SendGrid tops 200 billion emails;
hires Paul Ford to lead marketing

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f you received a newsletter or an automated receipt or a marketing pitch in your email lately, there’s a good chance it came through SendGrid.

SendGrid delivers emails — a lot of them. Last week, the Boulder company announced it had reached the 200 billion mark, with half of that amount delivered in 2013 alone. For those who like parallels, that’s one for every galaxy in the universe.

Reaching an eyebrow-arching benchmark makes for a pretty good story. But when you consider the company did it from a cold start in just four years, it borders on Cinderella status.

Sendgrid hasn’t been entirely without help. It was founded in 2009 by three engineers, who got a jumpstart from TechStars, the renowned tech startup incubator. With only $12,000 in seed money, the company has ballooned to capture two percent of the entire planet’s email market share.

Some other fun facts about SendGrid:

  • The company today has more than 150,000 customers, including the likes of Uber, Pinterest, Spotify, Pandora and Zillow.
  • Last year, SendGrid delivered 100 billion emails, an 85 percent increase over the year before.
  • SendGrid sends as many daily emails as Twitter sends tweets; that's over 500 million emails per day — almost 6,000 per second.
  • The company estimates total volume may reach 360 billion by the end of this year.

Business has been so good, in fact, that the company plans to move to larger quarters to accommodate its 200+ employees. The new headquarters will be at 1401 Walnut Street in downtown Boulder, near its current location on Pearl Street. The move is planned for early May. With nearly 20,000 square feet of new space, the company says it will be able to double its headcount as it continues to increase its customer support, engineering, operations, sales, marketing and leadership functions.

In addition to its Boulder and Denver locations, SendGrid has offices in Orange County, CA and Providence, RI, as well as operations in New York, San Francisco, and the U.K.

SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin

SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin

SendGrid is a service that sends emails that originate automatically from software applications, such as account registrations, password resets, friend or follower requests, purchase confirmations and other notifications. Its cloud-based platform allows businesses to avoid the cost and complexity of maintaining their own custom email infrastructures. The service also tracks emails, providing statistics on whether it was received, opened or clicked on.

Since its founding, SendGrid has enjoyed continued investment. Six months after its launch in the summer of 2009, it raised $750,000 in Series A funding from a group that included Highway 12 Ventures, SoftTech VC, FF Angel LLC and other angel investors.

A few months later, it raised another $5 million from the same investors, this time joined by Matt Mullenweg, the inventor of the WordPress blogging platform, and several others. Then, in early 2012, the company got a significant $21.6 million boost from a Series B round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, along with Foundry Group, Highway 12 Ventures, SoftTechVC, 500 Startups and Bullet Time Ventures. That funding brought the total investment in the company to more than $27 million.

"The email landscape is changing as social services, web and mobile app functionality replaces email for some aspects of casual conversation," said Byron Deeter, a partner in Bessemer Venture Partners. "These same applications, however, almost universally utilize an email address as a primary form of user signup, authentication and notification. It's one of the most common ways that digital businesses communicate with their customers. That’s why we expect SendGrid to see continued growth along with the web app and cloud ecosystems that it supports."

SendGrid has also steadily built an experienced management team. The company hired Jim Franklin, a former Oracle executive, as its CEO in 2011. (Last year, Franklin was named “Technology Community Connector of the Year” by the Colorado Technology Association.) Chad Varra, the firm’s CFO, had been Vice President of Finance and Accounting at Rally Software before joining SendGrid 2010.

Last week, the company announced the addition of Paul Ford as its new Vice President of Product and Marketing. Ford most recently served in senior marketing and business development capacities at Softlayer Technologies. Before that, he held a corporate development role at Rackspace Hosting and also founded several of his own companies. He will be responsible for leading SendGrid's global marketing efforts, driving overall product strategy and new product creation.

"Paul is a results-driven business leader with a track record of creative thinking and community building that will be critical as SendGrid embarks on its next phase of growth," says Franklin. "We already have a tremendous foothold in the web and mobile application ecosystem, and we're confident that Paul has the right mix of experience and vision to help us build a new layer of end-user business and product relationships."

While the company is reportedly closing in on annual revenues approaching $50 million, SendGrid is not standing still. In 2012, the company launched SendGrid Labs, an internal skunk works project to build developer tools and services. According to the firm’s website, SendGrid Labs “aims to provide creative and innovative solutions to common developer pain points to help them focus, be more productive and scale.”

The program has already introduced its first product, Loader.io, a free load testing service that allows developers to stress test web applications with thousands of client connections.

If SendGrid Labs grows as fast as the core business, the company could be looking for larger digs before the boxes are even unpacked at 1401 Walnut.

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