Kenny Rueter’s kids wanted him to build a water toy.
It was a Saturday in July at their West Irvine home – blue skies and warm, but not too hot. So he quickly agreed.
The father of three connected some PVC pipe to a garden hose and by day’s end, the kids were splashing and laughing. It was a memorable day.
For Rueter, it would also spark an idea to create one of America’s fastest-growing private companies.
“I learned to build something my kids loved,” Rueter says. “As a parent, that’s really valuable, and I would gladly pay for that information. But at the time, there was no easy way to monetize the transfer of knowledge. That was my ‘aha’ moment.”
Soon after, the local graduate started Kajabi, an all-in-one platform for entrepreneurs to sell their expertise online.
That was 2010.
Today, Kajabi’s 40,000 customers have sold nearly $2 billion – yes, $2 billion – through the online service.
The Irvine-based company has been included in Inc. magazine’s “Fastest-Growing Private Companies” for six consecutive years and made its “Best Places to Work” list in 2020.
An Irvine story
Rueter is an Irvine success story.
He took to science and math courses while at Venado Middle and Irvine High schools.
After college, Rueter landed a job at a blue-chip tech firm. But something was missing.
“I learned it is hard to control your destiny at larger companies,” Rueter says.
Rueter’s entrepreneurial instincts kicked into gear, and he went on to start Kajabi.
He had a different approach than founders of most tech companies. He resisted the temptation to continually search for venture capital investment – what he called a “constant treadmill.”
Kajabi was sustained on monthly subscription revenue that then grew … and grew.
Revenue increased by about 300% in the past three years. Despite the pandemic, Kajabi’s headcount grew by about 80% since March. Rueter plans on more.
“We’re in growth mode right now,” he says.
Irvine as a tech hub
Rueter has watched the tech industry shift toward his hometown from more traditional hubs like Silicon Valley.
“We have seen the shift at Kajabi,” he says. “Many of our employees had become dissatisfied with the expensive, cramped experience of larger cities.”
Instead, they prefer Irvine’s village lifestyle – where parks, schools and public safety attract a talented workforce.
“We’re hiring talent away from some major brands,” Rueter says. “Part of it is the culture and opportunities at Kajabi. It’s also Irvine, and why we chose to locate our head- quarters here.”