Sramana Mitra: What did you do for Xoom.com?
Janine Popick: I was in charge of all of the direct marketing and e-commerce. We did a lot of email marketing and a lot of marketing out to millions of people that would sign for their free webpage. We would try to upsell them clipart and all the bells and whistles that you’re going to put on your webpage.
Sramana Mitra: Email marketing at that time was quite new.
Janine Popick: We were like cowboys. There were no rules. People would sign up to get their free webpage and we would get their email address and try to upsell bells and whistles for their webpage, but we also try to sell them other things. One of my favorite stories at Xoom.com was we would offer a chat room so people could put chat rooms on their websites. We would monitor what people were talking about in the chatroom. Do you remember Beanie Babies? We found a couple of chatrooms that were going nuts talking about Beanie Babies. We contacted a guy who distributed Beanie Babies and started to do tests to see if people would buy them when they registered with their email. We sold through them like crazy. It was like mining Big Data. We were coming from doing direct mail and catalog into an age where in an hour, you can start to see your response rate.
Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to?
Janine Popick: 2000.
Sramana Mitra: What did you leave for? What was the next step?
Janine Popick: Nothing. My husband and I had invested in an email marketing company called Emailvision. They were a company based in Paris. We left our job at the same time, which never happens. We decided to move to Paris for about a year and helped Emailvision. We did that and we consulted with them for a good four months. They were about two years behind the US in terms of technology and the way things work. We decided at that time that there’s nothing out there in 2001 to help small businesses do email marketing. We really wanted to create an easy way for small businesses to send out an email campaign that looks great to their 400 customers and would instantly get their response rate back. There’s just no way they were going to do it. In the market at that time were companies like Campaigner and a whole host of larger companies that cater to companies with budget of thousands of dollars a month for higher end technologies. While we were in Paris, we decided to start Vertical Response. We decided to start raising money not knowing how terrible the climate for raising money was back in the US.