November 3, 2008
No Separation Anxiety
When we announced last week that we were selling our Email Change of Address (ECOA) business unit to our competitor Fresh Address as part of our corporate restructuring that allows us to focus exclusively on our flagship deliverability and whitelisting business, a bunch of people asked if me if that decision was emotional or difficult. As ECOA was Return Path’s initial business — you know, the one that was going to be $100 million in revenues within 5 years — shouldn’t I be sad to see it go?
In the end, it wasn’t a difficult decision to sell the business. Times have changed. While it still works well as a product and generates profitable revenue, our company has been completely transformed over the years, first into a broad-based provider of multiple email-marketing and market research services; and more recently into a pure play in email deliverability and whitelisting. I think the reason the decision wasn’t difficult has more to do with the fact that we haven’t done much to update the product or think about it or invest in it in almost five years. So selling it was sort of like going to a funeral of a beloved relative who has suffered a long bout of Alzheimer’s Disease — the end is sad, but you really had to say goodbye to the loved one and come to terms with the situation many years before.
While my cofounders George and Jack and I all believe that ECOA could still be a big business some day, it’s clearly not in our critical path to build it out. We wish our friends at Fresh Address good luck and ask them to take good care of our baby — and our clients!
But as this transaction does give one a moment to reflect, and as I am always a fan of remembering one’s roots and honoring one’s history, I will note that were it not for ECOA, Return Path wouldn’t be here today. The initial team and first few years of the business were wonderful “startup” years, and that foundation we built from 1999-2002 around expertise in email, a deep commitment to consumer privacy and choice, and a fantastic client base, serve us well to this day.
So on that note, I thought I’d end this note with a big thank you to the original Return Path team from 1999-2000 who got the company started. Our early senior team included Jack Sinclair, Karl Florida, Mary Lynn McGrath, Dave Paulus, John Ventura, and Vince Sabio. We were joined when we merged with Veripost in 2001 by founding execs George Bilbrey, Eric Kirby, Kevin O’Connell, and Andy Sautins. Other early employees still with the company today are Chad Malchow, Patty Mah, Sophie Miller Audette, Paul Buster, and Tammy Somsky Shimp. Other early employees now counted as alumni are Jennifer St. Onge Wilson, Andrew Wilson, Jennifer Roller, Alexis Katzowitz, Beth Feresten, Rebecca Thomas, Amy Leymaster, Tim Dolan, John Darrah, Chris Wade, Rachel Moore, Doug Campell, Brent Wagner, Matt Spielman, Michael Doherty, Steve Gorman, Linda Ryan, Rory Carr Alison Murdock, Edwin Castillo, Austin Kenny, Julia Knowlton, Topher McGibbon, Kevin King, Brendon Kearney, Kate Kuckro, Suzanne Halbeisen, Neil Cohen, Jon Pierce, Aaron Couts, Nick Nicholas, Michael Zhang, and Melanie Danchisko. And finally, I’ll extend the thank you to Jeremy Dean and Dan Diekhoff, who while not early employees, have largely assumed the operational burden for running and maintaining ECOA these last few years.