Email Expert Interviews: Radek Kaczynski, Founder and CEO at Bouncer
With a solid professional background and a great team together, Radek founded Bouncer, an email validation and verification SaaS, in 2017.
For Radek, email is the main channel in communication with customers. He has created Bouncer to help fast-growing companies with affordable email list verification.
His work is guided by the idea of treating the recipient of an email with respect throughout the process, by providing them with quality and valuable information.
In this interview, Radek will share with us great information about his product, email as a tool of choice and its dynamic, the pandemic effects on the email deliverability industry, and precious tips for a clean email list.
To get right into the game, what can you tell our readers about you — the man behind Bouncer. What does your everyday life look like? How do you spend your time?
First of all, thank you so much for having me here, and by the way… awesome introduction! Wouldn’t put it better. ;) I might steal some lines to put them on my LinkedIn profile to finally be able to describe, in a few sentences, what do I do ;)
I was born and raised in the beautiful valley, in the mountains, in the southwest part of Poland.
And today I think it made me a bit idealistic, with my head in the clouds, and yet very pragmatic, down to earth with my legs strong on the ground. And this is visible in all aspects of my life, actually.
So my life is a mix of structured, optimized activities and daydreaming about what kind of value we could be delivering to the World.
There’s a lot of interactions with amazing human beings, and some solitude time as well.
Also, my hobbies are of all sorts — I love solo motorcycle travels, hiking with my friends, cooking with my close ones, and reading.
(Currently am reading a trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past — an unbelievable novel that I highly recommend).
You’ve created Bouncer — an email validation and verification solution. Can you tell us more about what was the trigger for such a product? You can describe the first moment you came up with this idea and the main steps you took to see it working :)
It all started when I was still living in the U.S., working for Volvo and Mack Trucks, and being responsible for all aftermarket IT solutions in the Americas.
One of the challenges we had was a continuity of communication and data quality when the email address had a typo because it was captured over the counter in the dealership’s service area.
It wasn’t a trigger…even though I was dreaming about starting my company, I felt I wasn’t yet ready, so I was engaging myself in many “intrepreneurial” activities and ones related to innovation in the Volvo Group.
And then, when I was on vacation, sailing in Poland, I met on breakfast with my friend from high school, with whom we had a rock band in the old days.
As he’s been running Woodpecker — multichannel communication assistant, we touched on the subject of email deliverability and the challenges they had caused by undeliverable email addresses.
So during this breakfast, I made a decision, “I’m quitting my job, moving back to Poland, and will start Bouncer”. The first step I took was securing funding…
Even though email verification seems to be relatively simple, building the best email verification solution is a very sophisticated tech that needs to process millions of requests in parallel, manage the flow, manage its infrastructure reputation, learn preferences of SMTP servers, etc.
So it is quite a time, energy, talent, and money-intensive R&D project. Fortunately in Central and Eastern Europe, we have the privilege of access to E.U. funds for innovation, thus this was the first thing I did…
I applied for the funds, with help of a small Venture Capital firm, and we won the grant ;)
The next task was to build an awesome team, had a lot of luck here too, thus all the next steps came consequently.
It’s been a true rollercoaster though with plenty of ups and downs involved.
Sometimes I feel that if I knew what is required to build a sustainable SaaS, I would never start it, and yet, I’m glad I did not know it back then.
You started this rollercoaster with a software DEV background and relevant expertise in managing IT business solutions. What about your current role in the Bouncer Team?
My software development background for sure helped me a lot while we’ve been working on the R&D project and the product.
For sure I felt more comfortable in this domain, so had a bit more time and energy to learn other parts of the business… the ones I was never exposed to before… like sales & marketing, business development, etc.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a Jack of all trades and a master of none. Fortunately, I have a great team around me, so I don’t have to be the smartest in the room ;)
My favorite parts of my role are the ones that are connected with interactions with human beings.
So sometimes you’ll see me introducing some tool from Management 3.0 practices that help us build a meaningful company.
