The end of a calendar year can be a frenetic time for businesses. Most of us are rushing to make final deals, close out our books, and get all manner of necessary things done by December 31. But then, the winter holidays arrive with a time for celebration, family, and rest. After the mad rush, one thing I particularly appreciate about that moment of peace is the opportunity to reflect on the year that’s just ending and the new one that’s about to begin.

And what a fantastic journey 2016 was for SparkPost. We began the year brimming with optimism and great technology and ended as the world’s fastest-growing email delivery service. Today, our nearly 20,000 customers include developers, up-and-coming innovators, and the very largest enterprises—all of whom understand the value of high-performing, API-driven email delivery. Leading innovators like Workday, Snagajob, and Coursera joined this group this year. And for all of these companies, we’re now delivering many billions of messages per month.

The growth we achieved in 2016 also was good for our company financially. We earned record revenue and turned a profit for the year. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that treating customers well is the surest path to success. I am gratified that the trust our customers have given us affirms that we’re doing something right.

More precisely, perhaps I should say we’re doing two things right. Our technology makes the performance and scalability of our email delivery possible and sustainable. But our people make the difference in helping our customers truly be successful with email. Our focus in 2016, 2017, and beyond remains fixed on those two aspects of our business: developing features and performance that help our customers innovate and deliver email at scale—and providing the expertise and support they need to make the most of email.

That’s why we developed enhanced webhooks features to handle relaying of inbound email and SMS messages. It’s why we launched our Message Events API to increase our customers’ ability to query individual message disposition and engagement. It’s why we made it easy to implement SparkPost on additional cloud platforms including Microsoft Azure. It’s why we offer unified cross-channel email, mobile notifications, app deep linking, and SMS messaging for enterprise senders. And it’s why we accelerated the launch of functionality like subaccounts, expanded role accounts, easier management of suppression lists, and provisioning of IP addresses to help our self-service customers work more effectively.

Just as significantly, we made it really easy to do business with SparkPost. How easy? 100,000 free messages per month—something none of our competitors can offer—and flexible support plans that include expert advice from our Technical Account Managers and deliverability services teams.

Today, at the start of 2017, I can say that the SparkPost email delivery service is truly the most capable solution for delivering transactional email on the market, period. But we have no intention of stopping. In the coming year, you can expect us to take further advantage of the fact that we built SparkPost as a true cloud platform with elastic computing capabilities that allow us to offer the industry’s only guaranteed burst rate for enterprise senders. We will make our great solution for service providers even more flexible, with access to features like customer compliance monitoring tools and enhanced self-service options for subaccount provisioning, analytics, and more.

Throughout, we will keep our focus on making it easy for developers and enterprises alike to succeed with SparkPost. We know we will be even more active in the developer community—at events, in social media, and our really great Slack channel—providing helpful tools like our DKIM validator, and continuing to enhance our client libraries and documentation.

Now it’s January, and we’re all back to work. We gained so much in 2016 by listening to you and other members of our highly engaged user community. In 2017, we plan on doing a lot more of the same! I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you’d like to see from SparkPost in the coming year. Leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter, Slack, or even good old email.

On behalf of the entire team at SparkPost, I’d like to wish you a successful, prosperous, and happy new year. And please accept my heartfelt thank you for being part of our community and journey of growth over the past year.

—Phillip Merrick

@phillipmerrick

account suspension lock icon

Every time I think about the dramatic growth of SparkPost (in fact, we are the world’s fastest-growing email delivery service), I am grateful for the trust you’ve shown in our company and the role you’ve allowed us to play in supporting your business.

There are many reasons why SparkPost’s technology is trusted to deliver more than 25% of the world’s non-spam email. Yes, we have a robust and elastic cloud infrastructure that easily scales to meet the needs of the largest senders. And, of course, our remarkable team of email deliverability experts understands the complex needs and challenges faced by developers and email senders. But there’s another reason, as well: we take our responsibility for fighting spam and other abusive email very seriously.

Let’s make no bones about it—spam is a terrible thing. Unchecked, it can overwhelm our inboxes. Some, like phishing or other fraudulent emails, even can be dangerous. That’s why mailbox providers like Gmail and Microsoft have rigorous spam filters and other shields to protect their customers. And it’s why SparkPost goes to great lengths to make sure our email delivery service isn’t used to distribute these harmful emails. (This is something our industry is united on. Although SparkPost is particularly diligent about steps such as domain validation, our peers and competitors take protective measures as well, and we work together in groups like M3AAWG to establish best practices.)

In addition to its impact on recipients, spam also hurts you as an email sender. Proactively managing feedback loop (FBL) and other signals from mailbox providers is critical to maintaining our customers’ deliverability. That’s because sender reputation has a very large effect on how ISPs treat your email.

