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Ripl Chairman Andrew Wright and CEO Paul Ingalls.
Andrew Wright, Ripl’s executive chairman, and Paul Ingalls, the company’s CEO.

It took a couple pivots, a lot of grit, and a little bit of sacrifice — but Paul Ingalls and Andrew Wright think they’ve finally found a recipe for startup success.

Their Seattle-based company, Ripl, helps small businesses easily create visual marketing content for social media. It just reeled in a $1.85 million funding round from Trilogy Equity Partners and angel investors like Mike Galgon, Richard Fade, Geoff Entress, Rudy Gadre, Charles Fitzgerald, and others. 

It’s been quite the journey for Ingalls, Ripl’s CEO, and Wright, the company’s executive chairman. The entrepreneurs, who previously worked together at Redmond-based Smilebox and Seattle-based RealNetworks, originally tried to crack into the sports content business back in 2012 with an app called Fanzo.

ripl11But they quickly realized that their application was not differentiated enough from other sports-related services. They made the tough decision to pivot and leverage some of the already-built technology for the first iteration of Ripl, which helped social media influencers leverage their online fanbase to make money.

Ripl raised more cash and began to see some traction. But late last year, another change had to be made. Ripl did too much — it not only helped social media stars make money, but also kept people updated on news posted to social media, and let users create their own content.

“We were trying to say three things,” Ingalls said in an interview this week. “With a mobile app, you really only have one opportunity, one merchandizing point.”

Many social media influencers seemed to like what Ripl created, but Ingalls knew it wasn’t enough — both from a user growth and monetization standpoint.

“We learned from Fanzo that even if there are people who love what you’re doing, if there aren’t enough of them gravitating toward it right away, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We knew we had to do something to get that focus, to get that lift. It turns out that removing stuff was the trick.”

ripl11The startup decided to narrow its focus on one pillar of the app: visual content creation. Sure, social media stars liked using Ripl to earn money and keep up on the latest trends.

But it was the traction from small businesses that really caught the attention of Ingalls and Wright.

“They were really interested in these creative posts and said they would give us money to get rid of our logo,” Ingalls explained. “We gave it a shot and figured out how much people would pay — turns out, quite a bit. We knew we were on to something.”

Today, Ripl appears to have found a sweet spot with its mobile tool that lets small businesses — restaurant owners, fitness instructors, real estate agents, etc. — create visual content that they can use for social media marketing. It’s a free app, but users can pay $9.99 per month to access premium features like more designs, custom logos, music libraries, scheduled posts, and more.

There are more than 50,000 businesses using Ripl on a monthly basis, with more than one million engagements from Ripl posts per month. Revenue is also growing 100 percent month-over-month.

“We found product-market fit for the first time,” Ingalls said.

Wright noted that there are 29 million small businesses in the U.S., many of which are owned by one or two people.

“These individual entrepreneurs are on the run and busy all day,” he noted. “This idea of a tool that sits in their pocket and lets them tell their brand story — it really works. If you combine engaging content with a quick and convenient way to create it on a phone, it’s a very powerful one-two punch.”

The latest version of Ripl is certainly a far cry from what Ingalls and Fanzo co-founder Dana Dyksterhuis — who left the company in 2015 on good terms — first launched four years ago.

But Ingalls noted that Ripl’s success is due, at least in some ways, to the learnings and research that went into Fanzo and the early days of Ripl.

“If you look at all the tests and customer interviews, we gradually learned more about how people interact with social media, the data that lives underneath it, and the type of content that works,” he said.

Wright credited Ingalls for keeping burn rates down during the past four years, noting how that was crucial for the company to survive through the pivots.

“We’ve worked together before and we’re used to figuring it out,” Wright added. “It was never a question of will we make this go — it was just a question of when. The faith never wavered.”

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