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Best of Bootstrapping: Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company

Posted on Friday, Mar 27th 2020

Booksy CEO Stefan Batory started a software development company in Poland with a few other partners. Today, he’s running a high-growth, VC-funded SaaS + marketplace business in the US. Awesome journey!

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to the very beginning of your journey. Tell us where you’re from, where you were born, raised, and in what kind of background.

Stefan Batory: I’m from Warsaw, Poland. I was born and raised in one of the poorest parts of the country. I got a scholarship and went to a high school here in the US back in 1994.

I graduated from that high school and moved back to Poland where I studied Applied Mathematics at the Warsaw University of Technology. As I was finishing my degree, I started a software development company with seven other colleagues. We all worked together on the equivalent of Yahoo in Poland. We wanted to focus more on building tools for companies to leverage the internet that was emerging. We decided to launch our own company that would build tools for other companies.

We thought that the internet was going to change the way companies communicate with each other. The best way of anticipating the future is to create that future. We felt like we wanted to be part of that movement. We wanted to lead the change in Central and Eastern Europe. We started in January 2000. Then the dot-com bubble burst. Companies didn’t really want to invest in internet projects.

We struggled for the first couple of years to make revenue. We had no prior experience. We had no portfolio. We didn’t have a product. It was very difficult for us to acquire clients. Three colleagues who were supposed to run the business side decided to leave. They left five of us who were engineers. I was one of the tech guys.

The five of us were stuck in a company that was losing money. The CEO, Head of Sales, and the Finance guy just left us. We had the choice to either shut down the company or try to make something out of it. The other four guys said, “Stefan, why don’t you lead?” That’s how I became a CEO.

I took on that responsibility and had to learn how to run a company and sell. It took me about two years to figure out everything given the difficult environment. We were bleeding money. All of us didn’t have salaries. From time to time, we just paid ourselves a couple of hundred dollars every few weeks. I ate potatoes for the first two years. 

Sramana Mitra: That’s a lot of potatoes. 

Stefan Batory: Back in the days, potatoes were the cheapest food I could afford. It was cheaper than rice. On some days, I was fed a proper dinner by my girlfriend’s parents. She’s my wife now. That’s how I survived the first two years.

I was advised to shut down the company. It just didn’t feel right. People we bought computers from wouldn’t get money back. People we rented our office from won’t get money back. We owed salaries. I decided to work as hard as I could to pay all the debt.

It turned out that after two years, we started getting traction. We started getting bigger clients and projects. We paid off the debt. We started growing really fast. We were tripling our revenue year by year.

Deloitte ranked us on the list of the top 50 fastest-growing companies in Central and Eastern Europe for seven consecutive years. They also put us in the top 500 fastest-growing companies in Europe, Middle East, and Africa for three consecutive years. That’s how I started my journey as an entrepreneur. 

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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