How to Build a Cockroach Startup

Most people are disgusted by cockroaches. And for a good reason. Cockroaches are ugly and spread disease. Cockroaches are touted to have been on planet earth for 320 million years, and before dinosaurs. But when you understand what makes a cockroach a cockroach, you also figure out why these attributes are valuable for your small business.

Here are a few interesting facts about cockroaches;

A cockroach can be alive for a week even after losing its head. The roach only dies because without a mouth, it can’t drink water and dies of thirst.

They survive long without food. They live up to a month without food but will only survive one week without water.

A cockroach can hold its breath for 40 minutes, and can even survive being submerged under water for half an hour. They hold their breath often to help regulate their loss of water.

A one-day-old baby cockroach, which is about the size of a speck of dust, can run almost as fast as its parents.

A roach can eat ANYTHING to survive. Think fruit, leather, paper, skin flakes, hair, dead insects and even soiled clothing.

They are expected to survive a nuclear explosion.

You would agree that these impressive characteristics show resilience, adaptability and could be the difference between a failed and successful business (startup).

What is a Cockroach Startup?

According to Anubhooti Jain of inc42.com Cockroach Startups are startups which can adapt easily to harsh conditions without causing any damage to the company. More specifically, ones who are not dependent on their investors and are much more inclined towards steady growth. They are more like background workers. One who works and patiently waits for their work to reap and payback in the form of fame and money. Cockroach startups may grow slowly but in the process they become mature, gain experience, make mistakes and learn from them. In short, they are ready to become big and handle fame unlike most of the unicorn companies.

Characteristics of Cockroach Startups include:

Scrappy companies that keep salaries and expenses low.

The goal is to live another day.
No VC money allows for long term planning.

Adapts to changing market environments.

Ability to quickly become cash flow positive.

Survives a business nuclear war by having a real product or service.

A rock solid revenue model and paying customers is the norm.

How to Build a Cockroach Startup

As it is said, “Constraints inspire creativity”. So, you also need to walk on the road of some defined constraints to build a much awaited cockroach startup.


The idea of bootstrapping is to forget about investors till you build enough value that scaling becomes imminent by navigating your business with limited resources. If you avoid mistakes, you are more likely to survive and hence become a cockroach. The goal of cockroach startups should be to morph into something bigger. Much bigger. Before morphing you need a solid foundation. Bootstrapping forces you to create this foundation.You can read our bootstrapping blueprint here.


Cockroach startups have small teams that generate big results. One obvious benefit of small teams is lower expenses. Frugality serves both profits and customers well. With smaller teams come quicker decisions, the creation of company culture, and passion.

According to Aaron Skonnard, the smaller the team, the more effort you receive from each team member. As team size increases, efforts from each member decrease. Productivity is optimal with smaller teams. The magic number of team members is four. Smaller teams are up to 300% more effective. Keep things simple. Cockroach startups have smaller teams, and so should you.


Even when you have a sales team, you’ll always be the best salesperson. There’s nothing like the heart and passion of a founder.

Every time anyone in your company speaks to a customer or prospect it’s an opportunity. Make the most of it. Follow the lead of cockroach startups and be your first salesperson.


If you are an entrepreneur, it means dreams are at the skyscraper level and your quota of dreams get finished in the day itself. But for becoming a great entrepreneur, you must live the reality. You must be far-sighted to experience the apocalypse beforehand. There is no need to hurry to scale up as what goes up rapidly, comes down rapidly as well. Be patient, acquire and improve your skills as an entrepreneur and grow bit by bit daily. The best part about this is success will come to you in the most deserving manner and you will be able to experience and realize every bit of it.


Value creation for customers — this always had been the core focus of any startup, but somewhere down the line, this focus shifted to ‘total funds generation’.

While generating funding is important, it cannot come at the cost of losing customer focus, as long as customers see the value in the product/service they keep coming. Most cockroach startups are customer-centric and focus on customer requirements.


Most cockroach startups limit their fixed asset spending because the more they spend, the faster the budget burns. They spend less on fancy office systems which have high maintenance costs and instead of buying many printers, they would buy only the number of printers practically required (which, in the startup world, is probably one).

Cockroach startups have simple offices or even shared office spaces to save on office rent. In a cockroach startup, any kind of extravagance should be avoided. Even employees can be either hired on a consultancy basis or on a part-time contract unless they form part of the core operations team or sales department.


Cockroach startups focus on three things: profitability, profitability, and profitability. Find and solve massive problems that are painful to many people. Along the way, you’ll deliver a real product or service and attract paying customers. And of course, you have a solid business model.

To live another day, profitability is everything. Cockroach startups not only know this but live this. Every day.

If you’re building a Cockroach Startup and need access to tailor-made and affordable Legal Solutions to help you protect and scale your business AffordableLaw is the complete legal platform for you. Visit www.affordablelaw.ng to learn more.

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