Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Three Ballston Plaza.
By the time Arlington native Roger Nowakowski graduated from Yorktown High School, he had already founded and sold his first startup venture.
Nowakowski, who grew up in the Woodmont neighborhood, built an app for people trying to get their hands on the next hot product in the luxury goods market — especially sneakerheads. He founded it at 16, as a high school sophomore when he was stuck at home at the height of the pandemic.
Limited-edition shoes from brands such as Nike and Adidas sell out online within seconds, which he says made it borderline impossible for a human to manually buy the product. His app allowed users to, for instance, purchase a single pair or mass quantities of shoes at the press of a button.
“Sneaker resellers would use my product to buy these hyped sneakers on drop in mass, to then sell on the aftermarket for profit,” he said noting, sneakers can sometimes sell at 10 times their retail price on the aftermarket.
Some 1,500 paying users made more than $1.4 million in purchases through the app before he sold it in 2021, when he was 17 years old. He graduated from Yorktown a year later and went straight into coding for other projects.
“I felt more alive than ever through the pursuit of knowledge out of genuine curiosity in areas I was passionate about,” he said. “After exiting from my first project, I was extremely eager to get back to work.”
For the next two years, he would work with a Miami-based team on a blockchain app for music artists. Now, he is a founding engineer at Waves, a venture capital-backed platform connecting brands looking to advertise with social media influencers.
It launched on the App Store this September, the Denver Business Journal reported.
“I was the first engineer and employee hire,” said Nowakowski. A colleague referred him to the founder of Waves, Bruce Weaver, when the platform was just an idea.
Typically, brands select leading influencers to make paid promotional posts to market their products. Waves allows people with smaller Instagram and TikTok followings to buy products from participating brands — at a discount — if they make promotional content within two weeks. Brands then pay creators based on how well this content does.
Waves is poised for significant growth next year, Nowakowski said.
“We’re setting ambitious milestones; 100,000 creators and processing over $1 million in total creator payouts,” he said. “We want to expand the creator economy while delivering unparalleled returns on ad spend for brands leveraging [user-generated content].”
Nowakowski credits his computer science teacher at Yorktown for helping him launch his first app — and thus, his career.
“At the time, Mr. [Greg] Rusk made an effort to align what we were learning in [computer science] with what I was building personally,” he said. “Not only was he a great teacher, but given his experience building software, he was easily relatable to, and guided me on the right path in class.”
His first venture taught him several important lessons for entrepreneurs to live by, which Nowakowski shared with ARLnow.
“Be a leader you’d want to work for,” he said. “Aspire to motivate those around you. Be a do-er: focus on writing code and talking to users. Users will give you the guidance and validation you need to build the best product possible. Be relentlessly resourceful — have the ability to adapt.”
He cautioned would-be entrepreneurs to avoid starting a venture they would not be willing to work on for the next decade.
“You will need a crazy level of dedication in order for your company to succeed, and sacrifices will have to be made,” he said.
Nowakowski says teens who are now his age, weighing what to do after graduation, should set clear goals, dive into their passions and aspire to make a positive impact.
“Reject the status quo, embrace hard work, relentless learning and stay confident while remaining humble — to me, these principles can shape extraordinary destinies,” he said.
Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
Three years into his tenure as Penrose Neighborhood Association president, Alex Sakes can proudly say he got a grocery store to corral its shopping carts roaming Columbia Pike.
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An Arlington firefighter noted for his problem-solving ability, passion for the community and conspicuous moustache has received statewide recognition. Lieutenant Henry Spencer was just named Virginia Firefighter of the Year,…
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Spring will be here before you know it, and art classes are a terrific way to welcome the season. We have some fresh new classes such as hand-building vases and flower arranging. Also on our roster are crocheting, knitting, printmaking, stitching, and sewing. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the basics: watercolor painting, gouache, oil painting, ceramics (including the wheel), sculpture, collage, drawing, and more. Classes start the week of April 1 and range from 3 to 7 weeks.
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5537 Langston Blvd., Arlington VA 22207
Whenever we feel indecisive, it’s usually because different parts of ourselves see things differently and are motivated by different priorities and concerns. In fact, it’s usually the friction between these different “camps” that makes us feel stuck.
We can mediate