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Best of Bootstrapping: CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia

Posted on Friday, Mar 6th 2020

We’ve discussed Bootstrapping Using Services extensively over the years. Ecwid CEO Ruslan Fazlyev used eLance (not Upwork) to source service projects, then built, first a platform+services business that scaled to over $10 million in revenue. Then he spun off a pure play e-commerce platform business that now has over a million merchants using it. Revenue is over $5 million.

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?

Ruslan Fazlyev: I was born in a very little town in Russia. I grew up in Ulyanovsk, which is a city on the Russian river Volga. The city that you grew up in interests you more than the place of birth. What’s interesting about that place is it’s the place where Lenin was born – the guy who founded USSR. Because it’s Lenin’s birthplace, the communists want to make sure that it’s thriving.

By doing that, the Soviets were able to create the top universities in that city. That’s why my parents brought me to that town. I failed them because I ended up becoming a university dropout, but my time there was definitely valuable. Later we grew up to be the number one employer for the university graduates in our city.

Sramana Mitra: What did you do instead of finishing university? Where did you go and what did you do?

Ruslan Fazlyev: My first attempts at being an entrepreneur were in late high school. It was really simple. Some people dream of being entrepreneurs but, at that time, Russia was a very poor country because the USSR had just collapsed. It was really just about survival. I remember my monthly salary then was about $14. If that’s the best option you can have on the job market, then you can create your own employment. You become an entrepreneur. That’s what I did. I started an e-commerce platform company, which apparently is the world’s first PHP e-commerce platform.

Sramana Mitra: What year was that?

Ruslan Fazlyev: 2000.

Sramana Mitra: Where were you based at that time?

Ruslan Fazlyev: Ulyanovsk.

Sramana Mitra: How did you get this company off the ground? How did this come about?

Ruslan Fazlyev: It was bootstrapped. There was no other way. There was no such thing as venture capital investment. Me and my friends just wanted to build something. We wanted to make sure that we made our living by creating software. There were no software jobs in the city. The closest we could have is to customize some accounts in installations. That was pretty much the only IT job in the town. We just started coding this e-commerce implementation for some of the customers worldwide.

We built one online store for one customer. Then we built another one for another customer. We thought, “Why do we have to build it from scratch every time? Why not help other people reuse it? Why not help them start with something?” It sounds very obvious now where there are tons of e-commerce platforms and you can either have a cloud platform or a software piece that is downloadable. Back then you had to code it from scratch.

We have provided the platform for online stores down from hundreds of thousands of dollars to a hundred dollars, and enabled many PHP programmers to use their language of choice to build e-commerce stores globally. There were many other competing solutions. OSCommerce started the same year. Magenta started six years later and was acquired by eBay eventually. We bootstrapped X-Cart from zero to a hundred employees. They’re currently powering $2 billion in annual transactions.

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 Algo.ai 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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