IAM769- Entrepreneur Runs a SaaS Company in the Identity Space
Podcast Interview with Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson was born in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Rice University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.
In 2014, after a decade of working on Wall Street, Adam launched Robly Email Marketing. The business grew to $5 million in revenue in the first two years and by 2017 was awarded #1 in Customer Satisfaction across the entire email marketing space. After proving Robly’s viability, Adam worked to scale the business. After testing and scrapping a few ideas, he and his team launched GetEmails, a SaaS company in the identity space, in 2019.
Adam was recently given the title best-selling author with the release of his book Permission (Sh)marketing, which explains his controversial views on privacy and identity.
- CEO Hack: Checklist
- CEO Nugget: Product focus is key
- CEO Defined: Being a leader, a visionary of your work and take responsibility
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Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello. Hello, this is Gresh from me. I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. Adam Robinson of getemails.com, Adam, it's awesome having a show.
Adam Robinson 0:39
Thanks Gresh. Happy to be here.
Gresham Harkless 0:41
No problem. Super excited to have you on and before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about Adam so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. And Adam Robinson was born in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Rice University in 2003 with a Bachelorâ€™s degree in Economics. In 2014, after a decade of working on Wall Street, Adam launched Robly Email Marketing. The business grew to $5 million in revenue in the first two years and by 2017 was awarded #1 in Customer Satisfaction across the entire email marketing space. After proving Roblyâ€™s viability, Adam worked to scale the business. After testing and scrapping a few ideas, he and his team launched GetEmails, a SaaS company in the identity space, in 2019. Adam was recently given the title best-selling author with the release of his book Permission (Sh)marketing, which explains his controversial views on privacy and identity. Adam, are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?
Adam Robinson 1:35
Yes, sir. Let's do it.
Gresham Harkless 1:37
Let's do it. So to kick everything off, I wanted to kind of rewind the clock a little bit, can you take me through what I call your CEO story, we'll let you get started with all the awesome things you're working on.
Adam Robinson 1:46
Sure. So the abbreviated version is I moved to Manhattan in these guys, I was I was working at Lehman Brothers that trading credit default swaps, actually, which is like they made a movie about it called the shore. And the guys living in my apartment started Vimeo at the same time, like my first day at Lehman Brothers. And so I watched that thing, just, you know, grow exponentially. And these guys had such amazing lives. And like, I just had this desire to, like, do the same thing. So after the financial crisis, you know, a lot of people got kicked to the curb who had the job that I had. So did I yeah, you know, we everybody did pretty well before and it saved a little money. And like, I was just I felt that it was time to go try to become an entrepreneur. So you know, somehow it's a obviously every story is super long, complex, we don't have time for it. But lo and behold, like the first company that I actually started worked, which was just a gift from God. And it happened to be in this space. It's ultra competitive, I think, you know, there's a ton of small vendors and like a couple vendors like MailChimp, and a couple other ones really dominated so hard to get real scale. And so yeah, but we have like this nice, cashflow, positive business that we come up with. And, you know, the challenge is just like how do you differentiate in this hyper competitive super commoditized space. And, you know, we we sort of, in trying stuff and failing came across this identity resolution market. And there seemed to be a bunch of enterprise vendors that were doing this identity stuff in different ways. And nobody serving this, like, you know, it's you wouldn't even call it mid market, but just like small businesses that have large web presences that it can be really valuable for and we can talk a little bit more about the product. Well, I'll say right now basically, like, we figured out that, you know, we could identify a chunk, call it like a third of any small businesses or medium sized businesses anonymous web traffic. So what that means is like, you know, we can give them their information legally in a compliant way so that an e commerce store can send them retargeting email to bring them back to their website and buy stuff. You know, if you own an e commerce store, your ears probably perked up. It's pretty valuable technology. And we can provide it very cheaply. So just because of how the way it works was, if you're curious about how it works, go to our website and click the just click to our YouTube channel. We have like all sorts of education about, you know, how it works, how it's legal, all this kind of stuff. But, you know, it's really interesting for for other business owners, you know, we went through this exercise where we originally tried to make people use it switch to our app to use this feature. And we saw that they were signing up for Roby, they were using this identity product, not using any other part of the software not switching, they were downloading a file and uploading it into their other email marketing app. Like that was like 90% of the users for it. So it's very clear. It's like well, two important things here. That one it's like, you know, there's there's, like if you read this Y Combinator stuff, right, there's something about product market fit in there. If someone's willing to endure a horrible user experience and still thinks your products great. And secondly, it was very clear that it wasn't a good product if we were making people switch because They didn't want to switch, it was clear by how they were using it. So we spun it out last fall launched it as its own product on November 4. And that's kind of how get emails came to be.
