Meet the 23-year-old founder of Lucky Day, the chart-topping app giving away real money

Josh Javaheri isn’t your regular CEO. Just 23 years old, the entrepreneur has found mobile success with Lucky Day, the lifestyle app he dreamed up back in 2014 during his freshman year of college.

 

Lucky Day is now competing with some of the top free apps around. At the time of writing, it’s sitting comfortably in the top 20 overall games on Google Play, the top 50 overall apps, and is the top ranked casino game on the platform.

 

Lucky Day recently announced that it has given away over $5 million in prizes and cash to its users. That’s a whole lot of people earning real-life rewards with zero risk, thanks to a business model based around advertising dollars.

 

Javaheri recently joined the Fyber Blog for a chat via phone from his Los Angeles base, sharing his unique story along with his thoughts on entrepreneurship and the power of mobile gaming.

Thinking differently

Even back in high school, Javaheri thought in a different way to his peers. “I was that person that never fit in,” he says. “I was that person who was always, ‘Why is he that way?’”

 

But Javaheri didn’t care—in fact, he embraced the idea of being different. It’s clearly a big part of his nature, his entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s undoubtedly helping to drive his success in the mobile app space.

 

Lucky Day office

 

“A lot of people in the world, they go away from what their gut feeling is telling them,” Javaheri says. “They go away from how they think life should be lived, because they want to just fit in. They want to fit in because not fitting in feels weird. It feels awkward, and you get made fun of. I never cared. I loved that.”

 

Some of his classmates see things in a different light now, Javaheri reckons: “A lot of people now, they’re looking back and they’re like, ‘Wow, maybe Josh was right. Maybe this is how you should be looking at the world.’ When your mind is telling you to do this thing, just because everyone thinks it’s weird, who cares? Just do it.”

Making Lucky Day

Lucky Day wasn’t Javaheri’s first entrepreneurial effort. He previously tried building a protein-based doughnut business but realized his culinary skills weren’t quite sharp enough. And he found some success trading stocks while still in high school.

 

But the idea of continuing to make money through trading just seemed kind of lifeless. “I don’t see that as value creation,” he explains. “You’re not really impacting anyone’s life. You’re just finding ways to take advantage of inefficiencies.”

 

Instead, it was the limitless potential of technology that pulled Javaheri in the direction of mobile. And, like many successful entrepreneurs before him, he spent time absorbing this world from the smart people around him—including other members of his college Entrepreneurship Club.

 

“I was all over the place, just learning and seeing as much as I can,” he says. “Because truly I don’t think I’m that smart. I’m 100% honest—I don’t think I’m that smart at all. I just think I’ll outwork anyone in any room, on any given day, at any given time. I will outwork anyone.”

 

Lucky Day started out as just Javaheri, a smart idea, and a whole lot of hard work. It’s now a team of over 30. But that growth has been careful and steady—most of it coming over the last year—with Javaheri keen to get the right people on board.

 

“I had to go in the hard way and learn it myself, so that’s really what was going on in the first three-plus years,” he explains. “I was really going deep into every one of these segments and just trying my best to master them. Master them as well as I could and then find someone who was better at it than I was and bring them in to really help it blossom.”

There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’

In conversation, Javaheri uses the word ‘team’ a lot. It’s obviously a huge part of his ethos, and building the right team at Lucky Day has clearly brought him both highs and lows.

 

“I would say the toughest challenge is team,” he says. “Team is and will always be our toughest challenge. One bad person can kill a team, and we’ve dealt with these experiences. Because without team, it’s impossible to move forward.”

 

Javaheri is now clearly very happy with the group of people around him—people that “bleed yellow”—and he attributes Lucky Day’s extraordinary recent growth to this team.

 

Lucky Day team

 

“Things don’t just happen in one week,” Javaheri says. “People expect to build a great company in one year. That’s not possible. We put five years … I literally put my blood, sweat, and tears into this company. And it just takes time. And the last year has been just building a great, better team and just constantly investing in the team.

 

People expect to build a great company in one year. That’s not possible. We put five years.

 

“Our team is so amazing that I feel guilty if I’m not working 24/7. I feel guilty if I’m not pushing myself to the absolute limits, because I feel so lucky to have such an awesome team of great people.”

