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December 18, 2023
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Yorktown alum sells startup pre-diploma; eyes second venture.

  • Arlington native Roger Nowakowski sold his first startup while still in high school, and has now co-founded Waves, a venture capital-backed platform that connects brands with social media influencers.
  • Nowakowski’s first venture was an app that allowed sneaker resellers to quickly buy limited-edition shoes for later resale at a profit. By the time he sold the company in 2021, the app had 1,500 paying users who had made over $1.4 million in purchases.
  • At Waves, Nowakowski was the first engineer and employee. The platform enables users with smaller social media followings to buy products from participating brands at a discount, provided they make promotional content within two weeks. Performance-based payouts are made to creators based on the success of their content.
  • Nowakowski credits his high school computer science teacher for aligning the course curriculum with his personal projects, which helped him launch his first app.

Roger Nowakowski, a native of Arlington, was only a high school student when he founded and sold his first startup. Doubling as a keen sneaker enthusiast, he built an app for individuals who were also looking to buy the latest item in the luxury goods market. Finding the quick-sellout of limited-edition shoes, such as Nike and Adidas, an issue for most people, his app resulted in ease of purchase for the users. The app accumulated 1,500 users who made over $1.4 million in purchases before he sold it in 2021.

Graduating from Yorktown High School in 2022, Nowakowski went immediately 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 stated. His passion led him to work on a blockchain app for music artists with a Miami-based team for the next two years.

Nowakowski’s latest venture is Waves, a venture capital-backed platform connecting brands looking to advertise with social media influencers. Launched in September, he was the founding engineer and the first employee. It allows users with smaller Instagram and TikTok followings to buy products from participating brands at a discount, given they produce promotional content within two weeks. The platform’s success results in payment to creators, based on the performance of their content.

Looking forward, Nowakowski says, “We’re setting ambitious milestones; 100,000 creators and processing over $1 million in total creator payouts. 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. 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.”

As he moves forward in his career, Nowakowski leaves lessons he has learned for budding entrepreneurs: motivating those around them, focusing on core tasks, being resourceful, and avoiding ventures that fail to spark a deep interest.

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