Mesh '09 was a great place to learn about bootstrapping your startup. MeshU featured a presentation by Carl Mercier, who successfully sold his bootstrapped startup recently (Defensio). Here are his slides:
A panel discussion featuring Mic Berman (Embarkonit), Keith McSpurren (Cover It Live) and Carol Leaman (PostRank) was held on the final day of Mesh as well. Keith made some interesting points:
Bad breath is better than no breath at all. Do something. Ideas are cheap, it's all about execution. First version of CIL/Altcaster: absolute piece of crap.
I don't think these things (mesh) are where you have to go. In CIL's case, spend virtually no time on conferences.
1st startup (mid '98, internet relatively new): started executing on things he thought was pretty cool. 2nd startup (CIL): saw a gap in the market and executed on it.
Always paranoid of people stealing his great ideas. Not a lot of defense mechanisms. Rush to market because they are coming for you, establish a beachhead. Stop thinking like you're not going to talk to someone because they might steal your idea.
Get out there, fail quickly. It's not important early on to get any of that advice. Just go do it if you have the skills to do it. Deal with the problems later.
Carol had this advice for entrepreneurs who think they have a good product but the market is a year or two away from where they are:
Don't delude yourself into thinking it will finally appear for you if it's not coming. You have to be practical. If paying the bills means you have to do consulting on the side, then you need to it. In most cases, you have to follow the market (you can't make the market).