How A DMCA Complaint Led Us To Build A Profitable Email Management Tool

Abhishek Anand
Founder, Mutant Mail
$2K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
Mutant Mail
from Sheridan, WY, USA
started May 2021
$2,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
2
Employees
8.16M
alexa rank
198
followers
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How A DMCA Complaint Led Us To Build A Profitable Email Management Tool

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, My name is Abhishek, the founder of Mutant Mail, Incises, Know My Site, Reality Burst, Smart Banya, and services. All these SaaS products and services work under the umbrella of Fresent LLC.

We began working on Mutant Mail when 3 of our hosting servers were taken down, due to email monitoring negligence and launched it three months afterward.

Mutant Mail is simply an Email Management Solution if you own multiple domains, but don't have a dedicated team to manage your emails.

Geared towards Entrepreneurs, Small businesses, Marketers, Individuals, and Hustlers, Mutant Mail allows you to effortlessly manage all your Domain Emails from a single Inbox.

We are the only server-side solution to this problem, and our max usage account has close to 245 email ids, managed across 29 domains, managed over 3 email ids effortlessly.

Our main goal is to help our customers succeed using Mutant Mail. After all, their success is our success. It took us 2 weeks on our soft-launch to acquire 10 paid customers, and 5 days on AppSumo launch to get another 100 paid customers. As you can imagine things have been crazy for us with the launch.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Two years ago, we decided to change things.

The motive was clear for us to be free. Freedom to be our boss, call something established our own and still maintain the lifestyle we always had with our job. I wanted to have more time with my family.

I think everyone loves to be free and be their boss, but few take steps towards it.

It's true that quitting a stable job and getting out of your comfort zone can be a herculean task, but trust me. If/when you can make that happen, you will forget about difficulties because your life will change.

My dad used to tell me, there are two kinds of people in this world. One who builds their dream and others who build the dream of others.

Similar way, there are two kinds of jobs. One that takes the risk, faces the uncertainty, and reap a much higher reward for success. That's the dreamers, founders, entrepreneurs, employers. Other ones are with certainty and comfort. That's employees.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with belonging to either kind. But if you can forgo the stability and muster enough courage to venture into uncertainty, your life can change.

Since the inception of my Professional Software journey in 2010, I have had the pleasure to work with world-renowned software companies. Including Infosys, Intel, Oracle, HPE, McAfee, and so on. And they have to lead me where I am today.

I have been always off/on into the Affiliate Marketing field for as long as I remember. So, when my mind for change was made, naturally that's what I went with. But, let me tell you something Affiliate Marketing gurus don't tell you, it's not sustainable unless you can build a cult around it. That's why these so-called gurus sell their course.

The next one was dropshipping. Oh yeah, I tried that too, no kidding. I tried first on a happymisty domain. Ironically, I was not able to find a good name for the domain and my cat Misty was around. Well, I was able to sell some in the store but was nowhere break-even, forget about being profitable.

The next one was running a dropshipping store on the Fresent's website. Things worked decently, but again, dropshipping is a hustle, not a business. Simply because you need to keep finding the next hot product every two months.

So, I decided to teach the Hindi language audience about my experience and how things happen in these two. Better someone can learn from my experience before they make a mistake right.

The fun part, I got 3400+ students on Udemy. Yeah, I was even surprised.

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Trust me all you need is a sign. That's when I decided to use my professional skills to do side projects and Fresent LLC was formed.

It started with services and consulting (websites, WordPress, SEO, etc), and we are running multiple websites for various purposes.

Finding an unexplored idea in today's crowded space is not easy, but opportunities can knock in surprising ways.

We were running our SaaS Incises (Premium URL shortener with geo/device targeting, pixel retargeting, bio link, etc) and someone decided to create a Netflix replica. Netflix's phishing site was shortened through our URL shortener and we received a DMCA complaint from our hosting with an option to respond and fix the issue within 16 hours.

It was sent on our legal handle at Fresent, and even though we are supposed to check it, we missed checking it that day.

The result, alarms going over all our server monitoring with our websites offline. We were able to get our servers back online and fix the issue within a few hours, but we cannot ignore it happened because we all use so many email ids on all our domains.

I think everyone loves to be free and be their boss, but few take steps towards it.

That's when we knew we needed a solution to direct all domain's emails on single (or few limited) email ids. But email forwarding was not enough, because every time we needed to reply, we had to log in to that individual email id daily.

That's how the idea of Mutant Mail was born.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

So, we had a problem after our server took down the incident, and an idea for its solution (to manage all domain's email ids from one inbox), but we did not know how to achieve that.

We were not sure if it would be a product someone would buy. All we wanted was a solution to a problem we had.

But, that's exactly how it feels when you have a good idea, and there is no solution to fit them all.

