Being good at life is tough, but Parker Ruhstaller is on a mission to make it easier to kick ass at being a human.
Life Pro Tips bridges the great chasm between normalcy and total life hackerdom by bringing you the best of life hacks from across the internet.
Amid a glut of self-help and lifehacking noise, Ruhstaller was able to create a cult following on a subreddit he created in 2010 that became a default subreddit in May 2014. This served as validation to Ruhstaller that there was a market in need of serving. As of this writing, Life Pro Tips receives 2,000,000 unique visits per month.
KillerStartups recently had a chance to sit down with Parker to talk Life Pro Tips (amid a torrent of questions about how well we’d tied our shoes and the proper way to eat an apple)…
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Parker Ruhstaller, the founder/developer of Life Pro Tips.
What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
LPT is about sharing useful information that can (and hopefully does) improve your life. We act as a repository for that information. Our customers are anyone with a pulse interested in self-improvement in everyday life.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?
Most other tip/lifehack sites provide long-winded articles. The tips on LPT are more succinct. I ran a survey on the subreddit last year to find out what people wanted and incorporated a lot of that into the site itself. Categories which reddit doesn’t do very well were one of the biggest feature requests. I’m also planning on adding how-to guides, which I think will be useful.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
I found myself bookmarking different threads from reddit that contained “pro tips.” In an effort to stand out a little more, and on account of it sounding pretty good, I settled with Life Pro Tips.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
First computer was a Performa 575 that was shared between my brother, sister and myself. I remember putting an animated gif onto a GoPlay site and thinking that it was the best thing ever. Newspro was pretty popular around the late 90s to early 00s, so I, like everyone else around that time (when FaceTheJury and Hot or Not were big) had a website based on that, where I wrote about… well pretty much everything/nothing. I got heavily into the AOL “scene” as well, and started making progs and lurking around chatrooms like `server`, `zerver`, `cerver`, `the darkside`, etc.
Thankfully archive.org saved a nice profile of me. The weird thing is I can’t seem to find any of the people from the E/N days or my early AOL days, but about a year ago I re-connected with one of the people mentioned in that link above (Hypah) who went on to create livememe.com.
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
I start *actual* work around 9-9:30. I’m at my full-time job until around 6-7, and then I come home and hop straight on the computer. Since I’ve been trying to get LPT finished, my nights have been trending on being a bit longer, so I’m working around 12 hours a day.
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
The last time I went on a major vacation was to Thailand. It was so rad. We spent 2 weeks and went to Chiang Mai, the Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Phuket, etc. My girlfriend is an excellent planner thankfully, so we got to see a lot of interesting things and eat delicious Thai food. Can’t beat that. Although I did come back with a weird rash on my leg that ended up going away. That was a bummer.
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
Check my email and get a Chemex brew going. Preferably with some Timeless coffee (coffee spot here in Oakland).
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
All the time, actually. I’m always thinking about things I want to build, and then I’ll register the domain and it just sits there. Some people might hate me for that, but, in my defense, I haven’t been renewing a lot of them as I want to focus on Life Pro Tips.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
It’s currently just myself. Mr. Solo Dolo.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
I started the subreddit while I worked on other stuff. Saw people interested in it. That pretty much validated the idea.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
Well before everyone called websites “startups,” it was pretty hard to get any kind of development work done unless you did it yourself. I remember when everything was shared hosting or you knew a guy who had some space on his rack. That’s how most of my E/N sites were hosted. If you had the need for a dedicated server, you were paying a ton of money for it.
Parker, Founder of Life Pro Tips
Nowadays, space is cheap and plentiful, with pretty close to 100% uptime. It’s definitely much nicer now. One of the things I struggled with when I was first starting out was not knowing how to code. A friend sent me a copy of his Photoshop and I started making templates for gamer clans and people on Digital Point. I would sell them for around 30-100 bucks a pop, and then I’d offer to slice them up (basically using the slice to html tool in Photoshop which creates this disgusting table of images).
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
Things happen and I’ve grown to deal with (most) things. Sometimes things are just easier to get done. I’ve had projects that haven’t been fun, but not everything is glamorous. There are going to be times when you are sitting down thinking, “Fuck. I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.” And then I get motivated to do more stuff for myself.
What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?
Logitech headphones. Typically reward myself to playing a game of L4D2 when I figure something out or make good progress. Otherwise I’m listening to anything from Bay Area rap to classic rock.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Bigger than Lifehacker.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
Elon Musk, as a person who just absolutely kills it with whatever he touches. The biggest inspiration comes from watching what people are doing, and listening to their complaints. That fuels innovation, IMO.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?
Thankfully I didn’t have to spend a ton of money aside from incorporating and getting the business stuff in order/paying for servers. I keep a pretty lean stack (node.js, redis, mongo, mysql, backbone), and since I developed the whole thing myself, I thankfully didn’t need to delegate any help.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Find a niche and just keep picking away at it. Set up Google alerts to see who your competitors are. Fast follow with features they add (if you can).
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
I’d invite my whole family on a trip to Europe for a month. Then I’d probably use the rest for a down payment on a house (if that’s in the rules?).
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without?
Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?
I’m not really a big mobile person, so I use whatever default apps actually work on my crappy Nexus Android phone.
What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?
Spotify. Devil in Jersey City – Coheed and Cambria.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet? (And why that country?)
Europe. Lots of history. People seem interesting. Easy to see different countries relatively easily with transportation.
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter?
Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
Just launching the site, so that’s early stage (not any worthwhile numbers yet). No funding. The subreddit itself gets about 180k uniques a day and over 3mm uniques a month.
Where else can our readers find you?