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Best of Bootstrapping: Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M

Posted on Friday, Apr 10th 2020

Waveform CEO Sina Khanifar started tinkering with bootstrapped entrepreneurship way back in college. It has certainly 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.

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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