Last month, I made a discovery that now seems obvious: email is not dead.
The realization came after I sent an email to a few thousand NSFWCORP subscribers about some trivial thing and was absolutely inundated with responses. Not just replies to my message but feature suggestions, constructive criticism, thoughts on the state of the universe and a hundred other topics. For all those who would wish otherwise, email remains the best way to reach a large number of people and have them respond in a meaningful way.
None of this was surprising to Chad Jackson.
After reading my post, Jackson got in touch to pitch me on his new startup, Sendicate, which was founded on the odd notion that email’s best days might actually still be ahead.
In its simplest form, Sendicate is an email newsletter service, competing in the same space as Mailchimp and Exact Target. But the similarities don’t go much further than that: Sendicate is what the email newsletter would look like it were invented today, without a couple of decades of legacy thinking.
For example, if the email newsletter were invented today, it’d be far, far easier to build a sexy looking HTML email. No code, not hacking of templates — just something as simple to use as Tumblr, which allows authors to drop in graphic and text elements into a pre-designed “theme”, like a child piling up building blocks.
And then there’s the fact that most email newsletters today still exist in isolation. A service like Mailchimp hosts hundreds of thousands (millions?) of lists, but there’s no easy way for a subscriber to list X to discover that they might very well enjoy the content of list Y. Jackson hopes to change that by developing a “Netflix-style recommendation engine” for email newsletters.
And there’s more…
Says Jackson: “Since we effectively have a CMS for email, it is trivial to show the email content in any form online: like Pinterest, or Google News etc, and also sending out recommended content and digest info, like Twitter and Quora do.”
The ultimate aim is for recipients of email newsletters to be able to share and reshare the blocks of content in all the ways the Age of Social has lead them to expect.
The original version of Sendicate was created within Jackson’s digital agency, The 88, which has worked with clients like GE, Estee Lauder and Thompson Hotels. It was Thompson that prompted Jackson to start considering the future of email. Explains Jackson…
“We were tasked with designing and coding a newsletter [for Thompson]. We tested in over 30 different mail clients and made sure it looked perfect in everything from Lotus Notes to Gmail to Outlook. Our final version had dummy copy, and all Thompson had to do was replace the text and images with the final copy, but the WYSIWYG editor destroyed all of the design elements we hand-coded in.
Thompson realized their mistake after they blasted out hundreds of thousands of shitty emails. The thought of hand coding emails week in week out was a fate we couldn’t handle, so we created the proto version of Sendicate that allowed for very simple content management. In hindsight, we had created an MVP without setting out to. Thompson loved it, and each week effortlessly sent out flawless and beautiful emails.
We all agreed that it would be a great product to spin out, but there were always new clients and new projects getting in the way. Eventually I just had to commit to Sendicate to make it happen, and the company was formed in march this year and it has been my focus ever since.”
Sendicate is backed by $100k of Jackson’s own cash. He’s joined in the venture by co-founder Thomas Mastorakos, an art director who has worked with Kanye West, Rihanna, and Coldplay. Rounding out the team is lead engineer, Sebastian Valenzuela who has worked on Art.sy and Weheartit.com and has recently been a visiting scientist with the MIT iLabs project.
During the company’s private beta, Sendicate has sent out over two million emails and now they’re ready to launch into “open beta”. Today, in fact. You can take Sendicate for a spin here.