Posted on Thursday, Nov 4th 2021
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Bay Dynamics Co-founders Feris Rifai and Ryan Stolte wanted to work together on a new venture. They first built a services company, then introduced an OEM product, and eventually bootstrapped a product under their own brand. When we spoke in 2016, the company had just raised its first venture money after many years of being in business as a profitable, growing entity.
Sramana Mitra: One of you should probably get started. I want to go back to the very beginning of your journey, and learn about your pre-Bay Dynamics story. Where were you born, raised and, in what kind of background? Feris Rifai: I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. That’s where I was raised till I was 18 years old. I then came to the United States to go to college. I went to school at Indiana University. It was a great experience for me. Throughout my journey when I was much younger in Lebanon, it was a bit of a difficult upbringing because we couldn’t find a way to get safety to be a part of our lives. I think it’s taught me a lot. It has helped me be, believe it or not, very optimistic. Sramana Mitra: What did you do after you graduated from Indiana University? Feris Rifai: I went to one of my roommates in the dorm. He allowed me to stay with him a little bit and look for a job in New York. That enabled me to practice what I did in college. I applied to a number of jobs and started working at a company in New York. I started in sales. That exposed me to what it took to visit a client, understand their needs, help them develop those needs, and be able to, in turn, help the company achieve its goals. It gave me the perfect learning experience. Sramana Mitra: What product were you selling? Feris Rifai: It was a company called Cover Buying. We were selling a more automated way of binding important documents. It was a machine that allowed you to do that. Subsequent to that, you would order, on an ongoing basis, coverage for it. Sramana Mitra: How long did you do this job and what did you do after that? Feris Rifai: I did this job for about a year and a half. Then I came to California and started working in technology. I joined a company that was very new in starting out. I joined in sales and rose through the ranks. By the end, I was one of three folks who ran the company. I was Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Sramana Mitra: What company was that? Feris Rifai: ICD. Sramana Mitra: When did that stint finish? Feris Rifai: It was 2000 when I started another company. It was during the dot-com era. I basically had a partner who was an executive at Microsoft. We also had financing. We went down the path of developing this and looking at growing out and getting VC-funded. This was angel financing at the beginning. I put in some of my money as well. What became very clear was that the environment was changing. VCs were in a situation where they were trying to stop the bleeding of their portfolios. It was a difficult time to get that off the ground. We went back and gave angel investors their money back. They said, “We’ve got another organization that started. We’d like for you to come in and help us run that company” I joined that and that’s actually where I met Ryan. He was already there as the VP Technology. We started working together.
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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Bay Dynamics Co-founders Bootstrapped Using Services . Building an AI Software Company from Dallas . RJMetrics Co-founders Bootstrapped First, Raised $22M Later . Bootstrapping Niche E-Commerce Business BuyAutoParts to Exit . TemplateMonster was Bootstrapped to $15 Million . Bootstrapping Edge Hosting to $18 Million . Bootstrapping, Fund Raising and Exiting with Sefaira . Bootstrapping IdeaScale to $5M from Scratch . Bootstrapping to $10M from Finland . Happy Grasshopper CEO Dan Stewart Bootstrapped to Inflection . Bootstrapping Gravity Pro Using Services . Founder Builds Multiple Bootstrapped Education Software Companies . Bootstrapping to $10M from Australia, Raising $25M from the US . Bootstrapped Y Soft to $30M from the Czech Republic . Bootstrapped from Belarus, Raised Money from Silicon Valley