December 6, 2005
Six Candles: You Can’t Tell What The Living Room Looks Like From the Front Porch
Today, Return Path is six years old. I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by reflecting back on how different our business is now than we thought it would be at the beginning.
When we started Return Path, we were sure Email Change of Address (ECOA) was going to be a $100mm business. It still may be someday, but it’s not now. If you had told me when we started the company that we’d execute on ECOA but also be market leaders in email delivery assurance (which didn’t exist at the time), email list management and list rental (a huge market by the time we started), and email-based market research (which only barely existed at the time), I would have said "no way!"
But that’s where we are today, and we’re quite proud of it. There aren’t more than a dozen people left in the company from the original, original team that set out to build a new type of product called Email Change of Address back in 1999/2000, although lots of our alumni are out there and remember the early days.
Running a startup is all about flexibility. Unless you are that 1 in 100 entrepreneur whose original idea turns out to be exactly the wonderful, high-growth, high-margin business that you thought it was going to be on the back of that cocktail napkin, you need to be nimble and be able to shift as you spot new opportunities. I’m happy that our team and culture thrive on that level of flexibility.
As one of my previous managers once said, you can’t tell what the living room looks like from the front porch. You have to walk up to the front door, unlock it, and go inside and wander around before you get a real read on it, not to mention figure out if you want to have a seat.
Happy Birthday, Return Path!