Feris and Ryan wanted to work together on a new venture. They first built a services company, then introduced an OEM product, and eventually bootstrapped a product under their own brand. The company has recently raised its first venture money after many years of being in business as a profitable, growing entity.
Sramana Mitra: One of you should probably get started. I want to go back to the very beginning of your journey, and learn about your pre-Bay Dynamics story. Where were you born, raised and, in what kind of background?
Feris Rifai: I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. That’s where I was raised till I was 18 years old. I then came to the United States to go to college. I went to school at Indiana University. It was a great experience for me. Throughout my journey when I was much younger in Lebanon, it was a bit of a difficult upbringing because we couldn’t find a way to get safety to be a part of our lives. I think it’s taught me a lot. It has helped me be, believe it or not, very optimistic.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after you graduated from Indiana University?
Feris Rifai: I went to one of my roommates in the dorm. He allowed me to stay with him a little bit and look for a job in New York. That enabled me to practice what I did in college. I applied to a number of jobs and started working at a company in New York. I started in sales. That exposed me to what it took to visit a client, understand their needs, help them develop those needs, and be able to, in turn, help the company achieve its goals. It gave me the perfect learning experience.
Sramana Mitra: What product were you selling?
Feris Rifai: It was a company called Cover Buying. We were selling a more automated way of binding important documents. It was a machine that allowed you to do that. Subsequent to that, you would order, on an ongoing basis, coverage for it.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you do this job and what did you do after that?
Feris Rifai: I did this job for about a year and a half. Then I came to California and started working in technology. I joined a company that was very new in starting out. I joined in sales and rose through the ranks. By the end, I was one of three folks who ran the company. I was Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Sramana Mitra: What company was that?
Feris Rifai: ICD.
Sramana Mitra: When did that stint finish?
Feris Rifai: It was 2000 when I started another company. It was during the dot-com era. I basically had a partner who was an executive at Microsoft. We also had financing. We went down the path of developing this and looking at growing out and getting VC-funded. This was angel financing at the beginning. I put in some of my money as well. What became very clear was that the environment was changing. VCs were in a situation where they were trying to stop the bleeding of their portfolios. It was a difficult time to get that off the ground. We went back and gave angel investors their money back. They said, “We’ve got another organization that started. We’d like for you to come in and help us run that company” I joined that and that’s actually where I met Ryan. He was already there as the VP Technology. We started working together.