Monday, March 29, 2004
Interview: Frank Addante, StrongMail Systems
StrongMail Systems recently raised $6M from Sequoia an Evercore for its email servers. I spoke with founder Frank Addante on the company, its products, and this recent round of funding:
BK: What's StrongMail Systems, and what opportunity do you see in the email market?
FA: StrongMail Systems is an e-mail infrastructure company that enables sophisticated customer communications like flight notifications, billing, statements and stock quotes by simplifying development & maintenance, reducing costs and ensuring message delivery.
StrongMail has developed the world’s first integrated, comprehensive, enterprise-grade e-mail infrastructure software platform – StrongMail Enterprise, an e-mail application server. This revolutionary advance simplifies the development and maintenance of complex custom messaging applications and broadly expands the functionality and effectiveness of business e-mail systems.
There are two areas that we help companies:
a) Our StrongMail Enterprise platform helps companies to develop better email applications (today, it is very costly and expensive for companies to develop custom applications, most companies are building email applications from scratch on using custom developed software on unsupported freeware). 80% of email application development is spent on messaging infrastructure, and the remaining 20% is the application logic specific to an individual company.
b) Our technology, support and services help companies to ensure the delivery of messages to the Inbox. Today, 15-30% of legitimate email never reaches the inbox. Using our technology and services companies have been more successful in getting their messages delivered.
BK: How did you decide to start the company?
FA: The main objective was to help large enterprises to stop “spamming” their customers. Today, when people think of email, they think of marketing, when they think of email marketing they think of direct marketing and they associate that with spam. Although email is the most widely used internet application, its business use is still in the dark ages. If you think back to 1995-96 to the days when companies were racing to the Internet to setup websites, most websites that were created were static, online advertising brochures. There was very little personalization, dynamic content or even forms to generate website leads. If companies wanted anything dynamic, they had to develop it from scratch and they would be pay some IT guy or gal hundreds of thousands of dollars, or a firm millions of dollars to develop a dynamic website. Today, through the advancement of website application platforms and website development tools, now your kid brother or sister can develop a dynamic website in an afternoon.
We provide technology solutions to help companies to develop email applications that mirror the sophistication of their websites.
BK: What's your background--I see you were a founder of L90, and have also been involved in a few other ventures since then?
FA: I was the Chief Technology Officer and technology Founder of L90 – I left shortly after we took L90 public to start Zondigo, a wireless company. I have always been an entrepreneur. I have been involved in starting 5 companies ranging from popular websites to software companies. Actually, I have never worked for a company other than ones that I have been involved in starting from the ground up. I consider myself an entrepreneur first, a marketer second and a technologist third -- that can leverage technology to solve complex business problems and scale companies.
BK: How long did it take you to hook up with Sequoia and Evercore?
I knew Mark Kvamme from Sequoia from my previous companies. Sequoia was our number one VC partner target and they were one of the first meetings that we had. I presented our plan to Mark on a Tuesday, he invited me back the next day to meet two of his other partners and then I had the honor of presenting to their entire partnership the following Monday. After some very thorough due diligence, we had a term sheet within a couple of weeks. Evercore was on a similar time cycle. It all moved much more quickly than we had anticipated. There were a lot of terrific VC partners that we met with and liked very much, we ended up deciding to partner with the two that we felt were great strategic partners for us. Sangam Pant from Evercore is a great advisor and partner to us – he brings much more to the table than just the financing. Sequoia bringsthe expertise and experience of building world class companies. Mark Kvamme is well connected and his experience has been very helpful to the company.
BK: How far along was your product before you approached the venture community?
FA: We made StrongMail Enterprise available to the public after two years of development and a rigorous beta period. We started shipping product in August of 2003 and we had secured and implemented a number of large enterprise customers prior to seeking funding.
BK: Finally, what's the biggest challenge facing StrongMail, and where are you putting your focus now that you've landed some VC funding?
FA: As with any early stage company, the biggest challenge is staying focused. It is always challenging to maintain current business while trying to grow the company at the same time. Our focus now is on expanding our sales and marketing team with talented, energetic and driven team members. We are beyond the "findout" stage and are working on "rollout."
BK: Thanks! More information »