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Bootstrapping with a Paycheck: Aytekin Tank, CEO of Jotform (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Oct 5th 2015

Aytekin is a Turkish entrepreneur who has bootstrapped his company with a paycheck. He has used a freemium business model, and a virtual team strategy to scale.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?

Aytekin Tank: I was born in Istanbul. I spent my childhood moving from city to city since my family worked for the government. Constantly having to adapt and make friends instilled in me an appreciation for different cultures and meeting new people. We have offices in San Francisco and in Turkey. We have remote workers in 20 countries.

Sramana Mitra: You spent your childhood in Turkey, then?

Aytekin Tank: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: Where did you do your education?

Aytekin Tank: I studied Computer Science at the University of Bridgeport in the US. My love for programming was born much earlier. When I was in middle school in Turkey, I took a programming course and discovered that programming was my destiny. When I was in college, I was building a website for a student organization. This was similar to Facebook, but it was before Facebook came out. I released it to the world as an open source free product. People loved it. People started contacting me and asking me if I can take money and make changes on it. That’s how I started in business. I remember that last semester break in my college years, I was sleeping during the day and coding during the night. That’s when I released the first commercial version of my software.

Sramana Mitra: What year was that?

Aytekin Tank: 1999.

Sramana Mitra: What happened after that? Once you released that software into the open source domain, what happened?

Aytekin Tank: In 1999, when I was still as student, I released a commercial version. In 2000, I graduated from university. Even though I had a product and people were buying it, I didn’t think I had a serious business. I didn’t know anything. I decided to find a job. I started working for a large company in New York City. I worked there for five years. While I worked there full-time, I continued to work on my product. I used to wake up two hours before work and work on my product. I also wrote on the weekends. This is how I started the business.

Sramana Mitra: When you were doing this part-time, how much revenue was the product generating?

Aytekin Tank: It was low thousands of dollars. It was a small amount. That’s why I was working on my full-time job while I was bootstrapping my company. After I worked for five years, the amount of revenue I was earning actually became higher than my monthly salary. That was an easy decision because now, I’m earning more in my business than from my work. I decided to go on my own. That’s when I left the company.

Sramana Mitra: What year was that?

Aytekin Tank: This was 2005.

Sramana Mitra: From 2000 to 2005, you did this on the side while maintaining your day job. Then the revenues climbed to a level where you quit your day job and went at it full-time.

Aytekin Tank: Yes.

Sramana Mitra: We have a name for this methodology. We call this Bootstrapping with a Paycheck.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bootstrapping with a Paycheck: Aytekin Tank, CEO of Jotform
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