How I Turned A $5 Google Ad Into A Million Dollar Startup

Published: April 22nd, 2019
Cody Candee
Founder, Bounce
from San Francisco, California, USA
started October 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Cody Candee, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Bounce. My background is in product management - I started my career as a PM for a large tech company, Intuit, before moving on to more entrepreneurial roles.

I started Bounce a bit over a year ago with my co-founder Aleksander Rendtlsev. Bounce is a short term storage marketplace; open our app and find a place to leave your things anywhere in the city. People use Bounce to store luggage, backpacks, gym bags, and nearly anything else you could imagine. You may have seen “train station lockers” in European or Asian cities - we’re a similar offering but we operate by partnering with local hotels and businesses that have extra space.

We were recently the #1 product of the day on Product Hunt after launching our mobile apps. However, we have been live as a web platform for over a year now. We started in New York City and have been deemed the “Best Luggage Storage Provider in NYC.” Next, we expanded to San Francisco and have by far the most locations for luggage storage in SF as well. We’re in several other cities as well now too.


FYI: The revenue numbers & details I shared are from an earlier month in 2018. We are keeping our current metrics private with our investors. We grew Bounce to over $100k of annualized revenue within the first 7 months of starting the company.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I’ve lived in a dozen cities in my life, both in the U.S. and internationally. Everything I own can fit in just three suitcases.

You won’t come up with something groundbreaking simply by mulling over ideas in your head or in an office with a whiteboard. You simply have to go put it in front of real customers.

Wherever work and my travels would take me, I noticed the recurring problem of people letting their “stuff” get in the way of their plans. People often have to schlep their bags with them from one place to the next, take extra time to drop them off at home, or cancel plans completely due to the burden of their things.

I felt that there had to be a solution to eliminate this inconvenient, time-consuming issue. The “lifestyle” of the Bounce brand is one of minimalism and non-consumerism - this idea that your things never hold you down.

I first had the idea and the vision for Bounce in 2014. I sat on this idea for three years before bringing it to life with my co-founder, Aleks, in late 2017. The reason I didn’t initially start it was because with the original idea of pickup & delivery, it seemed to complex and I couldn’t figure out how to get it off the ground without tons of capital. In 2017, I was looking for my next thing and Aleks & I prototyped our way into launching what Bounce is today.

Take us through the process of building the product.

Aleks and I were brainstorming new business ideas when I mentioned the idea of “an Uber for your things.”

We decided to put up a landing page for bag storage and delivery in New York City. We did this in 3 hours using a basic landing page builder, plugged in Adwords and had our first customer request a “Bounce” 5 minutes later. We literally hopped on Citi Bikes to fulfill our first orders, and from then on the customers kept coming.

Think to yourself: How can I start this month? This week? Today? There’s probably something you can do immediately to get started.

From these beginning stages, we experienced the logistic hardships of meeting people at an exact time and place. We were spending our whole days riding around fulfilling orders on bikes and realized it would be hard to pay someone to do this at a rate that would be possible. We put our heads together to figure out how we could make the logistics simpler.

The next version of Bounce (literally day 4 of Bounce) was the same product except you drop off and pick up your bags at designated “Bounce locations.” These locations were local businesses with extra space. Logistics would be simpler with this new model. After this was live for a few days, we realized a lot of customers were willing to pick up and drop off their things from the same location. This was incredibly easy to build. We thought “we could literally build this product in 3 weeks.” That is exactly what we did, and when we started writing our first lines of code.

Describe the process of launching the business.

For the first year, all our bookings came from our web platform as we prioritized for speed. We built this first web booking platform in a month. Aleks is an incredibly talented engineer (among many other things) and started writing code and got it done in lightning speed.

We saw that there was enough demand with just a web app and continued supporting this and growing users while we started laying the groundwork for our mobile app. People found us through online search, Adwords that were profitable, and word of mouth.

The web platform was really just meant to be a version 1 but we knew a mobile app would be a more natural experience. It was really hard to finally carve out the time to start building that experience. It certainly came at the expense of features we wanted to build in the web app.

