For those not yet in the know, SendGrid, based in Colorado with offices worldwide, is a nifty cloud-based email platform that allows startups as well as large companies to handle large volumes of user-interaction emails, as well as automated messages, marketing emails and more.
SendGrid helps companies of any size to ensure that their emails are timely delivered, and that their customer communications meet industry best practices. According to Martin, SendGrid now handles a hefty percentage of total email traffic, worldwide. Strong odds are that you’ve already used SendGrid extensively, even if you don’t know it.
And SendGrid is known for taking pains to help the developer community and support startups.
I met Martyn and his colleague, Development Community Manager Anna Bofill Bert, at LeWeb, in Paris last year. I was struck immediately by how dedicated their team is to educating and working directly with startups.
Not only has SendGrid offered StartupYard’s current startups and alumni a generous package of free services, but they have also offered personalized, in-depth support and mentoring for all of our members.
Martyn’s full day workshop was a tremendous help, not only to our teams, but to the StartupYard team as well. I caught up with him afterward to get his thoughts on mentoring startups, and about his experiences with Central Europe.
SendGrid has a unique relationship with accelerators and the startup ecosystem, why do you spend so much time working with startups?
Martyn: We were once a startup ourselves, and even through we’ve grown beyond that point now we’ve experienced a lot of the challenges that face early stage companies, so there’s a lot of advice to be shared.
We’re in a unique position to be super supportive of these great companies at a time when they need the most help, and we’re there to help them out, not just with SendGrid credit (which is a given!), but access to our network and teams of experts.
Anything we can do to help them get to the next level, we’ll do it and we encompass all that support in a program that we call SendGrid Accelerate.
What do you see as some of the biggest early pitfalls when it comes to global SaaS startups, and their community building and marketing efforts?
Not allowing people to experience your platform, for free, quickly, and easily will be the make or break. You have to create an experience, particularly for developers that allows them to experiment in a low barrier situation, keeping that time to ‘Hello, World’ as short as possible.
There are a number of ways you can do this and it doesn’t always have to be sending a Developer Evangelist to a hackathon.
Publishing regular technical content on your blog, being very active on Stack Overflow, creating hacks that mash up your service with other great services and then telling that company about it – these are all stay at home ways to increase awareness and get people talking about what you’re doing.
As for community, you don’t have to build one from scratch if you don’t want to. Just get out there and be supportive of interesting community efforts or meetups.
If there isn’t much community in your locale, then start a meetup/group/hacking evening (anything!) and say it’s powered by your company. Watch out though, community isn’t community if you aren’t supportive, so don’t see any meetup you organise as a straight up sales pitching evening.
Several of our startups noted that you had opened their eyes to problems they didn’t know they had. Did any of our startups surprise you in turn?
We were really impressed with the SaaS concepts we were shown and just how far down the line the teams were in terms of product and traction. I’ve signed up for Testomato to use personally and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the other teams around demo day and afterwards.
SendGrid pays a lot of attention to emerging players and markets, including the CEE. What do you see as the region’s biggest unique opportunities and strengths?
CEE is a gold mine for technical talent in my opinion. You’ve got a large amount of talented developers who came up through the outsourcing companies many larger, well known companies have used over the years. Now they’re out working on their own ideas and the technical aspects are top notch.
Likewise, what are, from your perspective, the biggest challenges that startups from this region face? What kind of help do they need most?
Breaking out of the mindset of being a CEE company is key. If you’re creating a product that works everywhere, then you’re a global company and you need to think that way. Your developer marketing, and some community efforts need to reflect that.
Introductions to people in different cities who can help out, desk space for a team member, anything that gets them out to new places when they feel they need it. That’s something we try to help with at SendGrid, we even have a desk for visiting startups to use when they’re in town at our office in London!