SparkFun Review - The Best Lean Startups in America

Nathan Seidle and his startup, SparkFun, are great examples of part of the Lean Startup model. Seidle bootstrapped his startup for a number of years, pumping profits back into the company whenever possible. He also immediately created a learning environment for himself as a business owner when he launched SparkFun.

The company sells electronic parts and is currently a major player in the open source technology market. When Seidle launched the company in 2003, however, he did so because he himself ran into a problem. He burned out some electronic components when working on a project, but couldn't find what he needed for replacement parts easily online. With SparkFun, he wanted to bring necessary parts to individuals and small businesses, but he also wanted to provide education and encourage people to get involved with electronics.

To fund the launch of his fledgling company, Seidle used $2,500 in personal debt to purchase products. Since he wasn't sure which products would hit home with consumers, he started with a random assortment of parts–setting up the experiment environment Ries talked about with Lean Startups. As small trickles of orders began to come through, Seidle tracked the success of each product and learned which items to reinvest in.

In our book, Kings Over Aces, we talk about how companies don't have to be first to market with a solution, and they don't have to be the first to provide a certain type of product. They do have to provide an innovative twist on the solution, or in some way make the solution more convenient for the consumer. SparkFun delivers this innovation by including datasheets and tutorials for all of its products as open source hardware.

In less than a decade, SparkFun grew from a bootstrapped startup–whose founder couldn't afford a new coat because he funneled everything back to the company–to an enterprise worth $10 million. Seidle has over one hundred employees and his company supplies a global Maker community. 


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Ross Blankenship is the "expert on venture capital and angel investing" for startups and investments for venture deals. He is also a proven entrepreneur, and the Founder and CEO of AngelKings.com. Ross Blankenship has made more investments in venture capital before the age of 30 than most venture capitalists have made in a lifetime. As a venture capital expert on startup funding, Ross Blankenship continues to advise media outlets on upcoming SEC rules, been a mentor for startups, and helped accredited investors make investments in the highest ranked startups. Ross Blankenship has successfully founded several companies and now manages a Venture Capital fund focused on early stage, high growth startups in sectors such as mobile, cybersecurity, cloud computing and biotechnology. Learn more about Ross Blankenship, and how to become a successful, early investor at http://AngelKings.com.