, Craig still finds plenty of time to be a champion for the next generation of bootstrappers and entrepreneurs. He mentors at 1871, Catapult Chicago, the Junto Institute, and Techstars Chicago.

Craig shares 5 lessons he’s learned bootstrapping cleverbridge:

1. Necessity is the mother of invention. When you don’t have cash to burn you have to find creative solutions to business growth.

2. Don’t be someone you’re not. If you’re really good at sales, do sales. Don’t be a programmer. Hire people with the skills you lack.

3. Hire skill sets, not degrees. It’s tough to compete with the bigger players who want in on the elite university talent pool.

4. Look for talent in unusual places. cleverbridge scored a bunch of its original Chicago talent on craigslist.* Many of them are key players today.

5. Forget PR. You simply don’t have the money on Day 1. You might not have it on Day 800 either. It will come. Build your business first.

For more about cleverbridge, click here.

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FIVEinSIXTY is our web series with thought leaders whose stories provide insights and inspiration for the next generation of go getters—our own little brainchild outside the wide variety of videos we produce for our clients.

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