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Two Founders Share Real-World Bootstrapping Secrets

This story appears in the June 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Storm-water runoff is the leading cause of water contamination in urban areas, but tracking it has been a clunky, pen-and-paper process. Erin Rothman and Anya Stettler built a better way: Their platform tracks water quality in real time with waterproof hardware and cloud-based software. “We want to help cities spot and fix problems before they get out of hand,” Rothman says. Prior to getting funding from the 9Mile Labs accelerator in Seattle, the duo designed and built the Stormsensor prototype for $2,000. Here, their secrets to seriously bootstrapping a business.

Chris DeLorenzo
Erin Rothman (left) and Anya Stettler, based in Seattle.

Embrace the cold call. Rothman has an environmental background; Stettler’s is software. They knew they needed electrical expertise, so “I googled ‘electrical engineer University of Washington water,’” Rothman says with a laugh. “I asked one of the professors for 30 minutes, and we wound up talking for three hours.”

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