21 email entrepreneurs pay tribute to Jay Tomlinson

Danny Iny, John McIntyre, Rob Walling and other top email marketers talk on the impact Jay’s invention has had on their life

Ray Tomlinson, best known for inventing email and the best direct marketing channel the world has ever seen, has died at the age of 74. When sending the first ever email message, Tomlinson gave birth to a communication system that has transformed billions of people’s lives, created professions employing millions, and single handedly built million dollar companies.

An online conference dedicated to email, the Email Success Summit, kicks off next week bringing together entrepreneurs who make a living through email marketing. Over 10,000 entrepreneurs are registered to attend the free event which begins on Monday March 14. In memory of Jay Tomlinson, the speakers pay tribute to the person whom they owe so much.

“Everyday I use email to communicate with staff, communicate with my prospects and customers, and promote my business. Over 90% of our customers’ first communication with us occured via email. Whether it was Ray Tomlinson’s intention, his invention has allowed me to build a thriving business through what I regard as the best direct response mechanism ever.”
- Liam Austin, Email Success Summit
“My life and work quite simply wouldn’t be possible without email; it’s the way that I connect and communicate with my whole audience, and the vehicle for the impact that I have the privilege of making. Ray Tomlinson’s invention made this all possible, and I’m grateful. May he rest in peace.” 
- Danny Iny, Mirasee
“For something that was meant to solve such a simple problem has opened the doors to so much possibility and prosperity on personal and professional levels. I’m not sure that was Ray’s intention, but he can sure be proud for the positive change that email has delivered. Email is, and will always be, the first social network and primary tool for building relationships. After the next dozen social platforms and apps come and go, email will still be a trusted vehicle for connecting people.”
- Erik Harbison, AWeber Email Marketing
“Email is one of a precious few technologies that have withstood the test of time and not gone the way of the telegraph or 8-track. Email is as ubiquitous as it’s ever been, and after more than 40 years shows no signs of slowing down. Inventing email was one small step for Ray Tomlinson, one giant leap for interpersonal communication.”
- Rob Walling, Drip​
“I sent a number of test messages to myself from one machine to the other,” Tomlinson recalls now. “The test messages were entirely forgettable…” That’s Ray Tomlinson speaking. Who is Ray? He’s the guy who sent the first email. Like, ever. Why did he have that privilege? Because he invented the damn thing. I am saddened to hear of his passing. I feel a small connection to Ray for several reasons. First, Ray was deciding to put the “@” in email addresses while I was in diapers. (As in 1971, when I was born and actually in diapers.) Second, we walked the same hallowed halls at MIT… back in the day when Boston posed a real threat to Silicon Valley and anything interesting in networking was coming from within Route 128. And finally, I owe my life’s work (online marketing) in no small part to him. I’m not sure he knew he was creating the world’s greatest direct marketing channel ever, but he was and he did. Think of all the businesses built on email. All the livelihoods. All the transactions. All the love letters and break-up protests and inadvertent CCs. And yes even the dumb-ass movie “You’ve Got Mail”. All made possible by one man. Thanks Ray.
- Drew Sanocki, Empire Growth Group
“Email has allowed me to build a business where I can live anywhere I want and travel the world. Thank you for giving us an easy, fast way to keep in touch, build relationships, and even though it might not have been what you intended, sell lots of products.”
- John McIntyre, ReEngager eCommerce Email Marketing
“Growing up I was extremely shy and introverted. I moved cities constantly which meant making new friends every year if I didn’t want to be the kid sitting alone every day during lunch and recess. It would take me months after every move to finally make a friend or two, then finally as soon as I became close with one or two people I’d move. The process would start over in the next town — lunches alone, make a friend or two — move away. Rinse. Repeat. Heartbreaking as a kid. I’ll never forget the first day I got an email address (@AOL.com) and I was instantly reconnected with friends both near and far. My lonely corner of the playground became an opportunity to reconnect with those that I had unwillingly left behind by taking a trip to the school library. The social interaction via email gave me confidence and helped me come out of my shell. Suddenly, making friends wasn’t so difficult. I never had to worry about losing contact again. Email has allowed me to keep in touch with so many loved ones over the years and because of it I’m able to feel connected to the people I care for no matter where I go. Ray, the work you’ve done has changed the lives of so many, whether it be creating an entire industries worth of jobs or allowing the estranged to reconnect the world would be a very different place without the advent of email. Thank you.”
- Brendan Dubbels, ONTRAPORT
“Ray Tomlinson’s “@” symbol changed the world of marketing. Email has been a life changer for billions of people. The impact email has had on our environment is enormous. Rest in peace, Mr. Tomlinson.”
- Michael Leander, Markedu
“Email was the original social media for me, and a great way of staying in touch with people I’d met travelling in the 90’s. We set up joke lists and passed whatever we felt would entertain the group. A perfect way to remain connected.”
- Martin Shervington, Plus Your Life and Business
