Brad's Books and Organizations

Books

Books

Organizations

Organizations

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

« swipe left for tags/categories

swipe right to go back »

The Conundrum of Email

Comments (23)

I’ve just spent a month in Maker Mode. It’s been a powerful month and prompted a few posts like Have You Fallen Into The Busy Trap? which generated lots of feedback as well as deeper responses from posts like Do We All Work Too Much? And Do We Really Have a Choice? Amy and I are talking about this almost every day as we work on our book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship With An Entrepreneur. The topic of how we work, what’s important, and what we get done is very much on my mind these days.

Email is a big part of this. Once a month I get an email from the Gmail Meter that tells me about my email behavior. Here’s June’s summary.


The daily average is 233 conversations, 411 received emails, and 140 sent emails. Remember that this includes weekends where the volume is much lower.

If you assume a 10 hour day (short for me), that’s 23 conversations an hour, 41 received emails an hour, and 14 sent emails an hour.

 

It’s easy to imagine that I could easily spent my entire life doing email.

Let’s look at the next batch of data – % traffic sent / received each day.

While the daily email pattern is relentless from Monday to Friday, you can see that I spend Saturday getting caught up or working on stuff that generates a bunch of sent emails but doesn’t have responses received until Monday. But the simple conclusion from this chart is that email is relentless.

Next up is Time Before Response.

Here you can see Maker Mode in action. When I’m on email, I respond almost immediately. When I’m writing, between 1 hour and a day pass – my guess is if this was a more granular chart, it’d center around four hours which is my maximum time period for real writing. Most people respond quickly to me, so if I respond quickly, I generate the endless back and forth of email. When this doesn’t necessarily show it, I know that when I slow down, there’s less email coming back my way.

Let’s finish up with Word Count.

If you’ve ever exchanged emails with me, you know that my answers are generally short. 35% are less than 10 words. 70% are less than 30 words. But look at what I’m getting back. 50% are more than 100 words. Fortunately, I read very quickly – much faster than most people can type.

Ok – that’s plenty of data to play around with. I have a simple goal of responding to all of my email so I find the patterns curious and the data super interesting. This month has been a different kind of month given Maker Mode, but when I look at the patterns I realize I’m still spending too much time “email is on and I’m responding mode.”

In contrast, I wrote for eight hours yesterday. I closed Chrome and didn’t have email up. I was on it for a few hours mid day when I did a few hours of calls and then again at night when Amy and I watched The Recruit. Other than that, I wrote.

This morning my brain was tired. I decided I wasn’t going to write until this afternoon. So I’ve spent the morning responding to email and writing this blog post. I’ll go offline (or off email) from 1pm – 5pm this afternoon and do the writing I planned to do today. I’ve got a Thursday deadline so I can imagine that I’ll fire things back up after dinner and write for a few more hours.

My goal in July is to shift my modality even further into Maker Mode. I’ve gotten comfortable with the four hour writing stretch and want to make sure I do at least one a day with two on the days that I can handle it. Like running, I have to vary my tempo for it to be sustainable. I’ll compare the July data to the June data when it comes in.

I realize this post was more for me than for you, but hopefully you got some interesting insights out of it if you hung in to the end.

Implementing Social Media’s Secret Weapon

Comments (17)

Fred Wilson had an excellent post up this morning titled Social Media’s Secret Weapon – Email. I completely agree that email is the key communications channel for social media and have written about this before in posts like 100% Click Through RateEmail – The Original Social Graph and Email Is Still The Best Login.

I’ve been investing in email related stuff for over 15 years going back to Email Publishing, my very first Boulder-based investment which I believe was the very first email service provider (ESP) and was acquired by MessageMedia which was then bought by Doubleclick. Fred and I are both investors in Return Path which he calls out in his post as the category creator and market leader in email deliverability. I love Return Path as a company and am incredibly proud of what they’ve done as a business.

My partners and I have continued to invest aggressively in what we believe is social media’s secret weapon which we refer to as the comm channel in a hat tip to the TV show 24. In Fred’s post, the comm channel is email. Our investment here is in SendGrid, a company that came out of TechStars Boulder 2009 and is one of the white hot companies in Boulder. They directly address the problem Fred describes which every software developer knows is a pain in the ass, uninteresting, hard to do well, but needs to be done right. Every web app sends transactional email – rather than build all the code yourself, just let SendGrid to it. They are now doing it for over 24,000 companies, sending out over 60 million transactional emails a day, and just sent their 10 billionth transactional email.