Gresham Harkless 5:13
Nice. I absolutely love that. And I love that obviously the pivoting aspect and paying attention to, you know, the feedback that you're getting and making a pivot from that. And then also to just just being aware of kind of where there is a gap in providing that data, which I think is at the heart of entrepreneurship, how you're able to provide that solution. So I know you mentioned that there's videos and content on the site as well. So you could you take us through exactly like how that I guess, customer journey goes on how they can sign up and what exactly and how exactly you serve the clients you work with.
Adam Robinson 5:43
Sure, so at them, I'm kind of have this belief that, you know, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to buy, like our real, our best customers pay somewhere between like 1000 and 20,000 per month, but our software is set up so that anybody can try it for free. At the moment, we are actually doing a freemium offer, which, for a lot of reasons, I think we're gonna roll back, it's just not a great freemium product, because you have to have web traffic to actually get value out of it. And the point of freemium would be everyone gets value out of it, and talks to all everyone they know. And that's just not sort of what ended up happening when we launched it a couple weeks ago, but you live in you learn. But regardless of what it is, it's like, you just show up with your business, whether it's an e commerce store, or blog, publisher, whatever, you sign up for free on our website, and it takes you through like three steps. One is you take the script, and you pop it in on your webs on your WordPress or Shopify or whatever, which we have a bunch of guides to do. And then you just do this one click integration with your MailChimp or clay vo account or whatever using send emails, and then you set up an automated series to go out for right when you get the data because we pass you the data in real time. And boom, that's it. And then you just set it, set it and forget it, and then you just like, see it making money for you. So we try to make it as easy as possible the process to to set up, it's like upgrade downgrade canceling your time. I'm just sort of a big believer in this, like, you know, I don't think people want contracts, you know, I think it's like a joy when someone can purchase a product for $5,000 a month, and know that they can cancel it the next month, at least important for a startup also, to have the burden of proof of return on investment on the company, when your early days. Because Thank you make a better product. You know, I think if you go to sell it someday, it's much more valuable to have people on contracts. But you know, this is sort of the posture we're taking out of the gates.
Gresham Harkless 7:43
Nice. Absolutely. You know, love that. And I think you know, when you're always trying to make sure that you're providing value, and when you're providing value. I think as you said, sometimes the contract thing doesn't really matter. Because even if you don't have a contract, people are so beholden and kind of stuck to what it is that you're doing, because you're providing so much value. So I think it's you know, definitely important for us to kind of remember that as well. So, you you might have already touched on this, but I want to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for you or your company or combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart or makes you unique?
Adam Robinson 8:14
So I think for me, you know, I want to kind of answer this in two ways. I think that, like my secret weapons, just focus. And I don't know, like when I left, the job that I had in finance was you were looking at screens all day, and you were just answering phone calls, and like making prices for people on bonds, basically, it was very reactive. It was like your attention was always getting pulled around. It was very information heavy. And I think is maybe like, I don't know, probably Tim Ferriss or something like you read four hour workweek or something right when I quit this dream idea of like working from anywhere and have this cool tech company, like part of, you know, one of the pieces of advice that that he gives, and it's like, turn off the noise, you know, so in 2012 11 or 12, or whatever it was, I quit finance like the first month I just sat there at my computer emailing people in your it's just gone, like your life is just gone. Nothing comes from that, you know, especially when you're like aimless trying to figure out what you're going to do with your life like, and it's very easy, you know, social media is only getting better like tik tok is so much more addictive than Snapchat was and so on and so forth. So I think the ability, you know, I somehow cut all of this stuff out of my life like eight or nine years ago, and I'm talking about like reading news and stuff. Just I don't get on the internet, which is weird for a tech guy. And for somebody who does so much advertising and social media, but I think that's really helped me a lot, you know, just be able to like focus on things and I think it also, you know, another thing that I would say is something that I think my people that work with me I would say I really seek to understand people's psychology and motivation and create an environment. And that like, a makes people's lives better, they want to be a part of, and then be like, sort of goes with whatever's motivating that person, you know. So I think it's like trying to, you know, maybe the Delivering Happiness book is like kind of a similar sort of thing when you talk about your employees. But I mean, it's like, I'm trying to figure out how to how to create a company that, you know, in finding the right people for these positions, it's making their lives better, therefore, it's making our business and product and service better, you know. And that's, you know, that's a more important part than the product for me, like, I don't really care what we're selling for the most part, like, I want to work around, you know, really interesting people in a growth environment, above all, you know, so. So yeah, those are two things that made me kind of interesting.
