Some founders start with a strategic vision to build, scale and sell. Others are just having fun and quickly stumble into something big.
The most famous example may be Wordle’s founder. He created the word game as a sweet side project to amuse his girlfriend, then sold it to the New York Times in just 4 months.
Viral Post Generator started as a side project
When Orbach decided to build Viral Post Generator, he wasn’t thinking about long-term value. He was thinking of his job at the time as growth marketing manager at Israeli startup Mine.
“The idea came up when I did some scraping for LinkedIn posts and filtered them according to high engagement in order to ‘reverse engineer’ them — to try to understand what makes a post viral, so I can reproduce it,” he wrote on Indie Hackers.
A clear trend stood out in the posts: narcissism. So Orbach decided to create an AI tool where users can input basic career information and generate a typical example of successful LinkedIn humble brag.
Orbach told They Got Acquired that his tool works like this: “A user is asked two questions: ‘What did you do today?’ and ‘What is your inspirational advice?’ The tool then prompts the user to choose a ‘Cringe’ level for their desired post, after which it creates a custom-made post using NLP (Natural Language Processing) models. The results are always based on real Linkedin posts that went insanely viral.”
“I made it just for fun,” Orbach wrote on Indie Hackers. “Without any expectation of making money.” But the product caught on.
“Everyone on LinkedIn knows there is something cringe-worthy about the entire LinkedIn feed, but they play the game regardless (to get the job). So like any good marketer, I took an insight that everyone secretly agrees on and made it public,” Orbach wrote.
In August 2022, Orbach created an English language version of his tool (he’d originally made it only in Hebrew), pushed it on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, and ended up coming in third on Product Hunt’s ‘Product of the Day.’ Traffic quickly reached 10,000 users a day.
A potential buyer steps in
At that point, Orbach’s tongue-in-cheek Viral Post Generator drew the attention of Taplio, a Chrome extension that helps you analyze your LinkedIn posts and improve their performance.
A Taplio founder contacted Orbach, saying his tool would be a great traffic generator for their product and asking him if he was interested in selling. The tool was free, so it hadn’t generated any revenue.
Orbach was intrigued, mostly because as a “one-man-band,” he was exhausted. “I was under astronomical pressure that something would crash on the site while thousands of visitors were trying to use it or there would be some other glitch. I literally couldn’t sleep for a week,” he explained. During its peak, the product got 1,000 new users per minute, he said.
Orbach named a high asking price that was turned down flat. He then countered with a suggestion that he put a link to Taplio in his tool for 24 hours to show how much traffic it could generate. Taplio agreed to the experiment, and Orbach began scratching his head as to what marketing channels he hadn’t tried yet.
Traffic goes bananas
“I remembered that there is some community on Reddit called r/InternetIsBeautiful where they share cool free tools from around the internet. I posted there — and boom — within a few hours it reached 2 million people,” he said.
Taplio quickly agreed to Orbach’s original offer.
They didn’t disclose the price, but Orbach said he was happy with the outcome. “When I look at the time I worked on this project — even if I decide that my hourly rate is very expensive — it’s still a huge ROI,” he said.
Orbach also attracted quite a bit of publicity over his whirlwind week. BuzzFeed, Business Insider, The Guardian, and many other outlets covered the story, and Orbach requested Taplio keep his name on the generator even post-sale.
“I loved having the business talking about me to their audience post-sale,” Orback told They Got Acquired. With his moment of internet celebrity behind him, Orbach is applying the lessons he learned to build his next business, Marketingideas.com, a library of marketing ideas for organic growth.
With Viral Tweet Generator in-house, Taplio and its sister tool, housed under their parent company Pony Express, was acquired for millions just six months later, in December 2022.