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Best of Bootstrapping: Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M

Posted on Saturday, Feb 8th 2020

I am a huge fan of virtual companies, and here is one that has been built with excellent execution from London by a Russian entrepreneur, Percona CEO Peter Zaitsev.

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

Peter Zaitsev: I was born in what was the Soviet Union. I studied Math and Computer Science in Moscow State University. I started my first startup company while studying.

Sramana Mitra: You were very young when you started your first company in Russia.

Peter Zaitsev: Yes. I was 19 years old.

Sramana Mitra: What prompted you to do that? You were a very young teenager studying Computer Science and then you started this company. What were the circumstances that pushed you that far?

Peter Zaitsev: I was the co-founder. The other co-founder was older and more experienced with entrepreneurship. I wanted to be independent and not taking orders. That was a good experience.

Sramana Mitra: There was another older person who was driving this. You basically got a lot of mentorship very early on in entrepreneurship. 

Peter Zaitsev: Yes, that’s right.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do? What kind of a company was this?

Peter Zaitsev: The company was SpyLOG. It’s similar to what Google Analytics does right now.

Sramana Mitra: Who were the customers?

Peter Zaitsev: The customers at that time were a lot of Russian websites. They wanted to understand how to promote their websites better. We also started doing advisory services. A new company would come to us wanting to understand the internet. We’d give them guidance.

Sramana Mitra: How long did this go on?

Peter Zaitsev: This was in 1999. In 2001, the dot-com crash happened. There’re a lot of stories about that. It was worse in Russia. From 1999 to 2000, there were a lot of investors looking for companies in Russia. But by 2001, they packed up and left. Me and my co-founder were pushed out as owners. I continued working for a little bit more time until we found a replacement. I wanted to leave on good terms. In the end, the company survived that nuclear winter.

Sramana Mitra: What year did you leave and what year was the company sold?

Peter Zaitsev: I left in 2002. The company was sold around 2005.

Sramana Mitra: Did you make any money off that transaction?

Peter Zaitsev: No. The folks pushed us out, and we didn’t get anything.

Sramana Mitra: It was just push out with nothing?

Peter Zaitsev: In Russia at that time, it was more common.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do next?

Peter Zaitsev: I looked for a job. I didn’t want to do entrepreneurship again in Russia. I wanted to find a job that would allow me to move outside of Russia. That is how I found a job in a young company called MySQL. I was employee number 45.

Sramana Mitra: What happens next?

Peter Zaitsev: I started working at MySQL for about two years. I worked out of Moscow. Then I moved to USA. That was back in 2004. I worked for a couple more years. My focus was still very technical. I was doing some development training and support.

In the end, I managed the high-performance group. They worked on complicated performance problems. By 2006, MySQL was growing rapidly. You don’t really see yourself as an employee in small companies. Maybe you’re not the founder, but you feel like you are contributing to something.

As the company grows, your impact is not as big anymore. I felt that it was time for me to leave. I already had that entrepreneur itch. There was no good way for me to stay in the US. I moved to the United Kingdom in 2006.

Our conversation continues here.

This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping

. Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Why is Bootstrapping Important?
. How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently?
. Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings
. Excess is NOT Required for Success
. Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later
. Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies
. The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping
. Bootstrapping to Unicorns
. Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million
. Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue
. Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million
. Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy
. How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million
. Bootstrapping with a Paycheck
. How CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan
. Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses
. How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million
. Bootstrapping with Services
. How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million
. How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana
. How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million
. Death by Overfunding
. How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+
. How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck
. TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage
. The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance
. BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering
. Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania
. Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million
. SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida
. Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK
. Ownership Matters
. Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland
. Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado
. Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada
. Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia
. Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand
. PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina
. Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits
. Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M
. Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million?
. Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M
. Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success
. From a Small Town to $12 Million
. Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million
. Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million
. Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later
. Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US
. English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company
. Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee
. Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US
. Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M
. ActiveCampaign CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $40M
. Alteryx Bootstrapped with Services to a Public Unicorn
. Inspyrus Bootstraps Using Services to an Awesome Business Model
. CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia
. Wiredrive CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $10M
. Scaling to Over $10M by Bootstrapping Using Services
. Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company
. ButcherBox CEO Bootstraps a Perishable Meat Business to Significant Scale
. Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M
. Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia
. From Laid-off Engineer to Successful Startup CEO
. Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Bootstraps to Exit
. BannerBuzz CEO Bootstraps to $35M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Wisconsin
. Best Tactic for B2B Startups
. Bootstrapping by Piggybacking from Romania
. Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds
. Bootstrap to +$10M First, Raise Money Later
. Madwire CEO Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later to $120M
. Bootstrap Using Services First, Raise Money Later
. Wonderful Bootstrap with a Paycheck Story
. RushOrderTees CEO Bootstraps to $23M
. Bootstrapping with Freemium and Free Trials to $13M
. Bootstrapping, Pivoting, Gaining Liquidity, Scaling to $100M+
. Bootstrapping with Affiliate Marketing
. Bootstrap to Exit, Bootstrap Again, Then Raise VC Money

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