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Bootstrapping to $8 Million: Sina Khanifar, CEO of Waveform (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Apr 6th 2020

If you haven’t already, please study our Bootstrapping Course and Investor Introductions page. 

Sina started tinkering with bootstrapped entrepreneurship way back in college. It has paid off.

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?

Sina Khanifar: I was born in Iran. We moved to the UK when I was one. My parents did their PhDs in the UK. After they returned to Iran, the war broke out. They thought the best choice would be to go back to the UK. They ended up not returning.

I grew up in the UK. My parents decided to move again. We came to Southern California. I did two years of high school in the US and then went back to the UK for university. 

Sramana Mitra: What timeframe are we talking about?

Sina Khanifar: I finished university in 2006. 

Sramana Mitra: What did you do after that?

Sina Khanifar: I started my first company in college. My parents gave a bit of stipend to help with college, but it wasn’t quite enough. In the summer of my first year in college, my mom gave me her old cellphone to bring to the UK. I couldn’t use it.

I had a few extra weeks at the end of the year. I spent that time trying to get this to work with the UK carriers. I ended up making it work and realized that this was probably something that other people wanted as well. I hired a Ukrainian developer to help me.

This was back in 2006 and I lucked out a little bit. Within six months, Motorola released the Razr. It was all the rage back then. I was the leading seller of cellphone-unlocking software online for a long time.

Sramana Mitra: What were the conditions of this company? Were you doing it bootstrapped?

Sina Khanifar: It was completely bootstrapped. 

Sramana Mitra: How many people were involved?

Sina Khanifar: It was just me. I ran it just by myself for the first couple of years. In the summer of my second year of college, my closest friends in college started their own websites reselling my software.

I really enjoyed working with them and wanted to do something similar in the future. They set up their own website selling the same software that I had written. One of my other college friends was helping me do the sales and support side of things. 

Sramana Mitra: What did you do with that company?

Sina Khanifar: Years later, I handed it off to my brother who was just learning how to build websites. After we graduated college, I stopped focusing on that business as much. It was a jumpoff point. 

Sramana Mitra: When did you start Waveform?

Sina Khanifar: Right after we graduated college. I had my college friends come out to California where I was living. 

Sramana Mitra: When you say that the previous company that you started provided you with the jumping off point, what kind of money are we talking about?

Sina Khanifar: In the order of a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bootstrapping to $8 Million: Sina Khanifar, CEO of Waveform
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