How do I onboard customers and retail partners to my MVP without cash?

I bootstrapped a marketplace app twice. The first time we managed to get to an iOS & Android alpha product but never got to test it with real customers and real sellers. I made startup mistakes like hiring people, offices and more too early. The second time, two years later,  I started again from scratch and we’re able to launch. But no more cash to continue with onboarding customers, partners & cover all service & operational costs. How can I find advice or mentors that went through something similar and solved it without fundraising?


If startups are about learning from your mistakes, things are looking really promising. First time around you didn’t get the MVP built; this time you did, and the issue is growing it.
Your issue may not be advice and mentors. Most products don’t fit the market first time around: they need to be tweaked and improved in the light of customer feedback before they take off. If you want to start a business, it’s not enough to budget just the raw build costs for the initial product. You also need to plan for the time and work required for making changes over time, and for reaching out to customers (and, if it’s a marketplace, sellers).
A few companies have built marketplaces with zero fundraising. One group of them create a service that’s so new or so terrific that the initial users — sometimes the people who come because of the Techcrunch bump, where you get written about on launch, and get a little spurt of traffic — tell all their friends, and it starts to grow virally. The other group climb the mountain step by step, and they do it without funding because they’re a committed founding team willing to work for nothing for a few months and they include a software engineer among their numbers.
If you can’t pursue any of these three routes, I’m not sure advice or mentorship can help you. But if someone has a better idea, I’m sure they’ll add it as a comment. 

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