Unbounce: Let Your Career Go in Your Forties - Return as a Startup Star!
If you know a thing or two about online marketing, then the words 'landing page' certainly ring a bell. Today, creating a landing page is online marketing 101 - but it wasn't always that way!
In 2009, landing pages were still only a buzzword, but that was before Rick Perrault saw the future in them. It started with frustration - endless waiting for the IT sector to finish building his landing pages. Then, there was a proposed solution: he spoke to his colleague about building a drag-and-drop tool, just for the sake of their own work. Like PowerPoint, only for the web.
Today, this drag-and-drop tool is one of the most popular landing page creation softwares. The company is located in Vancouver and it's called - Unbounce.
How Rick Bounced the Idea for Unbounce
In 2009, Rick Perault was nearing 40, and he seemed satisfied with his senior management position at Rocket88. So, why would he return to a student lifestyle, initiate a startup project from scratch, and pull a couple of almost middle-aged men with him?
Before Rocket88, Rick held senior management positions in a couple of other companies. Of course, his jobs always revolved around marketing. He was successful and happy, but he also hadn't given up on testing himself as an entrepreneur.
His first project was Fanyard, which was supposed to be a crowdsourced matchup football predictor. It sounded like a cool idea, so he gave it a shot. Entrepreneurship and product creation were not his fortes, of course - he screwed up. If he had spoken to his potential audience at least once, he probably wouldn't have wasted any time or money on building an app for them.
But he didn't, and that was an important lesson: ask people what they want.
The next time he had an entrepreneurial instinct in his guts was when he wanted to publish a landing page for a small ad campaign. Back then, you had to wait for an IT guy to do it for you, and Rick was simply sick and tired of waiting.
That's when it hit him: he worked in four different companies before Rocket88 - first as a designer, and later in marketing. Through these experiences, he realized how unnecessarily painful it was to deal with other departments when making highly-targeted landing pages. The little bulb in his head lit up and he started to dig: had there been any existing alternatives to building landing pages, except waiting for the IT guy?
Turned out - there weren't - and he saw an opportunity!
Asking People What They Want
All Rick wanted was to have a tool where he could upload some images, add text, put in a call-to-action, and launch a page. He wanted the process to be as easy to handle as MailChimp or PowerPoint. However, before running out on the street screaming Eureka, he knew he had to make sure this problem was not only relevant to him, but to other people as well.
He asked around his friends and acquaintances, and after getting the family thumbs-up, he ran some targeted Facebook ads which pointed to a SurveyMonkey questionnaire.
42 marketers filled out his survey and confirmed the validity of his idea - they needed a way to speed things up! There was a huge need for these types of tools, for one simple reason - it would remove the coder-marketer link and allow marketers to create landing pages themselves.
That's how Rick finally became confident enough to share his idea with a colleague. The colleague we're speaking about was Oli Gardner.
Oli loved it - and wanted in!
Market from the Start
The next step was building a dream-team. Great startup teams usually count two, maybe three team members. Four is a crowd, and more - chaos. Unbounce's first lineup counted six members: Rick, Oli, Carter Gilchrist, Carl Schmidt, Justin Stacey, and Jason Murphy.
These six guys agreed that Rick was onto something huge, and they were brave enough to drop everything they had on their plates to start building Unbounce from scratch.
They managed to launch Unbounce by 2010, with $300,000 given to them by their friends and family.
The first period was quite rough, as they had to bootstrap the entire product. None of the team members knew how to apply for funding, but after reaching their Minimum Viable Product, it all paid off: they were liquid and had a customer base of over 1000 businesses.
Well, marketing the product was a crucial priority for the team since day one. Not day one after launching, day one after building it. This was important because it allowed them to constantly keep in touch with their audience and measure their feedback. By the time they were ready to launch the first version of the product, they already knew their market very well.
The strategy behind further customer acquisition was in line with the main reason for Unbounce's creation in the first place: simplicity! They used effective inbound marketing and created an easy signup process to ensure everything was clean and simple.
After launching the first version of their product, they were ready to ask for some local funding. It worked, and Unbounce raised $850,000 in 2011, but only accelerated product development a bit - they still had a long way to go, and $850k was not going to cut it. They also expanded their advisory board by inviting several startup superstars, including Lean Startup founder Eric Ries and SEOmoz founder, Rand Fishkin.
Now that the dream-team was formed, they were ready to engage into the most important challenge: attracting customers. It's not like people would just google "landing page builder". People didn't even know how to search for them, so how could they reach their customers?
So now that they had this fantastic advisory board, what was their solution?
Blog since day one - consistently!
First Investment after Nine Years
Since 2011, the Unbounce team hadn't asked for any outside funding until very recently. They just kept going on their own.
Just a few months ago, they raised $38.4 million in a funding round spearheaded by Crest Rock Partners. This time, they had a different, more advanced goal: allow businesses to forget about building landing pages for good!
They wanted to thoroughly audit their technology to create software based on machine learning which will create, optimize, and personalize landing pages on its own. The first step was creating Smart Traffic - a feature capable to automatically collect visitor data and send them to the optimal landing page, resulting in a conversion rise of 20%.
Consider their starting point: they dropped everything and bootstrapped the company on their own, spent the only $300,000 they had, and followed a crazy idea to simplify crucial points in online marketing! Today, Unbounce has a yearly revenue of $30 million, and it's not hard to guess why: just look at their clients!
Major companies like Titan PPC, Uberflip, Matchnode, etc. are living proof of the ingenuity of Unbounce: since they started using it, their conversion rates hit the ceiling - and that's how we know who they are!
With over 200 people on board and more than 15,000 client brands trusting them with their online marketing campaigns, so far, the company is responsible for more than half a billion conversions for its customers worldwide!
The success formula is quite simple, just like Unbounce itself: listen to your audience, market your product from the start, and most importantly - listen to your guts!