Karl Sun: CEO of the Year
Congratulations to Karl Sun, Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder at Lucid Software on being honored as one of the 2017 Utah Business CEO of the Year honorees.
Read more about all of the 2017 CEO of the Year honorees.
CEO & co-founder, Lucid Software
Even before he co-founded Lucidchart, Karl Sun had already filled his résumé with incredible accomplishments. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as well as an M.S. in Technology and Policy. From there, he attended Harvard Law School, earning his J.D. while the editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Sun worked as an attorney and law clerk until joining Google in 2002, where he was head of patents until three years later, when he started the Google China office and led the office’s business development initiatives. He then became Google’s investments principal for the company’s investments in advanced wind and battery technologies.
It was at that point that Sun met a young entrepreneur named Ben Dilts and became acquainted with a collaborative diagramming tool the engineer created. Sun left Google, and he and Dilts joined together to form Lucid Software. Sun, believing in Lucidchart, the initial product that Dilts had developed, put all his business acumen behind making sure the product succeeded. But part of that success, says Sun, was predicated on patience. While it was tempting to start selling Lucidchart from the get-go, Sun decided instead to exercise patience and really make sure the product was fully ready before selling it.
“Way back in the early days at Lucid, we had a key decision to make. We had to decide on whether we wanted to focus on our product, making our product easier and better to use and more powerful, or whether we wanted to focus initially on trying to market and sell the product in the state that it was,” says Sun. “I think we made a key and correct decision to really slow down on that marketing side and focus on the product and create a fantastic product that users love. I think that was the right decision for the company as well. It made acquiring customers later on so much easier. People loved it. People told others about it. There was a real virality that helped us succeed.”
Sun’s patience has paid off. Last year, Lucid expended its enterprise customer base to six times its 2015 size, received a $36 million investment, increased its revenue by over 85 percent and hired 78 more employees. Lucid has over 200,000 website visits per month and 9 million customers in over 175 countries.
Sun says part of his success is based on a knowledge of his own limitations and his ability to put together a confident, hard-working and goal-oriented team. “There are some things I think I’m OK and pretty good at. There are other things that I know I’m not good at,” says Sun. “And there are times where I need to improve and become better, but there are lots of other times when I need to go find the right person to fill the gap that we’re seeing. That has been an important lesson for me.”