Boulder Startup Spotlight: SendGrid, an American success story

Making email integration easy

SendGrid is perhaps the most successful company to ever graduate from the TechStars program.  Since graduating TechStars in 2009 the company has grown to about 150 employees, raised 27m dollars from blue chip investors and handles 8B pieces of email a month.  But SendGrid is even more than that.

SendGrid is the story of immigrants working hard and finding success, it is the fulfillment of the American Dream in a new age and flat earth.  The story of SendGrid starts with Isaac Saldana who was born in the US but went back to Mexico with his parents when he was a young boy.  He came back to the US as a teen to live with some uncles near Riverside, California.  Isaac went to the University of California, Riverside where he met Tim Jenkins and Jose Lopez.  The three of them founded SendGrid and put their lives and family on hold in California to come to Boulder for TechStars.

After graduating TechStars they moved back to Anaheim. Today SendGrid's 150 employees are spread out between Anaheim, Boulder and Romania, with offices in other cities as well.  You may have never heard of SendGrid but chances are you have received some email they delivered for their customers which include Pinterest, Foursquare and Spotify.

I met with SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin and CFO Chad Varra in their Boulder offices. The way Jim and Chad explain it the key to SendGrid's success is that just about every application being built today has some component that requires email. Whether it be sending verification email, updates, etc., communication with users is often accomplished via email. Building email capability into every app that would scale and work is a time consuming but necessary part of the development process.  SendGrid has made that part easy. They built the email component that developers can just "snap in" into their app via an open API.  Developers need not worry about the email piece of it anymore that is done effectively and efficiently by SendGrid.  Sounds simple enough?

Indeed, so simple that SendGrid now sends 8 billion emails a month for its customers. It has over 130,000 accounts. Part of its success is that it offers a free account for customers that send up to six thousand mails a month. The next step up is about $10 a month for up to 40k emails.   SendGrid is also working with Microsoft Azure and there is a different package for Azure customers. 

SendGrid recently released a new feature that makes it even easier for non-technical users to send email through SendGrid.  Virtually every application being developed now is looking at SendGrid for their email delivery.  Older applications generally already have their email infrastructure built in so are not as keen to switch over, as they have sunk the costs already.

Of course sending all of this email is not without a lot of work. One of the biggest things that SendGrid is on the lookout for and what they council their customers on is how not to run afoul of the spam rules from the various email services.  This is a big job and SendGrid has real live humans looking into each customer and monitoring to make sure no email abuse takes place.

In speaking with Franklin and Varra another thing they are really proud of is the culture that has been built at SendGrid. It is a great place to work. The company does a yearly trip to Mexico. The office in Boulder is buzzing with people working at desks standing up, sitting down and in between. The bap-bap of ping pong is heard and there is a table of nerf guns nearby.  SendGrid knows that hiring top talent in competitive markets is not easy. So they want to offer a great work environment and culture.  Below is a video that shows a bit of the SendGrid culture (if you don't see a video below hit reload)

SendGrid is really exploding right now and the future would seem very bright for Isaac Saldana and the rest of the SendGrid team.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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