Just as Micki Krimmel's startup NeighborGoods nears the end of their Kickstarter fundraiser (to cover upgrade costs), something great happened at last week's South By SouthWest 2011 Interactive conference.
Out of 450 startups competing from around the world, NeighborGoods won the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator Award for Best Bootstrapped Startup.
If you're not familiar with NeighborGoods, this unconventional online-to-real life community is quite remarkable both in that it brings people together and fosters community growth (online and off) - and that it actually works.
Basically, it's an easy way to borrow a cup of sugar - or a cordless drill, or a ladder when you need one - from whoever is closest to you on the network.
It's a borrowing and lending system with security and privacy controls so well thought out that people using the site make new friends while saving money in safety and a very catchy spirit of sharing.
Still, when NeighborGoods won the BizSpark award, I wanted to know more about the startup that's taking off in a big way, while surging forward with community-funded support. And what advice Krimmel has for startup founders that really, truly start from scratch.
(In fact, NeighborGoods' Kickstarter met their fundraising goal, but you can still support the indie, women-run business if you hurry over to their Kickstarter page before Wednesday March 23, 3pm PST.)
One of today's leading young female founders and CEOs, Micki Krimmel had a moment to answer a few of my questions.
Violet Blue: What does it mean to win the Best Bootstrapped Startup award?
Micki Krimmel: It means that out of the 450 companies that applied for the Accelerator competition, NeighborGoods has accomplished the most on the least amount of money. It's the perfect award for us because we do all we can to eek every last resource out every item and every dollar we have. We've got a small, very dedicated team fueled on passion and Simpler Times.
VB: What is the coolest Neighborgoods story you can think of right now?
MK: There are so many cool stories. I know a guy who got a job after sharing a video game. I heard from someone whose shy 8-year-old son made a new friend by sharing old toys.
But one of the stories I always tell is from really early on right after we first launched in LA. The item that inspired the creation of NeighborGoods to begin with is my backpack. I bought this thing a few years ago when I was going to Thailand. I knew I was only going to use it once so it seemed like such a waste to me.
The seed for NeighborGoods was planted and when I got back from Thailand, I started working on it. I've lent out my backpack 4 times now but I will always remember the first time someone asked to borrow it. It was right after the earthquake in Haiti and one of my neighbors was going there to work with an NGO delivering food.
He wanted to use my backpack - the one I purchased for my trip to Thailand - to deliver food to earthquake survivors! I couldn't think of a more powerful example of getting more value out of a backpack that would otherwise sit collecting dust in my closet.
I knew right then that NeighborGoods was going to be really meaningful.
VB: Anything you wish someone had told you about founding a startup that would have been priceless advice?
MK: The hardest part about advice is knowing how to take it and how not to.
You have to realize that other entrepreneurs will tell you what worked for them.
There is no magic bullet.
There is no formula for success.
I've been paralyzed by advice before until I learned how to adapt it to my business and to my style of leadership. A big part of entrepreneurship is learning about yourself and finding a way to accept your limitations, push them, and work around them.
I haven't proven it yet but I believe there are many paths to success and the right one to take is not necessarily the one most traveled.
As I write this, I fear this is even more useless than most advice. I guess that's the point. You're going to have to learn it all on your own anyway. That's the mark of an entrepreneur.
VB: What is the future dream for NeighborGoods?
MK: NeighborGoods will become your virtual neighborhood - reconnecting you to your neighbors and rebuilding a sense of local community. By connecting neighbors to help each other out, we are creating the opportunity to build real trusting relationships.
Those relationships make safer, happier, more connected neighborhoods that are better prepared for emergencies, more civically engaged and where kids can play outside like they used to.