SendGrid's Main Product Is Just a Byproduct
After graduating from the University of California, Riverside with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science in 2003, Isaac Saldana, the company's co-founder, encountered his "aha" moment. When he launched a couple of tech startups just out of school, he noticed a major problem for software developers: It was very difficult to enable apps to send automated emails alerting users to something happening on the network.
So Saldana decided to build the infrastructure that would better ensure that deliverability. Along with co-founders Tim Jenkins, 37, and college buddy Jose Lopez, 30, Saldana formally launched SendGrid after graduating from the TechStars accelerator program in 2009. Five years and $27 million in funding later, the company employs 225 and is responsible for delivering approximately 2 percent of the world's nonspam email.
And though email would become the company's main revenue driver--clients include Uber, Spotify, and Pinterest--the heart of the company rests with its core inspiration: developers.
"There's SendGrid the product," Saldana says, referring to the company's flagship email deliverability system, "and there's SendGrid the company. SendGrid the company is about making developers' lives easier."
To that end, Saldana hired former Oracle executive Jim Franklin as SendGrid's CEO in 2011, when the company had just 30 employees. Though Franklin runs the company, Saldana, now president, keeps his eye on product development.
"He's a creator and an innovator," Franklin says. "He wants to be building the product every day. When he was CEO, he was still sitting at a computer building stuff."
Without the business's day-to-day to weigh on him, Saldana has kept his focus on where his passions lie: developing. And although that means tinkering with the SendGrid product, it also means finding new product avenues for the company.
Saldana and Franklin agree the company's focus on developers gives SendGrid the mandate to create products well outside the realm of email deliverability. Part of Saldana's work today is focused on SendGrid Labs, the company's innovation studio, which releases and sells tools for developers that the company has found helpful in building its own products. For example, one of its early releases, Loader.io, helps developers test app functionality as traffic scales.
Saldana thinks any tool that helps developers do their job, especially in the cloud, falls under SendGrid's umbrella, meaning the email plumbing Saldana says he's passionate about is really just one aspect of what could be a much larger system.
"Developers don't have all the tools, and we're on a mission to create them," he says. "Since the beginning, we were also developers."