But email isn’t the only comm channel. Everyone that uses apps on a mobile phone is likely experiencing push notifications as an increasingly important as a form of engagement. While mobile phones used to only really work effectively with SMS, you now have SMS, email, and push notifications. So we invested in Urban Airship who does for push notifications what SendGrid does for email. Like SendGrid, they are growing like crazy, are in use by over 10,000 customers and have sent over 3 billion push notifications.

My message to all web developers – if you are serious about what you are doing, focus on your app. Don’t waste precious development time on all the activities around the app. You likely no longer sit around with a screwdriver setting up a server in a datacenter – instead you are using a cloud provider like Rackspace or Amazon.  Don’t spent your time coding up an email notification infrastructure – use SendGrid. And if you are a mobile developer, don’t waste your time writing a bunch of code for push notifications – use Urban Airship.

Most importantly, don’t ignore the thing that will actually make your web app get adoption and retention – comm channels!

Shifting to Twitter for Deal Evaluation

Comments (36)

Over the past year the amount of emails I receive on a daily basis from entrepreneurs has reached a point where I can’t deal with it any more.  My partners at Foundry Group feel the same and as a result we’ve moved to twitter to deal evaluation

If you are interested in talking to me about a potential investment, please just tweet it.  Limit yourself to 140 characters – that’s more than enough to describe what you are doing.  Optimally, you’d DM me, although I realize that I have to follow you for this, so just use @bfeld in your tweet and I’ll see it.  And please – don’t sent me multiple tweets – that kind of defeats the purpose.

Email Is Still The Best Login

Comments (35)

After downloading Skype 4.2, I realized that I could now invite all of my Facebook friends who had Skype accounts to my Skype contact list.  So I did.  Unfortunately the Skype UI for this sucks so I had to go through about 1,000 entries a screen of five at a time unchecking the Facebook friends I didn’t want on Skype.  I ended up inviting about 280 – fortunately I was on a conference call for the thirty minutes it took me to grind through this.

The data field used for the match was email address.  Shocking, I know.  It’s the same data field used to log in to Facebook and Twitter.  Google sort of uses email (at least the gmail) account for their authentication, although now that I have both my gmail account (brad.feld@gmail.com) and my email account (brad@feld.com) in Google’s system, I am constantly having to fight with the “reauthorize me to access that thing via brad.feld@gmail.com) game” since Google hasn’t solved for multiple email addresses yet.

More and more sites are integrating Facebook Connect, Twitter “Connect”, or both.  Yahoo has such a golden opportunity to do this and own it but they blew it.  Google seems to have also missed this and ceded it to Facebook and Twitter for some reason.  Microsoft has been trying for a decade first with Passport and now Live ID. And then there is Skype with their 20m simultaneous users.  Or Amazon with their gazillion users authenticating via email.  And then there’s Barnes & Noble – if I want to create an account I get to use my email address.  And the list goes on and on.

Facebook and Twitter are in a perfect position to own single sign on.  I just don’t understand why Yahoo and Google blew this although I don’t really care.  What I do care about is that there seems to be a natural convergence on email as the user id and authentication via widely pervasive services like Facebook and Twitter rather than entertainingly complex approaches like Oath

I predict email is going to become even more important in the next few years.  There’s no reason for me to have a phone number any more – you should just be able to contact me via brad@feld.com.  And that should authenticate me anywhere.  And – as a messaging protocol – I should be able to use my “inbox” (wherever or whatever it is) as my central notification point.

It’s remarkable that 15 years after commercial Internet email started to proliferate, it is still at the root of all the commercial Internet activity.  Very very cool.

100% Click Through Rate

Comments (16)

I was thinking about how to drive CTR’s up via different mechanisms this morning when this email arrived in my inbox.

image

I remembered talking about high CTR email response rates with Dave McClure and Shervin Pishevar when we were in DC on our Startup Visa trip at the beginning of March.  I’d forgotten about this conversation until this email showed up while I was thinking about this.  Of course, I clicked to see where Dave had tagged me (it was on a Huffington Post article about innovation.)

I thought about it for a few more seconds and realized that to date I have a 100% CTR on an email from Facebook that says “<X> tagged you on Facebook.”  I can’t come up with anything else that I have a 100% CTR on, but I’m now looking out for it.

Do you have any examples of transaction emails like this you receive that have 100% (or even 50%+) CTRs?

Build something great with me