How We Grew Our Email Template Builder From 0 To 1M Users [$400K MRR]

Published: November 25th, 2023
Dmitry Kudrenko
Founder, Stripo
from Wilmington, DE, USA
started February 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Dmytro Kudrenko. Although I began my career as a programmer, I became a serial entrepreneur in the IT sector. Despite my background, people associate me with marketing because my biggest products are developed for marketers.

To date, my partners and I have founded four IT companies, but I now am eager to introduce you to Stripo, one of our flagship products.

Stripo is an intuitive and flexible email template builder designed to simplify the email creation process for marketers by eliminating the need for coding skills. With Stripo, it’s easy to build an email and use one-click export to push it to Mailchimp, Gmail, or any other 80+ marketing automation platforms or email clients we are integrated with.

It helps marketers craft professional emails more easily and quickly, thereby affording them the time for real marketing.

Stripo also offers a Plugin like version of the editor that can be embedded into any CRM, CDP, etc.

I was building Stripo as a tool for marketers, but shortly after its release, I found that about 30% of our clients used Stripo for business correspondence.

I launched Stripo in 2017, and it went from zero to one million users worldwide, a milestone that I am proud of. Our monthly recurring revenue (MRR) is now about $400,000.


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

About 25 years ago, I thought my calling in this world was to do coding. My dream was to be a programmer for life, and I did everything to achieve this. My partners (my fellow students) and I founded the software development company Ardas. We mostly did outsourced software development for enterprise long-term projects. It was an interesting time for us, and now Ardas is a successful company with over 300 seasoned developers.

But 12 years ago, we decided that we had learned everything about creating great products, so we chose to develop one ourselves. We created our first product, Yespo (a Marketing Automation System). That was when I became a true entrepreneur and understood that the world is much more complicated than just delivering awesome code to a customer. Running Yespo, a tool for email marketers, taught me a great deal. One aspect was the challenges that email marketers face.

I learned that crafting an HTML email that renders as planned across various email clients and devices requires coding skills, which many marketers typically lack. Consequently, they find themselves investing time in learning to code rather than focusing on core marketing activities. This bothered me a lot.

In web development, the design had long been separated from data and logic, thereby streamlining many processes and allowing non-technical creators to produce sophisticated, interactive content; however, email development lagged behind. We even understood why this happens — almost everyone who starts working on an email editor adds the ability to send emails, collect data for personalization, and gather analytics after getting their first clients.

However, they often forget to update or improve the editor itself. In other words, email service providers, aka customer data platforms, simply lack time and focus.

We understood that the numerous unresolved issues in email marketing occur due to a lack of focus because we had already walked that path, having created a customer data platform.

Therefore, we decided to build an editor where 100% of our attention could be devoted solely to simplifying the process of creating professional emails without requiring technical skills. Our goal was to ensure that these emails were not limited in flexibility and could accommodate any desired features.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

Building Stripo’s first version was a challenge, mainly because we had a limited team due to financial constraints.

Based on our experience, we understood that it's essential to start with the best, with 100% commitment from everyone involved, and a development team of at least 3 people plus QA, BA, CEO, and a designer, because the design and email coding were our main expertise here.

Although we didn’t have many people, we had healthy debates, with one team member often persuading another to make better decisions. We were all developers by trade, but we understood that our solution quality and how we resolved users’ problems mattered more than code sophistication.

After creating the editor, we realized that we were not just competing with other email editors but also with ESPs. At the time of Stripo's founding, there were already numerous ESPs in the market. To persuade people to switch from their existing ESPs to us for email creation, we knew we needed to do more than just be better.

We had to solve their problems because, in our editor, users could only build emails and then export them, which was an additional step that people would accept only if we could genuinely address their email creation challenges.

This posed a significant challenge, but we understood the need to provide users with a way to create emails not just with traditional drag-and-drop blocks but with modules. We aimed to allow users to create content once and have the flexibility to change data without altering the design or vice versa — modify the design without impacting the data. This different approach to email creation was our vision from the start.

We initially offered our product for free because, at the start, what matters most is not the money you receive from clients but the confidence that the product can deliver regular value. Therefore, our main indicator was the recurrent use of our product. Once we made sure our product brought value, after nine months, we introduced a paid plan to cover team expenses, which numbered around $20,000 per month.

We carefully selected our pricing solution to be competitive in terms of functionality rather than simply being the cheapest option on the market. This decision allowed us to attract users who valued our quality and features rather than those who sought a lower price. Our initial minimum price was $10, but as the competition raised their prices and we didn’t… that’s a story for another time.