We officially launched the Bounce app in February 2019, and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback and traction thus far. We were voted the #1 product of the day on Product Hunt, and almost immediately, a huge percentage of our bookings started coming from the app. We anticipated it’d be slower at first, but it is truly a premium product experience and customers are responding as such.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

A lot of people find Bounce through Google search. This was true since day 1. To be quite honest, we barely touched any SEO strategies. I wish we had done so sooner but it turns out that “luggage storage” is a popular search on google.

We’ve also gotten a lot of referrals from happy customers, which of course is fantastic, as word of mouth is the best kind of PR there is. We have done close to nothing to accelerate this, which is a missed opportunity (just so many competing priorities), but we’re launching a referral program next week.

In terms of gaining new leads, we’re constantly testing out and trying new methods, including writing content, experimenting with Adwords, hustling PR impressions, and speaking on podcasts.

Our most active customers right now are local city-dwellers, and some people use Bounce around three to five times per week. We have some of our most loyal customers on a beta subscription model, which we don’t currently advertise but work with on a case-by-case basis. We have a lot more work to do to optimize retention and our different user segments.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’re immensely proud to see how Bounce has grown and developed into new cities and with new offerings. While we’ve already stored tens of thousands of bags in New York City and San Francisco, we recently expanded our partnerships to offer Bounce in Chicago, Boston, D.C., Los Angeles, Austin, and Philadelphia, with more in the pipeline in the months to come. We’re also adding delivery connections so you can have your things sent to a convenient location after dropping them off. That’s actually the idea behind our company name: you can simply “Bounce” your stuff away and back to you.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think the most valuable lesson we’ve learned and implemented is to optimize for speed at (nearly) all costs. We haven’t been afraid to try to things and move very fast to implement them with very few of the details actually worked out in advance.

I think the best example of this is how we started Bounce. We started with key assumptions that would make or break our business. For example, “will customers be willing to hand their things over to a stranger from the internet?” If the answer was “no,” then there is no Bounce.

If the answer is “yes” we keep going. Moving fast has really been all about identifying these hypothesis and validating (or invalidating) them quickly and then moving on to the next.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Probably nothing out of the ordinary. We use Slack for streamlined communication between team members in our San Francisco office and remotely around the world.

React Native is awesome, as we were able to launch the iOS and Android versions of the Bounce app at the same time without having to develop them separately.

Hubspot is also great. Lastly, I posted a LinkedIn status a few weeks back touching upon on Bounce’s growth that accumulated 40,000+ organic views within a week. I was super surprised at the butterfly-effect reach that it had, and think there are more growth opportunities to be had there that I’ll certainly tap into in the future


What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

As simple as it sounds, reading, in general, is hugely important to be. I can dive into any topic of interest and while I won’t become an expert overnight, I can learn from an expert quickly.

One book that comes to mind is Who, which is about hiring. Another is The Everything Store, which we read in the “Bounce Book Club”. My biggest takeaway is Amazon’s relentless focus on the customer and how close the company came to death (and how often).

Amazon’s emphasis on the customer over the competitive environment was very inspiring. I also prize Amazon’s emphasis on missionaries who keep vision at the forefront, as well as the company’s zero-tolerance policy for mediocrity.

As far as podcasts go, The Pitch by Gimlet Media is a must-mention. I was lucky enough to be invited to speak on it, which was a tremendous opportunity.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My advice to new entrepreneurs is to just get started with your best idea. You’ll iterate and figure out the rest of the details from there. Doing so will help you learn how your product/service could be good and how it’s not. You won’t come up with something groundbreaking simply by mulling over ideas in your head or in an office with a whiteboard. You simply have to go put it in front of real customers.

Think to yourself: How can I start this month? This week? Today? There’s probably something you can do immediately to get started. Serve your first customer as quickly and efficiently as possible, then scale to your first 10 customers, etc. Friends and family can be great resources when you’re just starting out, but the first dollars from strangers will be magical.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes! Please see our job listings on Angel List:

Current openings:

  • Full stack engineer
  • Marketing/growth lead
  • Virtual assistant / customer support
  • Summer interns (hustlers)

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!