Gresham Harkless 11:05
Awesome. And I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an App or book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient? I think
Adam Robinson 11:16
checklists are the greatest, the least technologically sort of savvy thing in the world. But like, I think they're the greatest thing for getting stuff done possible.
Gresham Harkless 11:29
Awesome. So now, I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. And this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, it might be something you would tell a client or if you happen to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.
Adam Robinson 11:41
I had kind of a revelation that just that I didn't go into the full story, but the nature of how we how we started our first business, it was much more sales and marketing focused than it was product focused. We're kind of going after this one competitor. And like we built a product that was just kind of good enough to get people to switch over. But like, we were ignoring every other part of the market and whether it was going to be competitive in the real world or not, you know. And I just have this belief. Now, after all, the successes and failures that I've had that like in today's world. product is like the most important thing in product market fit by a factor of 10. In once you have a great product and good product market fit the sales and marketing, it's accelerates that, right. But sales and marketing with a bad product in today's world is like, it just doesn't work. But the great thing is, is you can be product obsessed. And you can find that product market fit. I mean, there's a ton of examples for it. So like, if you know, it, you can read about on Y Combinator, his blog, I think they explain it unbelievably well. But like the advice that I would give a my younger self and be anybody else who's like in this position of wanting to be an entrepreneur and starting and it's such a hard position, because it's like you're trying to run the Boston Marathon against marathoners and you haven't run a mile in the past 20 years, right? How would you ever be shaped to do that? How would you know? Right? So, but I think reading a lot of this stuff can sort of get your mind at least moving in that direction. Right? And like, you know, like your intuition is wrong. It just is right. Like, you know, your intuition about products probably wrong. That almost definitely right. But the advice that I would give my set my younger self, and to any entrepreneur, I was just like, dude, like, keep reading those marketing books. Because that's, that's very important. It's gonna be important later on. But like, the product part of this thing is what's good. Like if a growth environment, a sustainable growth environment is what you're after the product part of this thing is the most key to that by a factor of 10. And I believe that
Gresham Harkless 13:48
now I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different, quote unquote, CEOs on the show. And, Adam, I want to ask you, what is being a CEO mean to you?
Adam Robinson 13:58
I think to me, it means above all else, just being a leader, you know, and, you know, sort of what, when you ask me that question, also, how I think about myself, like, I like to take responsibility for the failures and give the responsibility of six or give the praise and rewards for successes to the people I work with. You know, I think that's like, not necessarily what it means. But like, when I think if I were like, writing, like the qualities of who I'm trying to be as a CEO, like, that's another another big one to me. And then it's just, you know, the visionary, the sort of vision.
Gresham Harkless 14:40
Awesome, awesome, awesome. Well, Adam, truly appreciate that, that definition in that perspective, and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass the mic so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know and of course, how best they can get a hold of you get a copy of the book and find out about all the awesome things that you're working on.
Adam Robinson 14:56
Sure. Um, yeah. The only additional thing is, you know, if you've if you've got an e commerce business or a blog check, get emails out, it's, you probably haven't heard of anything like it, it's a really cool technology. It's on our website, www.gmail.com, you can actually get a free copy of permission marketing, which Gresh and I were talking about before, it's kind of like a satire of Seth Godin in 1998, book, permission marketing, because what our product allows you to do is something that's exactly the opposite of his vision of marketing in the future, but it works. So I kind of like thought it would be funny to create this parody on it. And then in terms of best way to get in touch with us, just email me Adam at getemails.com and how much of a social presence, our business is at us GetEmails on Twitter, and Facebook. But in our YouTube, our YouTube channels, GetEmails, and it's great. It's got a ton of educational content ton of funny little ads and stuff that I do every week with, with my girlfriend. So yeah, that's how you can see what we're up to.
Gresham Harkless 16:02
Awesome, awesome. Awesome, thank you so much again, and we will have the links and information in the show notes just so that everybody can follow up with you and then connect with you and and get a copy of the book as well too. But truly appreciate that. And then reminders of focusing and being able to make sure that we laser focus especially on the solution and the product that we're creating. Um, so I appreciate that reminder and I hope you have a great rest of the day.
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