To make it easier for users to work with our emails, we integrated with over 80 ESPs, a gradual process. Rather than relying on APIs, we opted for direct integrations, making it a seamless experience wherein users didn't need to edit code. Given that it was important for us to integrate with as many EPSs as possible, we organized the integration process in such a way that we could add a new system for integration in under two days. I think it is worth mentioning that at the start, we integrated with the most prominent ESPs, and now we add new ones per our users’ requests.

Speaking of the development per se, we used the Angular framework for the front end + Java stack technologies for the backend. We had chosen this solution because we had extensive multi-year experience developing SaaS using precisely the Java stack technologies of microservice architecture. And we deployed all services on Amazon AWS.

While many advise being ambitious for financial success, our ambition lies in our goal of making email marketers’ lives easier and improving emails in our inboxes.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Launching the business was centered on the core belief that in software development, the most critical aspect is not what you develop but the problem you solve. Our approach aimed to minimize the code required to solve a problem effectively.

Our first adopters were marketing agencies. They varied in size from five to over 1,000 employees. I visited numerous agencies — sometimes taking flights to different countries to observe their practices and gather a variety of experiences and insights. What immensely benefited us was active engagement with marketing professionals, enriching our technical expertise with their insights.

We aimed to save them a considerable amount of time through modules — AKA modular email design — the ability to manage multiple projects within a single account, and a wide range of integrations.

At the outset, we integrated with Gmail, as it was a well-known email client. Surprisingly, we discovered that 30% of our users exported their emails to Gmail. We reached out to them and found out they were creating business emails in HTML format in our editor and then sending them to clients through Gmail. This revelation showed us that our product had applications beyond marketing.

Subsequently, we added integration with Outlook through OFT files, making it possible for users to send beautifully designed emails in Outlook. This decision attracted a significant number of users, including HR professionals who sent internal company emails and many others.

Creating mockups and prototypes and openly sharing them with competitors was a crucial part of our launch strategy. Though some of them didn't understand our openness, it was vital in our early days.

We planned to be a global product from the very beginning. We have users across the world, and our website was available in four languages, including English, from day one. Within a year, we added four more languages based on the regions from which most of our clients came.

Currently, our website is available in eight languages (English, German, French, Ukrainian, and other widespread languages), and the user accounts correspond to the languages on the site, along with Czech. We designed our platform to make it easy to add new languages, with translations done by native speakers.

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

1) Customer acquisition

Customer acquisition was a key aspect of our business strategy, and we utilized various channels to reach our target audience. Our primary acquisition channels included:

  • SEO;
  • content marketing;
  • partnership;
  • PR;
  • innovations.

One notable success story was our ability to organically acquire large brands.

Recognizing the value of our product, many prominent companies naturally came to us.

Through organic channels, a major agency discovered us when our editor’s price was below $40.

The agency contacted us and was pleasantly surprised to learn that our pricing allowed their 300 team members to create emails on our platform. This client’s feedback and suggestions were invaluable, as they consistently provided insights on how to improve our platform to suit agency workflows better. Our collaboration helped us understand the needs of agencies and streamline their processes.

2) Content marketing

Content marketing has been the cornerstone of our customer acquisition strategy, aligning with our mission to "shape the evolution of email marketing." Here's how content marketing plays a crucial role in achieving our mission:

  • ecosystem. Our content covers everything from email builders and photo editors to task management tools. It educates our audience about the various elements needed for effective email marketing;
  • driving innovation. We explore and explain the implementation of new technologies, such as generative AI for email copy, AMP for email, email annotations, interactive modules, and more;
  • being a standard. Our goal is to become a trusted source where email marketers can learn and gain insights. We share knowledge and expertise, helping email marketers build successful campaigns and navigate industry challenges;
  • data security. Content also communicates our commitment to data security. We ensure that email codes are secure, preventing scams and phishing. This builds trust with our audience;
  • embedded quality. We prioritize the quality of our product. Content helps us convey our dedication to improving existing features.

Organic traffic driven by this content is the primary customer acquisition channel. Our blog is focused on providing insights into email marketing, and we occasionally share updates about our editor. We recently initiated a series of interviews with opinion leaders, where we asked them about the unaddressed challenges faced by marketers globally. Sometimes, we share our clients’ use cases. A recent one was a case study with FC Chelsey and an interview with Forbes.

What's most important is that our blog faithfully serves the mission and vision of our company.

We create eBooks on subjects that are essential yet scarcely covered by our niche (e.g., email gamification and localization), often collaborating with opinion leaders to delve into these subjects. Additionally, we host numerous educational webinars on these topics and frequently participate as panelists at various events.

The main goal of our content team now is to become a place where email marketers learn how to build certain things and where they know they can trust our knowledge and expertise. And I would like to think we’re halfway there.

Paid advertising is limited in our strategy due to cost considerations. While some are willing to pay $1,000 per customer, which may bring more in the long run, we operate on a different scale, with costs per customer acquisition ranging from $10 to $30. Therefore, organic traffic generated through content remains our primary and cost-effective customer acquisition channel.

