How Making Millions in Uber and Lyft Credit Led Kevin Miller to Found an SEO Agency for D2C Startups
Once upon a time, Uber ran a simple, innocuous promotion in order to grow its user base. It worked by supplying every user with a promo code that they could text to friends, netting both ends $25 in ride credits each. However, there was a flaw in the promotion’s design: it didn’t have a limit.
Kevin Miller was 22 years old at the time, living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make rent, and spending long hours on the bus. When he saw the promotion, he decided not to text the code to friends as advertised, but instead built a website and made a small investment into Google Ads for related keywords.
As it turned out, for every signup he achieved with his code he would spend just $1, but earn $25 in credits. This strategy continued to make him money, so he called his sister with a kind gesture: replacing his code on the website for hers and garnering her $1,000 worth of Uber credits in a single day.
Miller would continue to expand this network, swapping out offer codes on the website with those of various friends, enabling them to ride the streets of San Francisco in complimentary black Escalades. While some might raise eyebrows at the tactic, Miller was playing completely within the rules of the promotion, and everyone who used his offer code got the advertised credits.
It could be argued that Miller wasn’t sending the code to his friends, but one could also suggest that the recipients were just friends Miller hadn’t met yet — one of which was Jeffery Lo, an angel investor and acquaintance of Miller’s brother. Lo heard about the website and approached Miller with an offer “use my credit card and spend as much as you can as long as it is ROI positive”. He ended up spending $18,000 which garnered him ~$250,000 worth of credit.
Unfortunately, the story comes to a sad ending as it led to Miller being banned from Uber’s platform, and an end to his ride credit empire.
Long after the fall of the Uber credit fiasco, Miller re-approached Lo and asked him a favor.
Miller was seeking a position as Director of Growth for Open Listings, a company Lo had ties with. Miller had previous experience at Google, but had left in favor of building something for himself, which he did by working with a bootcamp.
After gaining a bit of on-the-ground experience, Miller was seeking a bigger stage to work on, so the position with Open Listings was a perfect fit. Having seen Miller’s hustle and ambition through his Uber empire, the seasoned investor signed off, and introduced Miller to the team. Miller would work with Open Listings for three years (during which it was acquired by Opendoor), until he finally had the resources to launch a company of his own.
While at Open Listings, Miller’s main objective was to learn more about the category he wanted to build his own company around: Search Engine Optimization. Being a former Google employee, Miller knew some aspects of the marketing tactic, but his focus on it was partially driven by friend and eventual co-founder Jon Zacharias.
Jon had spent a decade working with SEO to help businesses grow their online presence and build an audience organically, without spending on advertising to get temporary attention. Through this method, the both of them saw an opportunity for brands to own their audiences instead of just leasing them through traditional advertising tactics.
As the pandemic began to take hold in 2020, Miller left Open Listings and began to build his own company, GR0. While this was certainly a difficult opportunity for many, the year firmly shoved many companies into the ecommerce space, and increased competition for attention online.
The marketplace conditions were perfect for Miller and Zacharias to build a company with the widespread adoption of work from home practices and the ability for them to find talent from anywhere in the country, instead of just being limited to the west coast.
Although the business started as two entrepreneurs hustling to tend to 5-6 clients themselves, the business has since grown, expanding into what is now 75 full-time employees. Through it all, Miller knew the importance of working both smarter and harder, and offering creative solutions to his clients while paving the way for dozens of employees and clients to come along for the ride.