In 2020 Elastic Email celebrates its 10-year anniversary.
Yes, we turned 10! And just as people at this age we look up to our older colleagues with a goal to learn and be even better as we grow.
It’s been 10 years since the first draft of Elastic Email was created by three hard-working people with an idea. We tackled various obstacles, celebrated small victories, and worked through one of the most difficult times for any business. But how did Elastic Email start and what’s been pushing it to be the service we know now? Well, we have some answers for you!
Since it’s been so long, I wanted to make sure that the history of the company is written down, before our CEOs’ memories start to get hazy and they “won’t remember” some juicy details. And what better occasion than the 10 year anniversary? I asked our CEOs to answer 6 simple questions that will give you an idea of how Elastic Email started and how it grew over time. Read their three perspectives below (that are surprisingly similar, but they did not see each other's answers, I swear).
How did Elastic Email start? What was the journey like?
I was living in Gambia, West Africa. I had been traveling for a couple of years and eventually stopped in this beautiful country after meeting my (future) wife. We started a company together building websites for local and international clients. We ultimately built a content management system.
At some point, we had a need to send emails for those customers to their clients. During this time, Amazon AWS was just starting to grow and I had been running servers on EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud). It became clear that there was a missing service from Amazon at the time. You couldn’t send an Email safely from an EC2 instance - they didn’t yet have an Email API.
I recognized the opportunity and contacted the best tech guy I knew - Michał. I pitched him on the idea of creating a simple API that could send emails for cloud services. He said, “that sounds easy”. We set to work immediately. He was building some of the core queues and delivery functionality. I leveraged the technology I had already built to get us a UI, billing, website, and API. When deciding the name of the company we were definitely thinking about the connection to Amazon AWS. We considered EC2 Email but settled on just Elastic Email. The brand was born.
Josh needed to send some emails to his clients and contacted me about this. I was purposefully unemployed at the moment, looking for some adventures outside of IT. However, I thought, how hard is it to send some emails? So I jumped into coding and created a mailer service. Josh leveraged his Lara framework and built a website around it.
My business partner and co-founder Joshua required email integration for his CMS “Lara”. After much research, we determined that the available solutions were overpriced and under-delivered. He contacted Michał, to see what he was up to and if he was interested in working on something together. I joined one year later when our support email address was still Josh’s Gmail account. It was just the three of us for a while until we realized we really needed some help. Then we started to bring on some talented people.
What obstacles did you overcome along the way?
That is a long and never-ending list. I would say all three of us were very naive to the world of spam and we have spent an enormous amount of resources combatting this unfortunate side of our business. The other notable thing to mention would be scaling. We all had previous experience with high volume systems but nothing compared to what we were up against as Elastic Email took off. This has been exhausting and overwhelming at times but overall has been an amazing learning experience we all treasure!
Scaling a system from a few transactions to billions per month is a massive undertaking and certainly has been a challenge. However, I think the biggest surprise to us as we’ve learned about Email on this journey are the challenges related to abuse and spam in an industry where we are sending outbound mail to people who may or may not want to receive it. In some small way, we affect the lives of billions of people every month and must deal with the repercussions of our client’s choices.
Creating an open platform where anyone can sign up and start sending unlimited numbers of emails extremely fast creates a lot of risk. Even good businesses may have challenges reaching the inbox and scaling their delivery. We had to learn that the business of sending email is very much a service, aided by technology, that must be tailored to the needs of each customer. This also involves a lot of people, not just servers.
What makes Elastic Email special? What do you appreciate the most?
We’ve always done things our own way being a bootstrapped company. We have to live with all our decisions, good and bad - but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Then there are people. Over the years we have had the opportunity to bring so many talented people into our Elastic Email family and my life has been thoroughly enhanced and enriched because of this.
I think largely due to the style of my partner Michal we’ve built a truly “team first” culture at the company. Our team really cares about the success of the company, our clients and the service that we provide.
I am also happy to be the type of company that works hard to provide quality service and support at low cost. I believe customers should feel the value they get for the dollars they spend. Exceeding customer expectations on every level is something I personally feel good about.
How did you get your first customer?
They found us The coolest thing is we have so many customers that are still with us from the start. They went through some ups and downs with us as we figured out what we were doing. However, it's so neat to still talk to these people who have been with us since the beginning.
I can’t say with confidence but I think it was after Josh posted to his blog about sending emails with Elastic Email. Customers started signing up.
Our very first mail was delivered through my Elastic Email account for some of my existing website customers and to handle mail from my other project Planets.nu. Planets.nu continues to send hundreds of thousands of emails each month through Elastic Email.
However, our first “real” customer came within hours of launching our page. We had just put the site live and pointed some Google Ads at our domain and we immediately got our first sign ups. Shortly afterward our first payment from spreaker.com - an awesome podcast community. They were just a startup as well but were sending quite a bit of email which added some immediate load to our platform. Suddenly, we had some real mail to send and the pressure was on. There were some bumps in the road, but we are super happy to say that 10 years later Spreaker is still with us today and has sent hundreds of millions of emails over the last 10 years as they have grown with us.
How has running Elastic Email impacted your personal life?
I definitely go out to parties more than I used to and I have created wonderful relationships with our team. It almost feels like you have a second family in Elastic Email which is so amazing.
Running a service that must be on 24/7/365 is no joke! During the early years, this was a significant impact as we definitely had some challenges scaling. I did the classic “sleep with my laptop” in the beginning so I could wake up and respond to alerts from our system monitors to keep things running smoothly.
Fortunately, as the company has matured, those alerts are far less frequent and we have a team to help respond when they do.
The biggest impact now is likely to travel. Having a large portion of our team in Poland means frequent trips overseas. Fortunately, this corresponds well with my (future) wife’s family being in Europe. Just this past year we were able to get back to Gambia for another visit to the beautiful place where it all began.
I definitely have lost some hair since we embarked on this journey and I’m battling some extra lbs! Kidding aside, Elastic Email has been the main focus of my life for a decade now. I have a great balance of work and personal life now more than ever. I’m grateful for the wonderful opportunities for running a business brings. I also get to drink amazing Polish beer a few times a year!
What is your fondest memory related to Elastic Email?
First birthday surprise - totally unexpected, full of warmth and good vibes. There have been many more memorable moments and that’s what motivates me to push this cart we’re all on.
There have been a lot of great memories over the years. During our first year of business, a moment came when I had to decide between dealing with a critical system issue and attending the birth of my first child (I chose wisely).
The best memories have always been the times spent with our team and my partners. Working up new product designs in Mexico, drinking a beer with the team out of the Elastic Email glass at the local pub and the welcome feeling I always get when I arrive at our office in Poland.
I hope that those answers bring you closer to Elastic Email. Just as our CEOs said, we care about people. Our team is a team of friends that celebrates their successes together, are compassionate to each other, and enjoy their company in the office as in private life. Honestly, who wouldn't want to be a part of a community like that!
We are very excited to celebrate the whole 10 years of Elastic Email and share that with you. There will be more to come so stay tuned, follow our social media and blog. If you want to join our family, sign up or contact our Customer Success Team if you have any questions. We want to hear your opinions and what you expect from us. Afterall, Elastic Email is here for you!