Interview with George Schlossnagle (Message Systems)
Message Systems provide messaging infrastructure for marketers and enterprise.
I interviewed George Schlossnagle, Message Systems CEO to find out more. This is the two hundred and fourth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to George!
How would you describe Message Systems in under 50 words?
For businesses looking to improve customer engagement, Message Systems provides the world’s finest messaging infrastructure. For example, any message received on the Facebook platform is delivered through our software.
Tell us a bit about your background, how you met your co-founder and what made you decide to start working on Message Systems in 1997.
My co-founder is my brother, Theo Schlossnagle. In the late 1990’s, we were running a boutique consultancy focused on helping companies scale Internet properties and were challenged by the Internet boom. At the time, a couple of our customers were online gaming companies doing extremely large-scale B2C communications and we struggled with the absence of scalable messaging software.
Coming from a web infrastructure engineering background, we decided this was a niche market that we could innovate for, so we started a skunkworks effort to build the world’s first high performance, extensible messaging server.
As Message Systems has now been around for 16 years, have you had to keep developing it to keep competitive?
Yes, staying ahead of the market requires consistent effort and innovation. A core tenant of our beliefs is that we can only be successful if our customers are successful. This leads us to cultivate tight relationships that help to guide our roadmap and keep our innovation in touch with what the market demands.
In the development stages of Message Systems, you developed partnerships with many services including anti-virus and reputation services. Was it hard to establish these partnerships being a startup business?
Forming successful partnerships requires a high level of effort and focus. As a startup, you must be selective in the partnerships you establish so that you can commit the resources necessary to make them successful. This is true regardless of the size of the partner.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Message Systems?
Early on, we invested quite a bit of time developing an architecture that performed extremely well and was also highly extensible by the end-user. We continue to focus our efforts on making advanced functionality available, even in the most demanding environments.
You provide solutions for Email Marketers, Service Providers and Corporate Enterprises. Where have you seen the most traction?
Our greatest traction has been less vertically focused and more around customers that are trying to solve difficult messaging problems, whether that be challenging deliverability issues, scaling challenges or trying to drive workflow through messaging. Early on, we had a lot of success working with email services providers, ISPs and e-businesses. Also, social networks, online retailers and companies that fell under the Web 2.0 banner, to use a somewhat dated term. In many of cases, these kinds of companies have a really clear and compelling need for high performance messaging capabilities.
In recent years, we’re finding that financial services providers, travel/hospitality companies and big technology firms also face the kinds of challenges that we can help address. The place where we’ve always had a unique position is helping solve the seemingly unsolvable.
You’ve received over $6 million in recent years. Was securing this funding difficult?
One of the fortunate aspects of running a bootstrapped business for over a decade is that you learn to be pragmatic. We had the discipline to seek funding on our own terms and to be selective in the partners we brought on. The hardest part was in choosing VCs that we were confident would become positive partners. We were looking for partners that would consistently add value and whose operating style aligned with ours. We’ve been really lucky in that regard through two rounds of funding.
Has Message Systems grown as expected since 1997?
Beyond my wildest expectations, frankly.
You have customers including Facebook and PayPal. Did you expect such success when you launched?
From the beginning we’ve done a great job of meeting the needs of the world’s most challenging messaging infrastructures. Having Facebook as a customer is fantastic, but I’m just as proud of our ability to bring similar value to smaller startups and mainstream enterprises.
As it claims to increase revenue, do you have examples of value that Message Systems has created?
Absolutely. Take a look at our recent webinar with our client, Marketo, and you can hear it in their own words. While I don’t have the direct quote on hand, I believe the phrase used was “Message Systems give us a competitive advantage.” If you look at some of the case studies we’ve published, you’ll get a good sense of where we’re driving value for our clients. Message Systems provides tools to help improve deliverability, which directly results in higher customer engagement and increased revenue. For marketing automation companies like Marketo, Infusionsoft or Yesmail, boosting inbox deliverability to the high 90 percentile range drives improved performance and directly impacts the bottom line.
Additionally, this optimized performance comes with a much smaller footprint. Yesmail had approximately 200 servers running the Postfix MTA, and with Message Systems the company is getting much better performance with just 20 servers running our Momentum platform. Higher revenue, lower cost.
If you could go back and start up again, would you do anything differently?
There are several small things I would do differently, but I feel like we’ve been quite fortunate in all the big ones.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
Build a great team full of individuals smarter than yourself. Choose funding partners that will support you in good times and bad. Remember that the buck stops with you and that no one will ever love your business the way you do, so you need to set the standard for accountability and passion.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
The current spree of acquisitions and IPOs in the messaging space is really exciting and serves to show that both email and messaging are alive and well. The challenges that businesses face in connecting with their customers are real, and it’s an incredibly important problem for them to solve.
Can you convince the reader to start using Message Systems in under 50 words?
Twenty percent of all legitimate email on the Internet flows through Message Systems software, including many of the world’s largest and most innovative brands. See what they see in it.
Finished reading? Check out Message Systems!