In 2013, a silent startup was brewing. Not in Silicon Valley. But in the wholesome, farm-filled streets of Boise, Idaho. Yes, Boise. A place better known for its Russet Potatoes than its tech startups. That’s where Russell Brunson and co-founder Todd Dickerson began their journey launching a company called ClickFunnels.
Today, ClickFunnels impacts the lives of millions of entrepreneurs around the world. It gives us the tools to build sales funnels to create both impact and income. It’s a platform with hundreds of thousands of active, paying customers spending between $97 and $297 per month, like clockwork. Some would call him a pioneer. Others, a savior.
But who is Russell Brunson and how did he create such a wildly successful company? And, how did he do it without the help of any venture capitalists or investor funds? Most tech companies are built on the back of strong funding. After all, building an enterprise system like ClickFunnels is not easy. This is not just a website builder. It’s an entirely different platform.
Today, there are several copycats trying to take the crown away from ClickFunnels. But with such deep-rooted marketing expertise, it’s hard to unseat this billion-dollar behemoth. Many have tried and failed. There’s always a “ClickFunnels Killer” supposedly launching every week. So how does Brunson stay on top of the proverbial hill?
Who Is Russell Brunson?
In 2016 I picked up a book called, Dot Com Secrets. As a software engineer and web developer obsessed with marketing, this instantly resonated with me. What I didn’t realize was how quickly Brunson would get me emotionally hooked into his stories. But that’s part of his brilliance.
So, in 2017 I reached out to Russell Brunson to interview him for Forbes. At the time, ClickFunnels was worth roughly $360 million. But the even cooler part is that I gained insight into one of our generation’s most brilliant and savvy marketers. I even got the chance to shadow him for an entire day.
Although Russell Brunson seems very shy and introverted, he comes to life both on stage and when he’s speaking about his passions. What drives him is his willingness to be humble enough to learn from others, and his desire to share insights into the most powerful marketing secrets on the planet.
Impact and income is a creed that Brunson lives and dies by. The truth is that Brunson shifted away from the desire for more income years ago. Today, he lives by a desire to have a true impact and create a lasting legacy. That makes sense because it echoes a lot of the trademarks of Anthony Robbins, one of Brunson’s biggest mentors.
Russell Brunson’s Early Life
At the ripe young age of twelve years old, Brunson became obsessed with watching and listening to commercials on television and radio. While most children tuned into Saturday morning cartoons, Brunson became infatuated with sales. Each time he would see a commercial that offered a free information packet or gift, he quickly filled out his information and subscribed.
Pretty soon after that, the mail started piling up. More mail was coming for him than his parents. And eventually, the mailman was dropping off the mail in boxes and bags on his doorstep. While others would throw away this “junk mail,” Brunson became obsessed with studying it and understanding why and how it was used to generate sales.
For Brunson, opting in to receive information from all of these advertisers developed a major passion for marketing and sales in him. And it’s this passion that stayed with him for all those years between being a young teenager and finally finishing high school to entering the real world. While this trajectory sounds like most. It was during his college years that Brunson’s life took a serious deviation from the norm.
Russell Brunson’s First Business
Russell Brunson’s first business began in 2003 with a small piece of software called ZipBrander. This simple little software tool helped brand zip files to drive traffic and increase overall profits on websites. He outsourced its development to a company in India and magically had a small piece of software to sell.
“This revolutionary new software will deliver your marketing message every time your customers, subscribers or site visitors download a zip file from you.”— ZipBrander.com (2004)
Russell Brunson’s first “real” business began in 2005. It was a Potato Gun business. He tells the story often. One day, while home from Spring Break during college, Brunson was sitting around with a friend from class talking about life. Their wives were busy working while they had the day off. So they decided to be productive and do something about it.
They started talking about potato guns and began searching the web for potato gun plans. After having very little luck finding anything, they decided to create their own potato gun plans. And sold the instructional plans as a DVD. For the upsell, he included all the supplies you could purchase to make the actual potato gun.
That was Brunson’s first real business that hit over $1 million. And it happened a year before graduating from college. The success of this business launched Brunson’s career as a marketer into the stratosphere. Since then, he has sold just about anything under the sun. And was also the leading affiliate in many network marketing companies, winning numerous competitions and generating millions of leads in a short period.
In 2010, Brunson’s business fell apart when a payment processor decided to freeze hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds. That led to extreme turmoil. It was so bad that he had to lay off 90 employees just before the holidays. Some of those employees were family friends. It was a defining moment in his business and his life.
Right around 2011, he used money he didn’t have to purchase a domain from Flippa called championsound.com. Champion Sound was an autoresponder platform for SMS and email marketing. Brunson thought it was the future. But there was one problem. Soon after he completed the purchase, he realized that the software was built in Ruby on Rails.
He had no one on his team with Ruby programming skills. After trying to hire several developers who were all of no use, he was about to shut the whole thing down. Just then, he decided to reach out to his list. Why not send an email to his massive list to see if anyone on the list knew how to program in Ruby on Rails.
That’s when he met Todd Dickerson. Todd took over the project and largely worked for free between 2011 and 2012. In 2013, they started to build what we know as ClickFunnels today. That development lasted the entire year and into 2014. The beta launch for ClickFunnels happened right around the summer of that year. And the official launch was October 25th.
The ClickFunnels Backstory
Russell Brunson is the co-founder of ClickFunnels along with Todd Dickerson. Originally, there was a third founder. But he was bought out by Brunson, leaving only two co-founders. The original idea was called ClickFusion. The concept was simple. After spending years building sales funnels, he wanted a way to automate the process and create a sales funnel builder.
Russell often explains how he would spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single funnel. You needed a team of developers and engineers to create and hook everything together. Then, making any changes afterward was always a complex process. So he wanted to make it simple and easy to do,. That’s where the idea for ClickFunnels was born.
During the month of October, Brunson worked on the now-infamous webinar called, Funnel Hacks. And on November 7th, 2014, he did 3 live webinars that he pushed out to his list. From there, ClickFunnels exploded. They reached 10,000 paying members quicker than anyone would have thought. In fact, Brunson initially thought 10,000 would be the maximum number of customers they would potentially have.
Today, ClickFunnels has over 200,000 paying customers with an annual revenue of well over $200 million. The company is well worth over a billion dollars, giving Russell Brunson a very sizable net worth. ClickFunnels has no investors and no shareholders and is owned wholly by Brunson and Dickerson. This is an incredibly monumental feat.
Is Russell Brunson Mormon?
Yes, Russell Brunson is a devoted Mormon. He’s so religious that he has never tried coffee in his life. In fact, he speaks about a story where an entrepreneur appeared before him. Somehow, he made it through all of his gatekeepers. Standing there before him, he pitched his idea for a coffee company. Not knowing that Brunson was Mormon, the idea clearly fell flat on its face.
Mormons have very strict rules. One of those rules is no caffeine. Others are things like no pre-marital sex, no alcohol, no tobacco, and so on. If you want to see a full list of all the laws that govern the Mormon religion, click here.
Russell Brunson’s Net Worth
Russel Brunson has a substantial net worth that stems largely from his holdings in ClickFunnels through his Etison, LLC. He also owns numerous businesses such as Lady Boss, Magnetic Marketing, Secrets of Success, Voomly, Unfair Advantage, and many, many others. He also has sizable real estate investments and is a minority shareholder in many other companies.