“From a personal perspective, as an introverted person with social anxiety, email gives me the ability to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues in a way that is much more comfortable for me than being face to face or picking up the phone. From a business perspective, email gives me the ability to sell my writing services to clients with my writing. I couldn’t imagine a world without email as it has allowed me to connect with so many people and create a business that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And I have Ray to thank for that! I am sorry for your family’s loss.”
- Kristi Hines, Freelance Writing Services
“I cannot even fathom life before email. I literally would not have my business if it weren’t for email. Ray — thank you for your creation. You made an impact on billions of people through this invention and improved lives across the world for the better because of it. Who would have thought?”
- Justin McGill, LeadFuze
“Email has been the basis of my career and kept a roof over my head for the past 12 years. Few inventions really change the world but I’m quite certain email has been one of them. It has brought the people of the world immeasurably closer. Thank you Ray.”
- Rob Tyson, The Tyson Report
“I’ve been separated from my family in Russia for almost 20 years now. Staying in touch has definitely been a challenge — especially in those early years, when many means of communication weren’t freely open to the Russians, for both political and economic reasons. Amazingly, email turned out to be sometimes the only way I could reach my family, and for that, I am ever so grateful.”
- Ana Hoffman, Traffic Generation Cafe
“In my early twenties, I traveled the world. I met countless wonderful people. Email was only starting to become popular. Not everyone had email addresses but a few did. For those that did, I am grateful that we have been able to stay in touch. In fact, some of these people have become lifelong friends, instead of distant memories, thanks to email. Few people have had a more profound impact on our ability as humans to close gaps and make the world a smaller, flatter and more open place. Most people go through life contributing very little. Some people spend their lives only taking. But some people give something so profound it changes the world forever, in positive ways that can never be measured. Thank you Ray Tomlinson for making the world a vastly better (and smaller) place, where ideas can be shared, almost at the speed of light, across continents, cultures and nationalities, where humans that never would have met can now form lasting and thoughtful relationships, even if they never meet in person. Today, I work from Australia, in partnerships with people in Uganda, Florida, Italy and the Philippines. Thank you Ray Tomlinson.”
- James Tuckerman, Anthill Magazine, Not-So-Freaky University
“I got my first email address in fourth grade. We were on a 56k modem and I would email back and forth with my friends after school. Email has been an integral part of my life ever since then. Of course now I’m working for an email company, email has not only made it possible for our business to exist, but it has given us the platform to be able to impact millions of people’s productivity around the globe. We are truly grateful to Ray for building such a thoughtful, stable protocol that has fundamentally changed the way that the world communicates.”
- Chris Cichon, Boomerang
“To put simply, email has changed the way the world communicates, especially loved ones across the world.”
- Casey Armstrong, Full Stack Marketer
“When I started creating an online business, I had no idea what to do. Fast forward just a few short years and I would’ve never realized that email was the key to it all. Although I didn’t know Ray Tomlinson personally, the things his invention has allowed are the foundation for modern day human communication. His loss is significant but his inventions will live on forever.”
- Jeremy Montoya, Jeremy Montoya Inc
“Email is one of those staples of business that continues to surprise us. In any given period, there is speculation that the next “fad” is going to be the “end of email”, but yet it keeps on performing to a level that is unrivalled by any other communications channel. Thank you, Ray — you made a difference.”
- Mark Asquith, Excellence Expected
“Imagine, less than 20 years ago, if I wanted to have access to my perfect audience and spread my message, it would cost so much money that I’d get stopped in my tracks. Email has allowed us to have a true relationship with those in who we serve in a 1-to-many way, that’s nearly free. It’s allowing me to fulfill my destiny and vision — that’s amazing. Ray, you’ve changed the ability for people to communicate, to allow for more effectiveness and the ability for people to connect on a daily basis like never before. Simply put, you’ve changed how humans interact, how they discover and connect. The legacy you’ve left, won’t be forgotten.”
- Scott Oldford, INFINITUS
“The impact that the modern email has done for my business is truly remarkable. It has allowed me to reach and help people all over the world. If we didn’t have email, my business and probably many others would not be in the situation we are in now. I am so grateful for this beautiful gift that Ray has given us all with his invention of the electronic mail.”
- Jason Swenk, Jason Swenk LLC
“There are a handful of things that have an immense impact on my daily life, email is most certainly one of them. Far more significant than any change that any politician has ever made during my lifetime, more important than any single app that I have ever used, and longer lasting than any social media platform. Email was the first reason I ever used the internet, it has been the foundation the vast majority of money I have made during my lifetime and it connects families, friends and colleagues around the world. Thank you Ray. You may be gone, but your legacy will continue to help the lives of billions of people for a very long time to come.”
- Leon Jay, FusionHQ

About Liam Austin
Liam Austin is a strategic partnerships expert and the founder of Small Today, an online community of 100,000+ small business owners. Liam grew his email list by 15,000 fans in less than 2 months by cultivating relationships with leaders. He is host of the online conference, the Email Success Summit, March 14–23.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.