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
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.
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
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.
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