Another time I’ll be working with customers on our partnerships.
But I do like to spend some time on support from time to time too — this lets me be truly connected with our users.
And now…about Bouncer’s mascot — Winston. :D Gorillas are powerful, intelligent, and impressive. What’s the story? Because I think this has a lot to do with your brand :D
Yes, Winston is the best! When, together with my friends, we were brainstorming on the name of the company, he came to us intuitively.
We wanted to create a protector that would be helping all the woodpeckers, chimps, and other animals on the internet.
And the silverback gorilla, the most intelligent and the most powerful animal in the world was a no-brainer.
Plus in Polish, bouncers at the discotheque sometimes are being called “gorillas”. And Winston is the Bouncer — he lets in only good email addresses and asks the bad ones to leave.
Furthermore, he’s so aligned with our long term vision for Bouncer, that will be providing much more than just email address verification services ;)
But back to the story… When I knew it’s gonna be a gorilla, my friend created a first version — a young Winston, who’s been with us during our beta.
Then when we knew that a grown-up Winston is wise, gentle yet powerful, and strict when needed, we asked my brother’s digital agency (OMI Media House) to put him on the paper based on our description. And here he is, he’s perfect, and we all love him here ;)
We all know that email marketing is depending on the email lists every publisher has. Decreasing the bounce rate and protecting the sender’s reputation is gold. How does Bouncer’s ideal client look?
We actually started a bit naive… we wanted to create Bouncer as a Back-end as a Service, with which all the MarTech solutions would integrate and we still believe that the best way to provide email verification is to embed it inside a marketing automation solution, CRM, or any other MarTech solution so that a user does not have to leave their tool of choice to clean the list. But it takes time to convince our colleagues in the industry, and we’re pursuing this mission with small steps.
In the meantime, to build a sustainable business, we have decided to create a super-simple, intuitive email verification app, so that when someone needs to clean their list it will not steal too much time and effort from them.
Currently, we resonate the most with the marketing teams of fast-growing companies, especially the techy ones.
What industries need Bouncer? Which one has the major interest in improving email deliverability?
Interestingly, almost every company that communicates with their customers and partners via email, needs to keep their deliverability and quality of contact information on a high level.
Though indeed some need it more than others.
For example, B2B companies that serve many other businesses need it badly.
Statistics show that up to 15–20% of business email addresses get undeliverable in just one year.
It’s mostly caused by people changing their jobs, but also unfortunately because some companies get out of business.
Another type of customer who might use an email verification service is one who offers some discounts, coupons, samples to a mass consumer when they subscribe.
Unfortunately, there still are some humans that, caused by some circumstances, abuse such offers, which may result in increased costs.
Also, businesses that capture the email address when their customer is in a hurry, use a mobile device or are passing it over a counter or a phone might need email verification to make sure that the email is correct at the moment of capture.
Statistics show that even up to 15% of email addresses are invalid when they are being stored in our databases.
Wouldn’t it be cool to correct them still when we have a customer with us?
Many publishers see the email list-cleaning process as a burden. Can you share with us the basic actions every publisher should take to improve deliverability and engagement?
Let’s be honest, no one loves email list cleaning.
It’s not a type of activity that causes our excitement, I believe this should be as easy as possible and take as least of our time and energy as possible.
Actually, in the ideal world, it would not be needed at all. And I hope that at some point people will not have to care about it, because it will be incorporated in all the MarTech solutions.
That’s why I usually ask our customers to motivate their marketing solution providers to incorporate advanced list-cleaning functionalities and integrate with one of the best email verification providers, so that their customers don’t have to care about it, and can focus on their important tasks.
I know it will take some time though before every Email Service Provider will be fully taking care of the email deliverability and will be teaching us what and when to do, so we need to take care of it ourselves.
Email deliverability is complex though and depends on so many factors.
For the last couple of years I was trying to put my head around it, and try to simplify it so I was able to understand and memorize it.
