We Talk With Chicago Startup SimpleRelevance About Simple, Personal Email

SimpleRelevance, Startup Interview, Chicago startup

Chicago startup SimpleRelevance has been on the startup radar for quite some time. Back in May the company, founded by Chicago serial entrepreneur and founding team member of iContact Erik Severinhaus, raised $1 million dollars. While there are several companies out there vying for the position as your mass emailer, SimpleRelevance has found a way to make mass emails personal.

Just the other day I received an email pitch from someone that was obviously sent out using a mass emailer without much preparation and about zero relevance. With SimpleRelevance you don’t need to worry about that.

“Using data intelligence, we combine your customers’ demographic, social, and previous purchase data with our data intelligence to create emails that are individually personalized down to the subject line, product recommendations shown, and time of day the email is sent,” Laura Boring, the companies Head of Marketing and Program Management told us.

According to the company, this degree of customization can increase conversion by 51%, while increasing click through’s by as much as 29%. This can lead to an increase in revenue for companies using SimpleRelevance of as much as 400%, reported VentureBeat.

SimpleRelevance is one of many awesome startups currently housed at 1871, the startup and technology epicenter in Chicago. We talked with Boring about that and more. Check out our interview below.

What is your startup, what does it do?

SimpleRelevance make it easy for companies to personalize, target, and automate their email marketing using data intelligence. We combine your customers demographic, social, and previous purchase data with our data intelligence to create emails that are individually personalized down to the subject line, product recommendations shown, and time of day the email is sent.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds

Erik Severinghaus is a Chicago based serial entrepreneur and business leader. He was a founding team member of iContact, a leading email service provider which was sold to Vocus in 2012. He later joined IBM, where he spent six years as a consultant in IBM’s IT Optimization Practice before founding SimpleRelevance.

Where are you based?

Chicago, IL – currently based at 1871, the tech-startup hub in the Merchandise Mart.

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

We couldn’t ask for a better working environment. At 1871, we are surrounded by some of the top startup talent in Chicago. So far, I haven’t seen any direct competitors here at 1871. Everyone is willing to help each other out.

What problem does your startup solve?

Companies now have access to massive amounts of customer data from various sources,

However, few companies know how to combine this data and make it actionable, especially from an email marketing perspective. Email marketing is one of the easiest and cost effective forms of marketing; however it is still significantly behind from a technology perspective. Our goal is to not only give companies the ability to upgrade to customer focused, data driven marketing, but to make it completely seamless on their end. Firms of all sizes using SimpleRelevance now have access to sophisticated technology that was once only available to firms with million dollar data analytics budgets.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

One key challenge for SimpleRelevance’s startup process was finding a viable product-market fit.  We found ourselves with a fantastic piece of technology that basically created an intelligent inbox, highlighting of-interest emails.  We weren’t getting sufficient traction operating as a B2C company and found that our tech would be much more relevant as a SaaS for B2C companies – we made a huge pivot from a B2C to a B2B company.

What are some of the milestones your startup has achieved?

To date, we are personalizing emails for over 25 million email addresses. Since January, we’ve seen double digit month over month growth in both our small and midsize businesses as well as our enterprise solutions. We’ve set up partnerships with top Email Service Providers and E-commerce platforms. Our recent round of funding and acceptance into TechStars has been great external validation of our concept, however, the biggest form of evidence for us is the internal validation – which is the significant increase in revenue we are creating for our clients.

What are your next milestones

Our next key milestone is to find a scalable customer acquisition model.  We’ve found that batch-and-blast email marketing, or sending the same email at one time to a massive group of people, is still a very prevalent marketing strategy.  It’s also completely archaic.  To find a scalable customer acquisition model, we basically have to 1) educate the market about the benefits of sending an email with personalized product recommendations (think Amazon Recommendations) at the time the customer is most likely to be checking their inbox and 2) let B2C companies know it’s actually possible to have a one-on-one conversation with every customer on their email lists.

Who are your mentors and role models?

As part of the TechStars Chicago program, we have amazing access to brilliant mentors in the Chicago area.  There has been a lot of momentum in the Chicago startup community and we are very excited to be in the middle of the action.

What are some of the advantages/disadvantages growing your startup outside of Silicon Valley.

One of the advantages of growing SimpleRelevance outside of Silicon Valley is that the Chicago startup community holds itself to standards equal to, if not greater than, those of Silicon Valley.  After all, it is one of the hot new startup hubs of the Midwest.  We’ve found this results in an environment that demands very defined and validated business models.

One of the disadvantages is that Chicago is still some time away from having the support and rapport of Silicon Valley.  Being a Chicago startup is cool, but it’s not yet Silicon Valley cool.  Undoubtedly, this is changing as companies like Groupon and SurePayroll call Chicago home.

What’s next for your SimpleRelevance?

Next on our agenda is to end the era of batch-and-blast email marketing.  We will not rest until every company is sending personalized and relevant email.  You can look at it from this perspective; we want every company to send every single email with a personal mailman who will deliver only relevant mail at the most appropriate times.

Where can people find out more, and what is your Twitter username?


twitter.com/simplerelevance (@simplerelevance)


Check out more startup stories from 1871 here at nibletz.com.



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