Indie Startups

10 years ago, my entrepreneurial goal was to raise $100M+ and make one $1B+ startup.

I’m not anti-VC, I’m just pro-independence.

  • Startups can always raise money later.
  • It’s near impossible to return money raised and get your equity back.

Indie can be defined many different ways.

  • In art, music, and gaming, indie means independent from the major producers.
    • Many of these “indie” labels still have distribution deals with the big guys.
  • In startups, most people use indie to mean independence from venture capitalists.
    • These startups can still raise seed funding from angel investors and use debt to fund growth.

Prediction: Mittelstands will become more popular in America in the next 10 years.

  • These businesses can get to $10M+ in revenue with little outside funding.
    • They’re usually called “bootstrapped” or “family” businesses, and given less attention than VC-backed companies, but Mittelstands are often much bigger those startups.
  • Mittelstands are the most consistent path to wealth in America today.
    • A 2019 study found that the “typical firm owned by the top 0.1% is a regional business with $20M in sales and 100 employees, such as an auto dealer, beverage distributor, or a large law firm.”
  • We need more early-stage funding options for pre-Mittelstand startups.
    • Most Mittelstand founders use family wealth or preexisting connections to fund their businesses.
      • I want to create an accelerator to help launch many more Mittelstands.
        • See: Y Combinator for Mittelstands (coming soon)

My first three startups used three different corporate structures and funding models:

  1. Avomeen is an LLC that was bootstrapped for 6+ years until it was acquired by a private equity firm. It has since been acquired again.
  2. Labdoor is a C-Corp that has raised $7M+ from accelerators, angel investors, crowdfunding, and VCs and is now profitable.
  3. Air to All is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with all R&D led by a distributed team of volunteers and expenses funded by public donations.

I’m now building Utopic, the Dreamville (or Roc-A-Fella) for startups.

Studios are the future of startups.

  • The flexibility of LLCs: The holding/parent company can be an LLC that is 100% owned by the founder and owns many of its own companies.
  • The fundraising of C-Corps: The startup children can each be registered as C-Corps that raise money individually or through a fund run by the parent.
  • The independence of Nonprofits: Work on the World’s Biggest Problems, not just the one product that makes you the most money.

Studios are perfect for founders who want to create many indie startups.

  • Trend: Entrepreneurs are creating holding companies to buy and scale many SMBs.
    • Micro M&A can be a great way for new entrepreneurs to enter this space.
  • This is why I’m creating Utopic Studio.

Indie Startups are one of my solutions to The World’s Biggest Problems.

  • This idea is a work-in-progress. If you’d like to riff on it, hit me up @neilthanedar on Twitter.

Published by Neil Thanedar

Neil Thanedar is an entrepreneur, investor, scientist, altruist, and author. He is the founder & GP of Utopic, a pre-seed biotech VC fund investing in the future of science. He is also the founder & chairman of Air to All, a 501(c)3 nonprofit medical device startup, and Labdoor, a consumer watchdog with $7M+ in funding and 20M+ users. He previously co-founded Avomeen Analytical Services, a product development and testing lab acquired for $30M+ in 2016. He has also served as Executive Director of The Detroit Partnership and Senior Advisor to his father Shri Thanedar in his campaigns for Governor, State Representative, and US Congress in Michigan.