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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.