So, we decided to take things to step by step and looked at everything possible that we can do.

The first step was to use an email client with pop/IMAP/SMTP for every email id we had. So, we could monitor all emails in one place and reply.

Now, theoretically, there is no limit to how many emails id's your email client can support.

But if you have used your email client with more than 5-10 email ids, you know it's a mess. A long drop-down with every send/reply is not making it easy either. To top that, we had around 45 email ids that needed monitoring and response back if needed.

Next, we used email forwarding from our domain registrars. Now email forwarding is great because then all your emails converge into one Inbox. But, that leads to another problem. How in the world do you reply to those email ids? Because if you simply hit reply on a forwarded mail, it goes through your mail, and not from your domain's email.

That's bad because it doesn't give you a professional business appearance, which is needed.

The only flow that you can do with forwarded emails is, go back and login to that specific email id (where you want to reply), search for the specific email, then reply to it.

Normally, replying to one, two emails are not a problem. But when you need to do it daily on multiple mails, that's a heck of a job. It consumes hours of your time that can be devoted to growing your business instead.

Failing to find a solution, we had an interesting idea, when I was discussing this problem with a friend. What if we routed both forward, reply and send email through a sort of email gateway server that we control and extract the information of to/from then send emails from gateway instead.

Now, as you may know, the local part of any email id is processed by the email server of that particular domain. So, if our software-controlled it, we could decipher the format and act as a gateway, instead of a simple email server.

So, it was time to choose a tech stack for it. I am primarily a Java and Big Data Architect by profession, but with some experience of PHP, and UI from a side hustle. We settled on Laravel finally, simply because we wanted to stick with PHP (as java is resource-intensive comparatively). And if we outgrow, we can also refactor code to java or another enterprise tech.

Most important thing is to build MVPs as fast as possible. For the CSS, we went with the tailwind, as it was the shiny new thing on the block.

In the initial phase, we didn't have the UI at all, just Laravel backend code, MySQL DB, and everything managed by our control/destination/recipient Email ID. Yup we were managing all email ids from a single email id ourselves.

MVP was pretty fast without UI, took us around one month to build, iterate and stabilize. But, it looked amazing, managing so many email ids from a single email id. So, we decided to work on a basic UI, that would allow us to add a domain on the account and disable the existing email id, that's it.

By the end of the second month, we had a functional UI and a working backend for our email gateway. This is how it looked on our soft launch.

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It was called Star Trek UI by our early customers. More about that below.

Describe the process of launching the business.

After our over the moon period subsided, we started to consider if there might be other people who are facing a similar problem of multiple email id. We asked a couple of our friends, across the domain. Everyone we asked Individuals, Dropshippers, Affiliate Marketers, Cold Mailers said they find it challenging to maintain so many email ids.

But the reality is not known unless you ask people for money. Skin in the game can be a completely different story. That's the reason, so many well-established books clearly state to create a coming soon landing page with a waiting queue put to 1 Dollar. Run some ads on it and if you see traction, you are good.

But, we were different, we already had MVP, that we were using for ourselves. So, we were past the coming soon idea validation, and showing MVP to test is way better.

It was not about making money in the start, rather testing if people want it. The cool thing about products like this is, once it's set up, the retention rate is very high. As no one wants to touch their domain records often unless things break.

So, we gave free codes in a couple of WordPress groups for people to test Mutant Mail.

Even though the response was overwhelming in the comment, only very few people registered for it, for free. It was very disappointing really.

But all that response made us think that maybe people don't trust us enough because we haven't attached a price tag to it. It's normal human perception to think that costly things are better unless you are famous already.

The reason most people are disappointed with their launch is that they over-expect things. Being in the software industry has taught me to always have the least expectation, under-promise, and over-deliver.

So, we decided to do a soft launch on a single Facebook group of 2.5k members with a discount promo on a price tag. Honestly, we still owe thanks to the group owner who allowed us to post it, as most don't allow self-posting. Guess what, we had 3 paying customers the very next day. Sounds amazing when things turn out good, right?

It was still the same product we were giving for free and people were ignoring it. Marketing and perception matter a great deal in business, sometimes at par or more than actual software.

Two days later, we hit our first 10 customers.

We decided to create an account on Reddit and post about it there. We were not sure how it would be received, because fellow Redditors can be harsh and savage if they don't like something.

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So, we thought, ok that went well, let's take things to the next level. Because now we had traction. We knew some people needed it and were willing to pay for it. The question was where to launch it. Till this point, the only thing we wanted was to put Mutant Mail in front of as many eyes as possible. Even better if those people would be owning or managing multiple websites.

We talked with multiple deal websites and finally settled with AppSumo.

It went to and fro multiple times with their team, and took around 25 days to go live.

The only problem with these deal websites is, they promote your product only as much as you make sales and get reviews. More, the merrier.

Five days into the launch, we received the next 100 customers and Seven five-star reviews.

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And rest has become history.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Our launch was decent since we are a new company with new software in the market.

Not a blockbuster for sure, but well enough to keep us on our toes with support.

You see, when we launched, we were immediately hit with non-stop support requests and the only support system we had in place was the Facebook chat plugin and email.

With absolutely no guide, or on-boarding process. We were having so much fun with the product, we didn't realize, people would be needing step by step for everything, even for what Mutant Mail does.

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These are visits to our registration page. Not landing page

So, the only logical choice was to put together a Knowledge base fast, because no one wants to stop sales from coming in. The very next day, we had a knowledge base up and on the website of Mutant Mail, that people could look and set up things with Mutant Mail.

That led to things calming down a bit on the support side, but we kept on receiving comments from potential customers,

What does it do?

Is it an email client?

How can it send, receive, reply allow their domain's email from one email id?

What about privacy and security?

We have a number of those questions on AppSumo that we have answered and need to be ported to our knowledge base. That's when I decided to do live events with some Facebook groups, which were directly or indirectly related to app sumo.

Each live event built amazing hype for the product when a live demonstration was made. Gave people a great satisfaction that Mutant Mail does, what it claims to do before their own eyes.

Now, you cannot do a live event for a Facebook community and not have a giveaway for them. It's considered standard practice with them, which I was not aware of. Thankfully, my host was amazing and beautifully guided me for that.

The giveaway creates another set of hype for your products. Because people who want the product and didn't get in the giveaway will go purchase it because of FOMO. For every code I gave away for free, I have made approximately 5 sales.

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And the best part of this setup is. I have not spent a single dollar on ads yet. Apart from well dollar 5, retargeting ad I am running on Facebook.

So, if we deduct a 35% cut of AppSumo, the rest all goes towards our company. (It's a different story if you do select deal with AppSumo, they take away 40+35 = 75% of sale)

But the most important factor for us, in keeping our refund rate to under 5% has been hands-down support.

It has always been all hands on deck for support to resolve the issue as fast as possible. First 50 support requests, we brought each one of them over zoom and resolved their issue then and there. The result was a happy customer, which will vouch for us, anytime someone asks about us.

Apart from the above things. I would highly advise always creating a free or trial version of the product, even though it's highly restrictive. We had so many customers, whom we asked to try the free tier, to see if Mutant Mail satisfies their requirement, and they decided to buy a plan from us.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

In one line, the product is working perfectly, and being received by customers exceptionally well.

So, the future is bright for the product.

We are already profitable with an MRR of $2k approx on our subscription and the AppSumo launch built the corpus.

Our launch has given us a long roadmap, with suggestions flowing in every day.

We added functionality to add "From Name" for every email id, just yesterday, as our customers suggested.

Connecting directly with a founder, or executive makes your customer feel special and more likely to make them loyal. They will be your ambassador to bring in fresh customers and support you whenever you make a new post, go live, ask for feedback, and others.

Another top request from multiple customers was to remove the star trek UI, as it was hurting their eyes. Even though our system is designed to work on set and forget model. You set up management things, and then for daily usage, all Send, Reply, Receive of emails can be done from Recipient/Destination/Control Inbox. Accepting and implementing feedback is very important. As it drives your product to market fit and makes it more useful to customers.

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New UI layout and color combination

We also have our Affiliate launch coming up on Jvzoo on 15th Jan 2022.

People underestimate the power of Affiliates because they can be an Army to drive your sales for a cut in profit. It's the long-term relationship with affiliates that you should be banked on.

We intend to go the paid ads route with our subscription once the product is more polished after implementing all-important feedback from our early adopters.

And hype of our Affiliate launch subsides.

That will give us more sustainable growth in the long term.

The reason most people are disappointed with their launch is that they over-expect things. Being in the software industry has taught me to always have the least expectation, under-promise, and over-deliver.

I know it's difficult not to over-expect from a product you worked so hard on, but reality can be disappointing. On the other hand, if we go with the least expectation, every small success, makes you feel like a King, and boosts your morale multi-fold. That's very important.

It's equally important to be patient, consistent and your time will come. Just devoting 2-3 hours every day on a side project can change your life in a year.

Our next stop is to reach 1000 paid customers, hopefully by the end of next Quarter. Fingers crossed.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The most valuable thing for a new company and product is the attitude towards your client and patience. I'll go even one more step further and say, till the first 100 paid customers, you can't have a holiday. And if you have decided to take one, and support requests come, let them know immediately you will resolve their issue within 24 hours.

Connecting with your customers directly is the key. Not email, find a way to have a call with them. Every user that left us a review, had a zoom call with us. The reality of the software world is, without reviews you can't sell.

Connecting directly with a founder, or executive makes your customer feel special and more likely to make them loyal. They will be your ambassador to bring in fresh customers and support you whenever you make a new post, go live, ask for feedback, and others.

You just can't build a sustainable business without a backbone.

Keep pushing updates for the Software. It doesn't matter if it's getting noticed or not. Because every update you are pushing is either fixing something in the system, improving, or implementing new things. If you have a roadmap with customer feedback, even better. Use that for the next implementation. You don't have to implement all of them. Implement ones that go with your product's vision or are most in demand.

Money always follows eyeballs. So, do not care about money at the start, or to get profitable. Push on getting as many eyeballs as possible on your product. There is nothing to lose.

Either you earn a customer or you earn feedback, both are important.

We pulled clips from our live stream and put them on Mutant Mail to ensure people, understand what our product is doing. Find ways to ensure your message is getting through to potential customers.

Don't forget email marketing, building audience, free trials and tiers, customer support, and creating valuable content. And don't neglect your health while doing everything above. Nothing is more vital than your well-being. Always reserve some time for your body.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

For Hosting, We use AWS, Upcloud, and Contabo. Depends on the phase product is in.

For the Email sequence, we use self-hosted, Acelle Mail, and Amazon SES in the backend.

Graphic design comes from Canvaand Adobe Photoshop. Both are on licensed versions.

Quick mock-ups and designs come from Canva and touch-ups are done on Photoshop.

Zoomfor client calls and provides support. This reduces the explanation time on support chat, gives us a chance to interact with the customer directly and get amazing feedback.

Facebook chat plugin to provide chat support.

Mutant Mail itself, to reply to support emails.

Google doc to keep tabs on our roadmap.

As for development tools, we use PHPStorm from JetBrains. XAMPP when on Windows, Ubuntu, and LAMP as the main development setup.

Stripeis the main payment processing system.

It's so much easier to integrate into new software with their good document API. Great support and not high fees.

We intend to add more, in the future.

Google Analytics, Console, Postmaster for various usage. Though, we are in the process of de-google ourselves as much as possible.

Fiverrand Upwork to outsource some tasks, depending on the requirement.

Lastly, small utilities like notepad++, BBEdit on a day-to-day basis.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The most influential thing for me was the advice I received a long time ago. To believe in yourself when no one else does. Do not follow the crowd, people who succeed have either built something unique, niche down, or have given a twist on an existing product.

It's not about some books, videos, podcasts, or anything else, but about people that you met, learning from their stories, and improving upon.

Truth is, ideas are not that difficult to find, and they don't hold much value. Execution is where 90% of stuff happens, and it doesn't matter how many books or videos you read, there is no paved way to follow. It has to be built yourself.

From my own experience, persistence, devotion, and consistency is the key to success. Just look at Mutant Mail's review on AppSumo, each one of them will mention the founder is highly approachable and a problem solver. That can only happen when you are persistent, consistent, and have passion for the product.

Book: Talking to Humans + Running Lean (up to chapter 5).

Observe what potential customers are doing; find common patterns. Example from "talking to humans": go to a mattress store and watch how customers behave in the store (what influences decisions etc...).

You can adopt an experiment-driven framework (read Running Lean). Start with a hypothesis about a problem, then refine/change it as you talk. It's not that important what you pick as an initial problem - as long as you're able to remove your bias from the interviews.

My favorite piece of advice is to start with a problem you have. This is because it will be easier to find people "like you" that have the same problem.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I always dreamed of doing what I love. Thanks to Mutant Mail, finally we have the lime-light to do that. So my advice would be to just follow your dream and do what you love to do.

Patience, Consistency, and devotion is the key to success.

Learn technical skills, even though you don't intend to code. It helps to understand if the estimates and commitments are appropriate.

Create content every day. Make it a habit to work on your project every day, improve it, enhance it, fix it. And if you have some leisure left, try to write an article every day about your product, company or service.

Build your audience, and put at least an email sequence in place. It's important. It will make your customers feel, they aren't left out and help connect. If nothing else, create an email sequence involving these steps:

  • Welcome Email
  • CEO intro Email
  • Next Step Email
  • Educational Email
  • Pitch Email
  • Winback Email
  • Incentive Email
  • Expiry Warning Email

Don't get fixated on one idea, follow the fail-fast approach. An idea can be tested with an upcoming landing page. A product can be tested with an MVP. Don't wait for it to be completely built with what you have in your mind. That's the end goal.

Try to get it before the audience as early as possible and if it doesn't get traction implement the next best. Everyone successful has a long list of failures, no one looks at. Don't be disappointed in them, come back harder.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Abhishek Anand, Founder of Mutant Mail
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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