The thrill of winning

Lucky Day’s success is a huge testament to the power of mobile advertising. Beyond an initial round of seed investment, and funding that Javaheri himself put forward, the app monetizes and rewards players entirely through ad dollars.

 

The Lucky Day app uses video ads, alongside an offer wall and surveys, all of which give tokens that users can then spend on in-game lotto and raffle tickets, or save up to redeem against real-life gift cards. Tokens—and sometimes cash—also come from the app’s core feature, its daily scratchers.

 

“We want to keep the experience free for users,” Javaheri explains. “We don’t want them to spend money trying their luck. We want it to be risk-free. There’s no option for users to buy in-app purchases, so the ads enable us to create as many lucky days as possible. It’s all about giving people a safe place where they can come for five minutes every day, try their luck, and feel that thrill of winning without any possibility to lose.”

 

Lucky Day’s ad partners are numerous and diverse. They take in the worlds of gaming, brands, finance, social apps, and ecommerce.

 

And really, the reason why we’ve been able to do so well for our audience, and create so much value for both our users and for our advertisers, is because we’ve really just focused on creating a great advertising experience where the ads are really embedded in a positive way.

 

“We have a range of advertisers across the board,” Javaheri says. “And really, the reason why we’ve been able to do so well for our audience, and create so much value for both our users and for our advertisers, is because we’ve really just focused on creating a great advertising experience where the ads are really embedded in a positive way.”

Seeing users as people

Javaheri takes a hands-on approach with Lucky Day’s promotional activities. You won’t find many CEOs engaging directly with users, but Javaheri is always there on the frontline, giving out free gas or calling up winners to congratulate them.

 

 

It’s this personal approach that really singles Lucky Day out. And it’s something that Javaheri is keen to bring to the app itself.

 

“The part that people don’t understand in mobile is every single user, and every format, is different. Some people might love banner ads, some people might hate them, some people might like videos, some people might not. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a best format. It really depends on the person.”

 

Long term, Lucky Day is looking to make ad personalization a much bigger focus, segmenting the audience in terms of ads they’ll see, in order to build a more personalized experience.

 

“That’s what makes us different,” Javaheri says. “We really try to think about people as people, not as users.”

UA isn’t everything

Javaheri thinks that user acquisition is a great tool, but he also warns about overreliance on it, especially in the early stages of a startup.

 

But a lot of people, they do UA prematurely. They don’t build the business, they don’t do it the right way, they don’t go through all the checkpoints. They just start with UA because it’s easy.

 

“For me, UA is just another tool,” he says. “It’s just yelling, ‘Hey, I have a great product, come check it out.’ But a lot of people, they do UA prematurely. They don’t build the business, they don’t do it the right way, they don’t go through all the checkpoints. They just start with UA because it’s easy.

 

“And that’s why you see a lot of the companies that do UA, they go up and they go down. So we don’t think that way.”

 

For Javaheri, taking a longer view is important. It’s one that uses UA—for learning, for testing—but remains focused on building an awesome product.

 

And the best marketing tools for Lucky Day are actually its winners—those players that have earned cash or gift card prizes in return for their time, their clicks, and their eyes. “We have so many redeemers,” Javaheri says. “It’s insane. 30,000 redeemers a week that build that pipeline of voices.”

Sharing the luck

Javaheri is excited for the future of mobile, and for the future of Lucky Day as a brand.

 

“I think mobile’s just so exciting, it’s so new,” he says. “People think it’s old—it’s only 10 years old. It’s nothing.

 

“For someone like me, who wants to move a thousand miles an hour … this is the space for me.”

 

Javaheri shares his hopes of starting a charitable Lucky Day foundation, doing more goodwill, and making a positive impact in the world.

 

“We want to start bringing that alive with more charity partnerships and other forms of partnerships,” he says, “where we can take Lucky Day and show what it means to have a lucky day in the real world. We are working to become the brand of luck. Show people that luck is free, luck is real, and luck really does exist.”

 

And it’s hard to shake the feeling that Javaheri’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion will do just that. In just the first few years of his career, he’s already come so far, and the future for Lucky Day looks bright.

 

Fyber 2019 State of In-App Advertising and Monetization promo blog post v4

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