And constantly I was concluding that email deliverability is a result of love and respect… towards us and our recipients. Towards our time, energy, attention, and resources.
Long story short — I believe that:
- when we do respect our recipient time and attention,
- when we maximize the probability that our message will deliver a value to our recipient,
- when we learn the preferences and needs of our recipients,
- when we manage our contact lists properly,
- when we care about our infrastructure,
- when we don’t exploit our and recipient email servers (send predictable volumes)…
…email deliverability will come and stay.
The last year was a challenging one for the majority of businesses and somehow pandemic seems to stay a little longer. How do you think EMAIL was impacted by all these dynamic changes? How do you see it right now?
The whole world was indeed challenged by the pandemic on many levels, and many human beings and their businesses got impacted by it.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we were advocating for staying home and sending emails instead (whenever it’s possible).
To support our customers we also decided to cut our prices in half and came back to our initial pricing from the days of the Bouncer’s inception.
We knew that there will be so many businesses that we’ll need to shift towards digital communication and value delivery, and we wanted to enable them to do it in a safe manner.
And indeed the interactions shifted to digital, first to social media, and then, when businesses realized that there is a bit more control in the email channel, to email as well.
So with the increased volumes and different types of emails being sent out, email was yet again evolving (and still is).
Anti-SPAM filters had to adopt, recipients of the messages had to adopt, and in consequence, senders had to adopt.
I believe that we all start to be more respectful, empathetic, and thoughtful towards each other these days, and it is being reflected in the emails that we sent.
And those emails that are respectful, empathetic, thoughtful, and deliver the value — are the ones that resonate the most.
I think it was an evolutionary process that was started way before the pandemic, but like any crisis, pandemic sped up this evolution.
I hope and truly believe that we will come up out of this way more united, connected, and loving than we ever had.
Building an email list properly can be easy if you have quality content. But keeping it clean and relevant can be a challenge. What can you tell our readers about the ideal period of time of a list-cleaning or what stays behind the success here?
I think that the best way to keep our lists clean is to be in constant, close connection with our recipients and manage all the feedback coming from this communication.
Ideally, we would know a lot about our contacts, their preferences, their needs, any changes happening in their life.
But it’s super difficult to have that kind of insight on a big scale.
So we need to introduce some simplifications, models, and best practices.
I think that the most important ones are:
- identify any kind of email bounces and, depending on a type of a bounce try again later, do your best to correct or change email address, or if needed remove the email address,
- observe what kind of emails our contacts do engage with — every single person has slightly different needs, and thus will engage with different emails from us differently; of course, we can observe some patterns, but it would be great to give our contacts an option to choose what kind of information they like and deliver on that promise,
- respect any kind of change in the preferences, unsubscribe requests from some types of our messages, or even whole communication.
If we are not that closely connected with our recipients, are not sending engaging messages on a regular basis, or have a challenge in considering that kind of feedback — then email verification may come in handy.
I’d recommend cleaning the list:
- before every big campaign, if we haven’t been sending messages lately,
- at least twice a year when we communicate with consumers,
- at least on a quarterly basis when we communicate with businesses,
- at least on a monthly basis when we do want to reach out to people/businesses, using other communication channels, to correct (recover) invalid email addresses.
Additionally, I would introduce email verification at the moment of email address entry — to make sure that we collect only the correct ones from the beginning.
Closing in on a funny note, can you share with us what is the most unexpected request you have received from your customers?
I’m not sure if it’s funny, but for sure it is moving, and even though it happens from time to time it’s always unexpected…
Some of our customers and partners invite us to visit them when we are in the neighborhood regardless if it’s for business or for pleasure.
And this means a ton to me… cause it just shows that we’ve built a connection.
So my dream is that one day, I will jump on my motorcycle and will start my travel around the world (a.k.a. Bouncer on the road) to meet people with whom we work.
Ultimately we all are in the Human to Human business, and when people get and stay connected, great things happen.