Be patient and build a sustainable long term growth business that does not require VC funding to succeed. Inflation in funding resources in theory should help a business grow, however too many times we’ve seen SaaS companies consume capital too fast and too soon. They never build a sustainable company, they operate at a loss and many at some point shut down. If you want to do that, then go for it. But for a true SaaS business, you want to ensure inertia in business development by creating demand and serving those demands.
As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Loubier. Andrea has been recognized as one of the thought leaders and top female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia. As CEO of Mailbird, Andrea takes inspiration from many other leading female tech entrepreneurs in changing the mindset and way we conduct personal and business communication through email today. With Andrea as the muscle behind pushing Mailbird into the forefront of tech companies in the world, Mailbird has been nominated by PC World as one of the best productivity tools for the business person, IT World named Mailbird the best email client for Windows, and Microsoft even nominated Mailbird as Startup of the Day. Andrea is a contributor to Forbes and The Asian Entrepreneur. She’s been featured and interviewed on Bloomberg TV and BBC. Andrea’s backbone comes from her experience in building strategic relationships, conceptual selling, project and people management and leadership. Andrea has served top international enterprises which include Proctor and Gamble, KAO Brands and Ubisoft, among other highly reputable brands. As the CEO of Mailbird, Andrea is dedicated to building a great company, bringing a healthy relationship with email to the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I worked in many roles and industries, from architectural engineering, to retail, to market research and software. When I started Mailbird remotely, I was still working a full time job with a software company. I’d come home after a full day of work, and chip away at what I could, in getting Mailbird started (before we even called it Mailbird). Eventually, I realized I would need to quit my full time job with a software company, and fully commit to building Mailbird
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
The aha moment came from regular, daily frustration with balancing work tasks/initiatives and managing the never-ending inflow of emails into my work inbox. Personal email was always relatively manageable for me, but work email was always a challenge. I formed terrible habits with email, like replying as soon as it touched my inbox to not replying and putting off emails until a few days later. My personal email and work email were kept separate. Work email was managed in the office and my personal email on my home computer. The problem is that as the pool of technology and communication options grew, so did my levels of stress with managing all the different apps on different machines, different platforms and different devices. It had to start with the user experience.
Being accustomed to Windows operating systems at home and at work, the email option I had was Outlook. I didn’t like Outlook. It was a little outdated, and it only worked with one email provider. But today I had many communication and productivity apps, and no synchronized and unified place to manage it all. So I had to start prioritizing and selecting the best tools for my needs, and finding a way to consolidate them whilst creating a clean, simple experience. I wanted to build a healthy relationship with email again. This is our vision for Mailbird.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
On the topic of building a healthy relationship with email, starting a company is similar to the cycle of a relationship. In the early days, it’s exciting, new and you are extremely motivated. That “honeymoon” phase of starting a business is always the most fun, because it’s when you are most vulnerable yet with a window of opportunity that you get to build from the ground up. Once you pass those early stages of building a company, you encounter your first obstacle. Then another. And another. At this point you are still very driven and very determined.
Then you hit a major hurdle that you doubt you will be able to overcome, but you stick with it and you figure it out and you stay persistent. After a while, you figure out a lot of things in that process and become better at planning and making decisions. You become better at communication to ensure you, your business and the team, are fully aligned. Once you are able to overcome that first major hurdle, it is usually telling of whether or not this “relationship” or this business will succeed or not.
Giving up is part of the battle that comes with the roller coaster ride of starting a company. It happens to founders more than realized in the public eye, when most stories are immersed in founder success stories. But you also don’t hear much about what they had to go through to get to where they did. Athletes have mind coaches to help them not with their physical athletic ability directly, but with the mental anguish and battle that haunts them when they feel like giving up. Just like athletes, business founders and executives, can and will hit the same crossroads of, shall I keep on going? Or do I give up? You get the drive to keep on pushing, by focusing on the results. Despite the obstacles, you focus on the end of the tunnel, and rely on your drive to do whatever it takes and not give up. You are stubborn about succeeding. You have to find that motivation or work with a support network or coach to help you with that.
Flat out, starting a business is very difficult. Most people give up, and that is ok. They learn a lot in that process about themselves and what they really want. They end up moving on to do something even more rewarding. The important thing I believe, is to make sure your work doesn’t take away from all other joys in your life, as soon as your work and creations start to do that, it’s very easy to lose sight of where you are going and what you want in your professional career.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Well, I do believe it takes a certain type of person to persevere through tough times. I can tell you right now that there are many people that would have given up. I could have given up. But I didn’t. I found support, I made it happen and today we are a stable business that continues to see healthy growth year after year. Mailbird as a company is now made up of an alliance of people who care about the business and we continue to remain highly selective with each new person that joins the team. We are past the awkward stages, passed the honeymoon phase and passed the uncertainty stage of the business.
