Gruber draws on diverse experiences to build Lucky Orange platform
Lucky Orange (above) is a platform designed to provide a variety of tools in one place at a reasonable price.
While starting a successful company usually requires exceptional effort, a founder sometimes is able to transcend what is normal even for hardworking entrepreneurs. Brian Gruber (left) has built Lucky Orange by himself, integrating a variety of technologies and lessons from his background into a comprehensive web marketing and analytics package. In doing so, he has managed to position the product at a price point that he considers an exceptional value.
Overland Park, Kan.-based Lucky Orange integrates elements that you might be familiar with from a multitude of its competitors. For instance, Olark offers a live chat plugin that allows visitors to a website to easily chat with support staff. A number of sites allow marketers to quickly and easily target different classes of users with polls. Companies like Kiss Metrics provide real-time reporting and analytic insights into user behavior. Click Tale creates heat maps and recordings of the mouse movements of visitors. Someone running a site with a heavy web marketing component might use many or all of those services; Lucky Orange competes with all of them by integrating all those elements into a single package.
For Gruber, it started with doing web development as an independent contractor. When a contract would require skills that he didn't have, such as design, he forced himself to figure it out on his own rather than bring in another person to handle that portion. After a couple of years, he had worn so many different hats — including front-end development, visual and user interface design, database design, and web administration — that he was able to build a comprehensive tool on his own. For example, mouse movement tracking tools required his front-end experience. The company already pulls in huge amounts of data, and his database design experience has helped him to scale up. More recently, he has transitioned portions of the software to allow his tools to operate well on mobile devices.
Gruber has boostrapped up to this point, thanks in part to previous projects still generating revenue. He has been building websites since his days as a high school student. After a while, he started building some of his own projects, and one of them stuck. While he no longer works on those old projects full-time, he said a few of them bring in advertising dollars.
"It's amazing how much every challenge somehow prepares you for the next challenge to come," Gruber said. "For example, my first substantial program, written in high school, was an instant messenger application coded in Visual Basic. When I started designing websites, I wanted to know what was happening on a particular site I developed so I created a semi-real-time tracking script that would show me the URLs people were on. In another project I played around with tracking mouse cursors, and another project was about showing visitors plotted in real time on a map. None of these projects actually generated any revenue. So, Lucky Orange is a culmination of a bunch of wonderful failures."
With Lucky Orange, Gruber strives to provide an array of useful marketing tools in one place and at an extremely competitive price. "I feel the great appeal of Lucky Orange is the fact that it has so many great, and related, tools in one," he said. "I didn't just want to deliver something good, I wanted to over-deliver so that I would have many happy customers evangelizing the tool for me."
Perhaps the best part of giving customers something they are happy with is that those customers have been helping Gruber market his product. "Coming from a few previous website startups where I would mostly get complaints — even death threats in one case — I know how telling it is for customers to go out of their way to praise a product," Gruber said. "I get lots of random praise for Lucky Orange, even when there are occasional glitches."
For as many hats as he has worn, even Gruber recognizes there is a point when one person can't do everything if a company is to continue to grow. "The next person I'd be looking to hire would be a developer with experience in scaling real-time software," Gruber said. "The product really is good enough to sell itself, so the more important aspect for me is making sure it can scale as such."
For more on Lucky Orange, see the demonstration video below.