Irina Doliov – Product Manager
As a Product Manager, nothing is more exciting than working on brand new product. Product Management has been compared to parenting, and launching a new product has a lot in common with birthing a child – I would know, I’ve done both. SparkPost feels very much like my baby, with hopes and expectations that a parent might imbue a biological child:
- Continue to grow, evolve, and change
- Be a useful, productive, responsible citizen
- Act modestly: be gracious in accepting praise and be open to acknowledging faults and accepting constructive feedback
- Never stop learning
What does this mean for a cloud-based email service?
Continuous, ongoing development. It seems obvious, but as a growing company we are investing more money and resources into SparkPost and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future to make sure it evolves with the needs of our customers, and the needs of the email community in which we operate. While the underlying Momentum platform is an on-premises industry leader today, I want the SparkPost service built on top of Momentum to grow into the innovative leader in the cloud services space.
Citizenship. Becoming a large sender of email — particularly on behalf of others — means that we have an awesome responsibility to help keep the entire email ecosystem working smoothly. That means sending email in the way that receivers (ISPs and inbox owners) want to receive it. It means participating in industry working groups to set standards of good behavior and best practices that all good senders follow, and consequences for not following those good standards. It means helping to educate our customers in good sending practices and helping them protect their recipients from harm. And of course, doing our best to keep the bad guys from sending email that’s harmful to all concerned.
Grace and learning. Our initial Beta customers have been very generous with their praise, and very forthcoming in showing us where we’re falling short. Of course at this early juncture I’m hungry for all input and my backlog is growing exponentially as a result. With the SparkPost development team getting into a good working groove, I plan to spend more of my time engaging with our customers — and those who are not our customers — to continue actively soliciting feedback and incorporating it into product plans.
Prospective SparkPost users: I want to know about your business and your app. I want to understand your goals and how messaging is helping achieve your goals. And I want that knowledge to inform product decisions. Because at the end of the day, SparkPost is all about helping our customers achieve their goals. If you have questions or suggestions about SparkPost, I’d love to hear them! Please contact me at email@example.com.
Ben Dean – Principal Developer Advocate ≈: ‘I Preach the Good Preach’
When SparkPost debuted last month, Message Systems CEO Phillip Merrick made it clear that developers were a major part of the focus of the launch, and the solution’s target audience. That was part of the plan from the beginning, which is why Ben Dean joined the team earlier this year in the role of Principal Developer Advocate. (He previously spent several years as a Senior Front-End Developer and Senior Developer Advocate for ExactTarget and Salesforce.) His job involves creating sample applications, SDKs, client libraries, and other materials that help developers understand SparkPost’s technologies and capabilities, as well as writing blog posts.
He also spends part of his time attending events “where I preach the good preach,” as he describes it. While he acknowledges his job is similar to that well-known tech industry role of product evangelist, he notes a difference: “Advocates go out and help people get moving. They meet with clients and partners who are running into problems and bring back information to help improve the product.”
He points to the sending domains API that was just released as an example of that: “We had a prospect considering SparkPost who said they needed a way to manage their sending domains programmatically. We had the Sending Domains API already a planned feature, so within a week-and-a-half, we finished the sending domains API and notified the potential customer.”
Dean points to that kind of interaction as a key way SparkPost stands out from the crowd: “The biggest differentiator between SparkPost and other offerings is that SparkPost is actually built by developers who care about developer success. They follow the best practices that you don’t always see in other products, which tend to be marketing-focused, rather than developer-focused.”
He continues: “SparkPost is built by Message Systems, a company that’s spent a long time focusing on the on-premise email market and getting high deliverability rates for its customers. The SparkPost engine is Message Systems at its core, and it’s the best of breed in all manner.”
A Successful Beta Launch
SparkPost is still in the early stages of its Beta launch, but it has already attracted developers who are impressed by its quality, according to Dean. He notes: “The APIs are robust and perform well, which means developers can quickly get moving. Our developers have been very happy with the documentation and support they’ve received from us, and we’ve been very active in making sure they’re successful.”
Dean says NetKi and Circonus are among those who have joined the Beta so far, with other companies waiting in the wings. He says the early adopters are typical of the kinds of customers SparkPost expects to attract: “A lot of them are web and mobile app developers who aren’t necessarily thinking about email, but they want to build a system that will grow with them. The NetKi reps told me, ‘It was an easy decision for us to put SparkPost in place in such an early stage of development; it’s not something we’ll have to rip out later. SparkPost will grow with us as we build our application from start-up to enterprise launch.'”
Email is a major part of the new mobile app development world, which is a perfect fit with SparkPost. “Transactional messaging is a very important technology consideration with these developers,” Dean says. “Having a system developers can count on which is RESTful, secure, performant, and which doesn’t require a lot of set-up but can be customized or referenced via templates, is extremely powerful. These benefits make it easy for developers to integrate SparkPost into their applications.”
A Solid Road Map
Looking ahead to SparkPost’s first year, Dean says: “Our road map is focused on developer adoption, customer success, and beneficial product growth. We have a lot of good things on the horizon, including self-serve billing and account management systems, along with making it easy to manage users and roles. We’re planning PaaS (Platform as a Service) integrations to make it easier for developers working on these services to use SparkPost as their technology solution for transactional messaging.”
That first year will also feature Dean’s appearance at many upcoming tech conferences, including:
Mobile+Web DevCON (February 3, 2015 in San Francisco)
Launch Hackathon (February 27, 2015 in San Francisco)
Fluent Conference (April 20, 2015 in San Francisco)
More conference appearances are in the works, so watch this blog for announcements.