“I can’t believe it’s not… already in existence!” (Fabio voice)— the story behind Javelin’s investment in stensul
As a venture investor, you have to get lucky from time to time to back a category defining player. Sometimes you bet on the right market trend at the right time, with the right team behind it. Sometimes the strategic stars align and a particular investment has immense strategic value to a large acquirer. And sometimes, and rarest of all, you find an opportunity where the company is going after a complete “white space” in a large market that somehow went largely ignored for a long time. This is why we feel very fortunate to lead stensul’s Series A round and support Noah Dinkin and his brilliant team.
But first, the problem…
Email is not going away anytime soon. By the end of 2020, there will be over 3 billion email users worldwide. It will continue to be a major marketing channel for all brands, with over 300,000 teams across 15,000 companies interacting with email marketing in some way.
As a result, email marketers have a tough job. Each email touches millions of customers, and they have to write, design, build, send and measure all of that activity with various teams on a daily basis. Every company with a marketing function grapples with email creative, and any marketer can attest to the expense and time it takes to get creative out the door, and even the simplest marketing email can take valuable development and agency resources that are both expensive and time consuming.
Enter stensul. Stensul takes the repeatable, standardized content creation work away from the developers and agencies marketers have come to rely on, removing redundancy and freeing up time for other meaningful projects. When we first met Noah and heard stensul’s incredible story, we thought that this product had to already exist! Helping marketers simplify the email creation process through workflow automation seemed to have been solved by someone in the early days of email, decades ago.
We looked for competitors and talked to many of stensul’s customers, who all confirmed that this was a “white space”. There was no easy-to-use, enterprise-grade SaaS offering to solve the problem. They, like us, were shocked that they were not able to find any SaaS offerings to help them with a very basic, yet ubiquitous problem.
Somehow, while innovation on email deliverability and personalization raged on through ESPs like SendGrid, ExactTarget, Responsys, and others, the email creation process became the equivalent of “The Land That Time Forgot.”
Email marketers were left to fend for themselves. In a pre-stensul world, it would take a week or longer to send out just one email. This included waiting for approvals from legal and branding, and employing teams of contractors or an expensive agency to make sure the email looked just right across various devices. With stensul, a non-technical marketer can create, edit and get approval on prospective marketing materials without consulting an agency or developer, dropping cost by up to 90% and increasing output per marketer by as much as 10x. After using stensul, one marketing director, on their own, was able to send out 4 beautiful, responsive, and brand compliant emails per week. This led to more traffic, more quality customer engagement, and ultimately more revenue. The ROI and productivity gain to major customers was striking — stensul was onto something huge and large enterprises were willing to open up their checkbooks in a meaningful way.
Not only was stensul able to sign up major customers like Lyft, YouTube, BMW, GrubHub, and Box, amongst others, they earned tremendous loyalty because they made their marketers look like champions within their organizations, and they were able to show the spread of the product within the company from one team to another — always a strong sign of product-market fit.
To find a venture opportunity that has led an expedition and found this valuable and uncharted territory (an untapped enterprise software goldmine), you have to consider yourself lucky as an investor, because it almost never happens!
Most importantly, we loved the resourcefulness and fierce determination of the team. They had the “Javelin DNA” of being scrappy, analytical, intellectually honest, creative problem solvers, with a never-say-die attitude, and a passion to build technology that helps people perform better, while building a growth company and earning plenty of customer loyalty in the process. They are also great human beings and fun to work with, which is paramount when you enter a long-term entrepreneur-investor relationship. Need more evidence of their scrappiness, fun, and creativity in action? Check out Fabio (yes, Fabio!) and a real life sloth helping them sell software at conferences!
We are thrilled to support Noah, his team, and the “sloth army”, on their journey, as they make the lives of marketers a little easier and revolutionize the world of marketing creative and automation!
— Alex Gurevich, Managing Director