As a variation on our ‘Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later’ theme, we also see many entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped a first company (or business), and then gone onto venture-fund a second. Christian Chabot built Tableau Software in this mode. Sridhar Vembu built Zoho. We have numerous examples of this tried and true path. Something to consider for first-time entrepreneurs chasing venture capital and Unicorns.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Alon Aginsky: I was born and raised in Israel. After completing my army duty, I found myself in New York as a young entrepreneur trying to make it. Luckily, I was able to pick an opportunity and start a company in the area of call accounting that later became billing for small operators. That company that I started was a one-man show in the Empire State Building. I managed, after seven years, to take it public on NASDAQ.
Sramana Mitra: When did you move to New York?
Alon Aginsky: That was in ’87.
Sramana Mitra: Did you do your schooling in Israel or in New York?
Alon Aginsky: I did my schooling in New York Institute of Technology in their Long Island campus. I studied Business with a specific focus on Communications.
Sramana Mitra: You finished college in 1991?
Alon Aginsky: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do right after college?
Alon Aginsky: Actually, I did my entrepreneurship while I was at my last year of college.
Sramana Mitra: Was this company that you started as a one-man show while you were in college?
Alon Aginsky: Yes, it was in the last year of college.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me more about what the concept was that you decided to execute on and how you come up with that concept to build a company around?
Alon Aginsky: The story is even more interesting because I didn’t come up with the concept. I just had the opportunity to meet an Israeli businessman. At that time, you needed a special approval from the Israeli bank to transfer money out of Israel for investment purposes. This gentleman managed to get $400,000 approved to transfer to the US. He had no idea what he was going to do with the money. We met socially over coffee in Tel Aviv. He knew of me. He suggested that I start a company in the US. I asked doing what. He had no idea. He said, “Come to see what we do in Israel and pick something.” It wasn’t really a Harvard business case where I researched the market and looked for growth areas. It was more of an opportunity that I seized.