3) Customer retention

Customer retention is a vital part of our strategy, and it's driven by our commitment to innovation, quality, and security.

No matter what we do, no matter what new features we implement, maintaining the editor’s performance remains one of our top priorities. If faced with the choice between adding a new feature and fixing an existing bug, we always choose the latter.

Data privacy is also a critical concern for us. We not only protect our client's data but also work diligently to ensure that scams and phishing attempts through email codes generated with us are impossible.

We constantly grow, add new features to our editor that help marketers utilize innovations in emails just as they become available, improve the editor's performance, work on the UI, and provide our clients with everything for more convenient collaboration within teams.

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

We prioritize simplicity and ease of use in our product. For us, it’s not just a word, but a set of values that make our product user-friendly and easy to use. However, flexibility is often sacrificed in the pursuit of simplicity.

You can make something simple by allowing users to perform a limited number of actions and restricting everything else. But what we want is the ability to do everything while keeping it simple. Our guiding principle is that you can achieve anything you can envision without limitations.

We aim to eliminate any barriers to understanding what you’re doing by making everything transparent. This philosophy extends even to our code editor, where you can see the results in real-time, ensuring a seamless experience. Our most recent product release, Stripo 5.0, is designed with user-friendliness in mind.

It offers increased flexibility and an intuitive user interface. Additionally, it introduces several innovative features, including:

  • modules to separate data from design;
  • collaboration tools to streamline the email creation process and approve emails faster, whether you're a developer or a marketer (much like the collaborative functionality of Google Docs);
  • real WYSIWYG editor that enables users to switch between desktop and mobile email versions to perfect their content and view exactly what subscribers will see in their inboxes.

In 2019, Stripo was the first email template builder to adopt Gmail’s AMP 4 Email. However, AMP has its limitations, as it isn't supported by Apple Mail and other email clients. To overcome this, we developed an Interactive content generator that allows the creation of games (based on AMP and HTML5 & CSS) that work across major email clients, including Gmail and Apple Mail.

Currently, we're working on features for Enterprise, including commenting and real-time co-editing.

We are also actively working on enhancing email accessibility. While emails created with Stripo are fully optimized for screen readers, we're addressing issues related to design, such as center-aligned copy and non-sans-serif fonts.

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

When you're creating a new product, ask yourself, "What problem does it solve?" My advice to entrepreneurs is to remain focused on addressing the core problem rather than getting fixated on the methodology of solving it.

Through the experience of starting this business, we've gained valuable insights:

1) Ambition should be directed not solely toward financial gain but also toward achieving goals that contribute to the greater good. While many advise being ambitious for financial success, our ambition lies in our goal of making email marketers’ lives easier and improving emails in our inboxes.

2) If your aim is global, start with a global perspective from day one, as transitioning from a local product to a global one will be challenging.

3) No matter how confident you are in your endeavors, it's crucial to have something to rely on. For me, numbers are my anchor, which provides a sense of convenience and trust. Everything should be tested and grounded in numbers right from the beginning.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Here are the platforms and tools I use most often:

  • Slack for team communication;
  • Notability (Notes for iPad), and sometimes FreeForms to draw some sketches/charts for the team;
  • Google Drive Apps (Doc, Sheet, Slides, Calendar) and Atlassian Confluence for internal docs;
  • Tableau and Google Data Studio for reports;
  • Figma for UI design review;
  • XPlanner, KanbanFlow, and Trello for project management;
  • Yespo for sending emails (Stripo embedded into Yespo as a plugin);
  • Kindle;
  • Calendly.

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

For those who are building a product or running a startup, I’d recommend that you read the following books:

I believe these books are amazing for entrepreneurs.

For marketers, I’d suggest you read the following books:

  • “Email Marketing Rules” by Chad S. White;
  • “Holistic Email Marketing” by Kath Pay;
  • “Strategic Database Marketing” by Arthur M. Hughes. This book is pretty old, but it’s filled with useful information;
  • “Email Marketing By the Numbers: How to Use the World’s Greatest Marketing Tool to Take Any Organization to the Next Level” by Chris Baggott.

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

Being an entrepreneur gives you a kind of freedom where your daily work aligns with your passions and interests, so eventually, your job becomes your hobby. This means that to be successful in what you do, you first and foremost need to find what motivates you to keep going.

When you're creating a new product, ask yourself, "What problem does it solve?" My advice to entrepreneurs is to remain focused on addressing the core problem rather than getting fixated on the methodology of solving it.

Last but not least, when launching a new product, keep in mind that being an expert in your niche is not enough to ensure your product's success. Understanding the industry, identifying client problems, and having a grasp on marketing, sales, and PR can sometimes be more important.

Where can we go to learn more?

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