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
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.
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.
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
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 More »» . 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 Algo.ai 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 . 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