Sramana Mitra: What was your analysis of the gap in MailChimp’s story where you could actually come in and do something?
Adam Robinson: What I had observed over the years is that people had success doing very narrow things. I’m sure you’ve heard of this guy Nathan Barry at ConvertKit. He has the perfect tool for bloggers. He went from zero to a million a month in 36 months.
Another one is called Klaviyo. They just made the greatest email tool for Shopify power users. Those guys are crushing it. They raised a million dollars and didn’t even need it. They just raised $150 million at a billion dollar valuation. They’re doing $100 million in revenue.
Once you get to a level of sophistication, Klaviyo is much more powerful. They’re double the price of MailChimp and half the price of Bronto. It’s easy to sign up. They attack this part of the market that’s several thousand dollars a month.
Both those guys came from the same background of doing this type of stuff that they were building products for. I wasn’t a blogger. I keep trying to find niches. It was hard for me. Then I came across this other company, and I started reaching out to people who used to work there on LinkedIn. I found this one girl who was doing consulting at that time and started piecing together this puzzle about how you can sell at $9,000 the same thing I’m selling at $60.
She said it was a great opportunity. She explained to me that in the digital marketer and publisher world, these people were underserved. The people she used to work at used to do a great job, but they’re going even more up-market.
There are this slice of people who send tons of emails. They work at tiny companies and they have a unique set of needs based on how they send. No one’s really owning that space. She thought this lead.com thing was a great idea.
I’d done a deal with this guy with horrible terms. I leased the domain from him with a buyout. I really didn’t love it. He didn’t really love it. We did it because it did open some doors. If you get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, that stops nearly everybody. It’s obviously a conversation starter. This was earlier this year and last year.
Our basic value proposition is explaining this. It’s a bit vague but it resonates with people who are in that market. It really wasn’t resonating quite enough if that makes sense. This was another mistake. My CTO wanted to build it as a totally separate product. We were, in essence, maintaining Robly.
Sramana Mitra: What was the revenue level at which Robly was operating at this point?
Adam Robinson: We were at $250,000 monthly recurring revenue. It took six people to keep it going. It was growing a little bit.