Why we’re bootstrapping Dewey

The pros and cons of bootstrapping and what that means for our longevity

March 7, 2024By Tom Harari
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Dewey exists to bring order to the chaos of social media bookmarks. We started with a fundamental belief that your bookmarks, like any other data that is created by you, belongs to you. And to make that belief a reality, we needed to protect the company from any outside influence which could jeopardize that belief.

Both Alex and I, the two co-founders of Dewey, are veterans of the the VC funded model. In 2015, Tom and Alex went through Y Combinator with an on-demand delivery company. That company went on to raise millions of dollars in venture capital. 

Not only was the business not profitable, it was forced to sustain an aggressive growth rate to continue to be attractive to VCs. No profit and no growth is dead man walking. That meant making sacrifices that are not beneficial to the customer. Choices which prioritized short-term growth at the expense of long-term survival. Increasing marketing spend. Cutting back on customer support. Raising prices. A constant tug of war of optimizing for growth vs. trying to reduce a monthly cash burn. 

At some point, the music stops and you need to make painful decisions. 

We’re lucky that company survived a merger and is still around serving customers but the experience taught us a valuable lesson—unless you really need venture capital to build a moonshot business (think space rockets), consider carefully whether venture capital actually serves your goals.

With Dewey, our goal is to make sure that customers have access to all of their saved bookmarks and can choose what to do with them whenever they want. 

That means focusing on being profitable first.

And avoiding any decision makers around the table that aren’t the founders of the product, i.e. no money men. 

It also means we answer every single customer support request personally. Usually that’s Alex if the question is technical but both he and I check the support tickets every day and respond back quickly. 

This decision to bootstrap also means we get to dictate our growth rate.

Would we love to grow very fast? Maybe. If the growth happens naturally because the product is really good and people are recommending it to their friends, yes. If it means dumping a bunch of money into unsustainable advertising spend, that’s going to be a no from us. 

We’ve called Dewey a side project before but that doesn’t feel appropriate. It’s a labor of love. 

We initially started Dewey as a free product in 2021 because we believed it should exist in the world. 

That freemium version grew to 20,000+ people. An insane number that we were floored to see. 

But it also meant we were eating into our own savings to keep up with Amazon server costs. And that meant risking the mission. Risking your access to your data.

In January of 2023, we pivoted to a paid model with a free 7-day trial. We’re pretty generous with the free trial so if you feel like you didn’t get to try the product in that first week, just shoot us a note and we’ll extend your trial, no questions asked.

We offer a monthly or annual subscription and we have experimented with lifetime access deals.

All this feels much more sustainable. And as long as the business supports itself, it won't go anywhere. And neither will your bookmarks.

As our friend Daniel Vassallo of Small Bets put it: