Creating free tools for everyone
Case Study

Creating free tools for everyone

Huiming Gu is the founder of Maple Tech International LLC as well as a founding member of Lawyer.com. He is a veteran IT professional and seasoned open source advocate. Before founding Maple Tech International LLC, Huiming founded a series of successful online ventures, including TedJob.com which he sold in 2008. In his spare time, he enjoys playing soccer, fishing, polishing his photography skills, and traveling with his family.

As an engineer in the Houston area, Huiming had some free time after work and wanted to fill it with a hobby. “I knew I wanted to build something but didn’t know what,” he says. “So, out of curiosity, I went onto Google Trends and Google Ads Keyword Planner to see what other people were searching for.” At the time, in 2008, many people were searching for tools online to help them do practical things in their daily lives. “I looked through the list of top searches and saw massive interest in calculations and conversions. At the same time, I could barely find any well-built calculation and conversion websites. I thought to myself ‘I could build that’ - so I did. And that’s how Maple Tech International was started.”

Huiming built and launched his flagship sites calculator.net , unitconverters.net, and usbanklocations.com with a focus on making them accurate, thoughtful, easy to use and free to access.

<p><em>One of Maple Tech's online tools, U.S. Bank Locations website.</em></p>

One of Maple Tech's online tools, U.S. Bank Locations website.

Growing from a hobby to a business

As traffic to the sites grew, Huiming realized he had a potential business opportunity on his hands. “I was seeing tremendous growth in visits and got to a place where the sites had a strong user experience, so I decided I was in a good position to start monetizing the sites with ads.” After trying several ad platforms, Huiming switched to Google AdSense and Google Ad Manager, and started to see 20-30% increases in ad revenue each year. “After a few years,’ he says, “the ad revenue from Ad Manager and AdSense was higher than my salary, so I decided to quit my day job to work on the sites full time.”

After a few years, the ad revenue from Ad Manager and AdSense was higher than my salary, so I decided to quit my day job to work on the sites full time.

Huiming Gu, Founder, Maple Tech International

With more time to dedicate to Maple Tech’s websites, Huiming decided to expand to new areas and hired two employees with diverse expertise to help make it happen. “We kept looking for ways we could help people online,” he recalls, “and one big area people were searching for was help finding local banks. Bank location data is in government databases that can be difficult to navigate, so we cleaned up the inputs and made a simple user interface on usbanklocations.com to help people find the right bank for them.”

Free access, for everyone

Huiming and his team take pride in their ability to help people get the information they need quickly, easily and at no cost. “Ad revenue is our main source of income for the business. We use that revenue to keep investing in our sites to improve the experience and capabilities, pay our team’s salaries, and build new tools online. Ads are a way for us to sustain and grow our business while also keeping access to all of our tools 100% free.”

You might also like: