Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ignacio Arriaga, and I’m one of the founders of Acumbamail, a Spanish based start-up. Acumbamail is an email marketing software, which allows also send massive SMS. We also offer an SMTP service for the clients who need to config transactional emails, and a bunch of integrations with other SaaS like Magento, PrestaShop or Shopify. We always try to improve our product with new features like email marketing automation, that was implemented last year, or a landing page editor that we expect to launch in the next months.
Although our main customers are small and medium size company, we provide service to big companies as well. Since the beginning, we have tried to maintain an equilibrium between a really good service, customer care, and competitive prices. By now, almost 40,000 clients have used our service.
As we are a Spanish company, so Spain has been always our main target. However, we are already expanding to other markets, like Italy and South America.
Acumbamail was founded in 2013 among by three partners, and now we are 8 employees, we have $85,000 per month average revenue, and the company was acquired in 2018 by MailUp Group.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before Acumbamail, when we were 25, we build a crowdfunding platform, which was the first one launched here in Spain.
The team was slightly different, and we mainly learned that you should have very clear the unit economics of your business to success. We grew it to more than 100.000 users and then we sold to a different company. We were not convinced of the units economics of the project and we decide to move on.
If you want to bootstrap your business the most important things are having a strong business model since the beginning, and keeping an eye on your cash flows.
My partner and I are both technical people, both coders, so we decided to look for an idea that fit better with our background and, for our previous business experience, with a clear way to monetize.
As the email marketing platforms based in Spain were not very powerful during that time, we decide that can be a good niche, because the unit economics of the business are clear and the main need to develop a platform was technical knowledge, which we already had. The email marketing is a commodity and it very clear how the business model works, so we didn’t need to make a validation process.
We bootstrapped the company from scratch, we only invest around 4.000$ that were mandatory to build a company in Spain and we never made any funding rounds after that.
Take us through the process of building the product.
From the beginning of the development, we had a usable product within 4 months. We sold our previous company at the end of 2012 and we were charging to customers on March of 2013, but the development never stopped, since then we are deploying new features almost every week. We were completely focused on this as we have some cash for our living expenses from the exit of our previous company.
In the beginning, the product was quite simple, with only the main features (create a list, a campaign, send it and check the reports) but, since the beginning, was really easy to use.
We had clear that our focus should be to serve Spanish SMB’s because the knowledge of the English language in Spain is limited, so we would have a competitive advantage that we reinforce with very dedicated customer support, by phone, also in Spanish.
Right now, our development process is very customer focused, we run NPS surveys frequently to detect the needs of our customers. Before that, we were very hunch driven which leads us to develop a lot of features that never were used.
The whole system is built in Python, using the Django framework. We also use MySQL, Celery, RabbitMQ. All of them well-tested technologies, we prefer this instead of experimenting.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We had a small network in the Spanish market coming from our previous experience and we used it to get our first customers.
We also partnered with a hosting brand in a revenue share agreement that provides us some recurrent income at the beginning and around 100 customers. We were lucky because we had an inside contact that helps us to get the deal.
We were organically ranking for several searches that brought us some relevant traffic, because the competition in our language was very low and we were having around 20-30 new customers per month in the first year.
After that, we pushed more on SEO and other acquisition channels (PPC and referrals) and right now we are getting around 100-120 new customers per month.
Currently, we have more than 3,500 companies that pay for our services, and several thousand that use our free version.
We haven’t seen an explosion in our growth at any time, as we have never invested a lot in marketing, we reached more than 1,000 recurring customers investing less than $10,000 in marketing.
For me, the biggest lesson is to launch fast and listen to your customers to improve the product quickly.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We have a very wide marketing strategy in which we worked with a lot of channels. The two main channels for us are SEO and PPC (mainly using Google Adwords), which bring around 60% of the paying customers.
For PPC we try to optimize every bid for every keyword to maintain our objective CPA. We analyze the campaigns usually to keep control of this.
We also create a lot of green content for SEO, in our blog (blog.acumbamail.com) and in our site, targeting keywords which our target audience could be searching.
For a b2b model like us, PPC is mandatory but, in long term, the most rentable channel is SEO, so we think companies like us must invest in this practice too, even if takes a little time to see the results.
Obviously, we use email marketing as a retaining tool. We also create a lot of content in Spanish which helps us to rank better and also to educate our current and future customers in good practices in email marketing.
We are in the social networks but they don’t provide us a relevant number of customers (< 3%), I think it is not the best place to attract leads for b2b business, at least with the organic reach. Our type of client mostly takes the decision to subscribe to our service consulting on search engines. The social networks could be a good place for remarketing users and try an upgrade strategy.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we are part of a bigger company, as we sold the business to MailUp, an Italian email marketing company.
We are operating as an independent company and we are 8 people full time. We are still focused on scalability (with such small team we are serving more than 3500 paying customers).
We are trying to expand to different markets (specially LATAM and Italy), so the future seems interesting, so we are facing new challenges every day.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
If you want to bootstrap your business the most important things are having a strong business model since the beginning, and keeping an eye on your cash flows. With a really tiny investment (3500€) we have sold more than 2.5 million of euros in emails by controlling the expenses and creating very profitable processes.
Automate every repetitive task should be the goal of everyone who wants to keep a small team. For this, it is very helpful to have the technological background of all the founding members of the team, which lead us to look for automatic solutions for problems that are usually faced in a non-scalable way.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Github for storing the code
- Slack for communication
- HelpScout and Olark for providing support,
- Stripe and Gocardless for processing the payments,
- Ahrefs for analyzing our SEO strategy.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I think that giving advice is a very risky practice, because everything that has worked for a business depends of a lot of factors that are difficult to include in the advice. Said that I think that the more important thing in business is have clear goals and being able to adapt to reach them.
It is very complicated to execute a business plan as it was originally conceived, so it is important to move fast and not embrace the original idea blindly.
The most important thing is the execution and I think that the ideas are just a way of start experimenting.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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