Today we are an international company in the frontier of the future of work, building a healthy relationship with email for individuals and businesses around the world. Being stubborn and not giving up has some down sides to it, but in the case of business it helped me push through the bigger challenges and obstacles we faced as a business. I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t give up. The rewards of Mailbird as a growing, stable business, made those challenges worth struggling through to overcoming them.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I went to a tech conference and did not know how to answer when an interested investor asked me what our cap table looks like. Another mistake was launching our software in China without thorough localization in the marketing efforts. In both mistakes, the lesson coincided with the fact that you can gain confidence, validation and trust from the people and markets you engage with, once you take the time to research and learn. Planning and preparing for such things ensures you are ready to take on any nuances thrown your way. And even if you are not, it’s ok, at least you made the effort to do your best and you learned something new in that process. You will do it better next time.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Mailbird stands out as a service and a company because we are building a solution for the future of work. Our team is an example of that movement, because we are fully remote and distributed, whilst being compared and listed side by side with major email tech giants. We are the customers of the service we created with Mailbird. Once you experience the flexibility of remote work and distributed teams, you learn about new problems to solve and opportunities to serve both the growing segment of fully remote teams, and traditional brick and mortar businesses.
We aren’t revolutionizing email, because email in itself is already one of the best inventions since the age of the internet. We’ve learned from our own first hand experiences as a global team what we need to effectively be able to work with a fully remote team. We are simply part of a world that is evolving faster than ever, with technology and communication methods changing. We are having an impact on the future workforce, and creating employment opportunities for people that may not have been able to work in a traditional office or production setting. At Mailbird I know we are creating an impact in the world’s relationship with technology, people and business. We want to build a healthy relationship with email and other business technologies, for people internationally.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Take the time to plan a balanced day, even a balanced week. Ration your mental capacity to work on high level, focus intensive tasks versus your time away from technology and doing things that you love. The longer I work in tech, it’s clear to see that the world is changing faster than ever. The more people struggle with disconnecting, the higher the rates of burnout. Just like with anything, we should moderate our time with digital things and balance life with building relationships offline, and engaging in activities that enable us to reconnect with the world outside of our screens. I’ve learned the more I prioritize my health and mind offline, the more effective and balanced I become with technology. You have to be able to set boundaries.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would say my business coach, because I didn’t have them during the startup phase of Mailbird but rather in the later stages when you need it most. I believe that at some level you need to go through the paces, the learning curves and the challenges that come with creating a business. You need to wear many hats, because at some point, as your business exits the startup phase you will end up having to pass those many hats onto other people who will then be a critical part of the company’s development and growth.
You encounter many other challenges, and having a coach to guide you through them and share experiences that you can learn from. They support you through tough times and in making difficult business decisions. When you start questioning what to do next or to even continue, a coaching session will quickly bring transparency to the root of what is actually going on with the business and with you as the leader for that company. If you don’t have that outside person who is not involved in your business directly, but have experience being in your position, it is much easier to see things from the bigger picture. They help you realign your purpose, focus and goals on what you want and believe in. That is so very important for business and overall, it’s important in life.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
At Mailbird, we have over 2 million accounts managed from Mailbird from all over the world. This is a cross of individuals and businesses that manage multiple email, communication and productivity accounts. The three main steps we took to grow our user base is:
- Create a minimum viable product to test and iterate with.
- Build a team to specialize in different initiatives to bring the solution to specific target customers.
- Continue to test, develop and seek new opportunities to bring the solution to those who don’t know about Mailbird. Then repeat.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We sell our software licenses with a subscription based model. We’ve considered one time payment models, which work but not for purposes of long term recurring revenue growth in SaaS companies. We want to also test complimentary revenue share opportunities. We’ve experimented with affiliate partners and resellers, which are great for getting noticed with the right affiliate partners or resellers on your team. We are currently heavily investing resources into subscription based solutions for businesses that choose Mailbird. We decided to not focus on other monetization options outside of subscription based, because as a SaaS company, recurring revenue is how you scale longevity in your growth.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your metrics. You cannot make adjustments in growth for a SaaS company without knowing what growth metrics matter, and for most SaaS companies, the key is to have a low customer acquisition cost, and a high lifetime value.
- Know it’s hard, and if you have industry expertise that’s great, but more important is your ability to learn and adapt fast.
- Build a strong team, without a team, creating a SaaS business would not be possible. There are zero SaaS companies that are run by a one person show. You need a team, so build a great one. When we say that we should reinvest profits into the company, the key is to invest it into the people.
- Be patient and build a sustainable long term growth business that does not require VC funding to succeed. Inflation in funding resources in theory should help a business grow, however too many times we’ve seen SaaS companies consume capital too fast and too soon. They never build a sustainable company, they operate at a loss and many at some point shut down. If you want to do that, then go for it. But for a true SaaS business, you want to ensure inertia in business development by creating demand and serving those demands.
- Have other people, businesses and customers tell their story about how your solution has helped them. These use cases help validate and build a reputation for your SaaS company.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would encourage people to spend 50% of their week off technology. From someone who has built a software company with a brilliant team, I can first hand share how important this is. Try this, as it contributes to a bigger picture of balance and the ubiquitous problem of information overload, stress, burnout and our poor habits formed with technology. The greatest value in life is not the technology we use to get by day to day, but the environment, the people and relationships we build that will contribute to a sustainable and healthy future for people and businesses everywhere.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/andrea.loubier1
Twitter — https://twitter.com/aloubier
Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrea-loubier-87026b18/ (by the way we are hiring! DM me on Linkedin or check out our website for details)
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the author:
Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS, with Andrea Loubier and Mitch Russo was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.