Chris Hulls is the founder and CEO of Life360, an all-in-one safety app designed to keep families connected. Although the app has been subject to some intense criticism from teenagers (who, wouldn’t you know, don’t always want their parents to know exactly where they are), Life360 also received widespread applause from parent groups. To find out more about the man behind the app, here are ten things you didn’t know about Chris Hulls.
1. He studied at Harvard
Hulls was born and raised in Point Reyes, California. After graduating from Tomales High School a year early, he took a few classes at College of Marin before enlisting in the United States Air Force. Serving out of Qatar, Hulls worked as a loadmaster on C-130 planes, conducting airdrops around Pakistan and Afghanistan. In an interview with marin.edu, Hulls credits his time in the army with giving him discipline and the ability to follow through on ideas. After leaving the military, he returned to California to study at the University of California Berkeley. After a summer internship with Goldman Sachs went well, he was offered a full-time position. But by then, Hulls had different plans, having already applied and been accepted at Harvard Business School.
2. He’s been making money since he was a kid
Entrepreneurs have a habit of starting young, selling candies to their schoolmates or touting their gardening services to pensioners. Hulls was no exception. When the rest of his friends were riding around the neighborhood on their bikes, he was spending his summers filling his suitcases with trinkets and crafts from his family holidays to later sell at school. At the age of 13, he made $10,000 on AOL Classifieds selling Beanie Babies.
3. He dropped out of Harvard to launch Life360
Hulls’ inspiration for Life360 came while he was still an undergrad. Following Hurricane Katrina, the government put together Ready.gov as a way of helping people find family members in a disaster. Impressed by the concept but not the execution (as he later noted to americnexpress.com, Ready.gov was “just a site to download forms to fill out with a pen and paper”), he decided to find a better solution. After bouncing some ideas around, he settled on a location-based app that would let families connect through password-protected networks. After deciding his idea had wings, he decided to leave Harvard to commit to it full time.
4. He won the Android Developer Challenge
After deciding on the idea for the Life360 app, Hulls set about building it, testing it, and seeing just how well it would go down in the real world. Although the response he received from friends and family was positive, he was interested to see how others would react. As it turns out, it was just as positive. After entering the app into the Android Developer Challenge, he ended up scooping first prize over 3000 other entries. His prize was $275,000, which he used to pay back the friends and family who’d already invested in him, as well as hiring a team of developers to take his idea to the next stage.
5. He had to wait for success
Although the initial response to Life360 was positive, Life360 didn’t take off immediately. This was, after all, 2008, in an age when smartphones and apps weren’t quite so ingrained in popular culture as they are now. Several times, Hulls found himself on the verge of being completely broke. “It was scary, but something would always materialize to save us,” he’s since said. “ It wasn’t glamorous. I was making $700 per month and living at my mom’s house.”
6. 2011 was the year things changed
The first three years of Life360’s existence were tough. Consumers weren’t really interested in apps and despite testing out various ways to attract users to the product, Hulls wasn’t getting anywhere fast. But then in 2011, things started to change. By then, Life360 had been tweaked and refined into a much more user-friendly and appealing thing than it had started life as. People were suddenly getting interested in smartphone apps. The two events converged and suddenly, Hulls wasn’t living at home with his mom earning $700 a month. He was leading a 30 person team from his San Francisco office, his app was being used by people all across Japan in the wake of the 2011 tsunami, and families all across the world were waking up to Life360’s possibilities.
7. He’s raised over $200 million
If there’s one thing that Hulls has proved very adept at, it’s raising money. After launching Life360 with the help of seed money from friends and families, he’s since raised over $200 million in funding from key investors such as DCM, Bessemer Venture Partners, Bullpen Capital, Fontinalis Partners, Launch Capital, Founders Fund (FF Angel), BMW iVentures, Allstate, and Kapor Capital.
8. He coined the term App Store Optimization
Hulls isn’t just responsible for launching a successful business, he can also take credit for coining the term ‘App Store Optimization.’ If you’re not familiar with the term, App Store Optimization (ASO) is, in the words of Wikipedia, ‘ the process of increasing an app’s visibility.” In other words, it aims to increase the number of organic downloads on the like of Google Play. It also involves increasing app conversion rates. When he first came up with the term, we’re not quite sure. What we do know is he did, he does it, and if the success of Life360 is anything to go by, he’s very, very good at it.
9. He’s a public speaker
Since launching Life360, Hulls has become hot property in the field of public speaking. In addition to speaking at conferences, dinners, and events, his pearly words of wisdom have also made their way into print in numerous publications. When he’s not speaking, writing, or running Life360, Hulls likes to build drones, fly planes and pilot his hovercraft.
10. He’s worth a lot of money
No one’s quite sure exactly how much Hulls is worth. Some people put his fortune at $1 million, others put it closer to $5 million. The one thing we do know for sure (at least if Wallmine have done their homework) is that thanks to a salary of AUD$955,177, he’s the highest-paid executive at Life360.