So I hope it’s clear why we are diligent about preventing email abuse. It begins when you register for a SparkPost account. Every customer agrees to comply with our terms of use and a clear messaging policy that prohibit not only spam and outright fraud, but other inappropriate or illegal uses as well. And although I won’t go into technical details here, SparkPost’s deliverability and operations teams use a variety of tools and systems that monitor our infrastructure and mail streams to detect and block abusive email.

If an account is flagged as violating our messaging policy or shows other signs of unusual activity, we will suspend it. If that happens, you will receive an email outlining the reason at your registered email address. We also will post a notice on your SparkPost account dashboard. While your account is suspended, you will not be able to send email through SparkPost. You can learn more about account suspension on our support site.

In our zealous guarding against spam and other harmful email, we know we sometimes make mistakes—a “false positive,” to use the industry’s standard terminology. I don’t want to brush that under the rug, and I am genuinely sorry if a false positive has affected you. But more than that, you have my personal commitment that we’ll fix false positives swiftly and work our hardest to make things right.

The easiest way to reactivate your account is to respond to the email ticket, and our customer support team will work with you to resolve the problem. They’ll help you sort out what might have triggered the suspension, and they’ll identify any remediation necessary to get back on track.

Account suspension is not an action we take cavalierly. We know that our customers’ businesses depend upon email to drive revenue and nurture customer engagement. That’s why we always are striving to improve these systems and to reduce false positives. We also are working to make it easier to reactivate accounts that are incorrectly suspended.

We’re in this together. We’ll continue to do everything we can to keep email a positive tool for communication and growth—and to protect our customers’ sending reputations to ensure reliable delivery to the inbox.

If you have any questions or concerns about how SparkPost works to achieve that goal, or how it affects your business, please tell us. I’d like to hear how we’re doing—and what else we can do to support your business and your reputation as a sender.

—Phillip Merrick

best email platform celebrates one year in the cloud

SparkPost is turning one year old. We launched with the mission to bring the benefits of a modern cloud architecture to email sending—and a focus on being simply the best email platform for developers who need a programmatic web service for email. It’s a special feeling to realize we’ve hit the one year mark, and we truly are gratified and humbled by the response our SparkPost platform has received in the market. In our first year, we made incredible progress building a truly scalable and high-performing cloud email platform—but more than that, we are amazed and thankful for all the great developers that trust their apps and businesses to us.

If you’re a long-time email pro, you might know that SparkPost came out of Message Systems, the leading provider of on-premises email technology. Our Momentum MTA (Message Transfer Agent) platform powers 25% of the world’s legitimate email for senders like Twitter, LinkedIn, Salesforce, and many other great companies. We’re proud of that heritage and the essential role we play in these tech giants’ own technology stacks.

But, we also knew that there are many more companies—large and not-so-large—that wanted that same performance in a way that is native to the cloud. And we knew that simply moving an on-prem stack into a data center and calling it “cloud” wasn’t the way to do it. So, when we built SparkPost, we re-architected core code and ops components to take full advantage of what the cloud offers—and leave behind the limitations that come from the traditional data center model.

SparkPost is truly and fully a cloud native offering, existing within AWS and benefiting in countless ways from what the cloud makes possible. For example, when our customers need to scale or burst suddenly, our systems can automatically and immediately start adding capacity for the time it is needed. This elasticity allows us to offer the highest-performing email delivery platform on the planet—and deliver amazing value like our free 100,000 emails/month plan. It’s also why we can offer SLAs that our competitors can’t match; they’re still racking new boxes when they need to scale.

After our first year, SparkPost sends 6 billion emails per month for companies that range from garage app developers to global brands like Pinterest, Zillow, CareerBuilder, and Capital One. But, across the board, we are committed to continue building the best email platform that fully leverages the cloud to offer the most to our customers’  businesses.

We’re also honored by the community that has developed around our platform. To the developers that have extended our platform with your own innovative SDKs and libraries, we say thank you. We are amazed by your innovative work. We are listening to you, and we work every day to make sure you have the the world’s most reliable and innovative email platform, period.

Thank you for being a big part of our success. We quite literally would not be here without you. I can’t wait to see what we can build together over this next year and beyond.

—Phillip Merrick

As our CTO Alec Peterson wrote on the blog last week, this is an interesting time in the transactional ESP market. Mandrill (operated by MailChimp) recently announced that they were eliminating their stand-alone offering and instead will be incorporated as an add-on feature of MailChimp’s paid, flagship email marketing service.

We have a lot of respect for MailChimp. They’re a great company, and we admire the work they do making full-service email marketing accessible to all kinds of customers. We also understand what their CEO said in his announcement letter about a “fit” issue with the Mandrill product. Transactional email isn’t the business they’re in.

This sort of change always is a hard decision for a company to make. Understanding that not all of Mandrill’s customers have a need for the full-service offering, MailChimp is recommending SparkPost as a Mandrill alternative for developers looking for a transactional email provider.

In fact, SparkPost announced last week a previously-planned change to our pricing structure, notably increasing our free tier to 100,000 free emails per month (as well as incredibly cost-effective rates for higher message volumes). I’m really excited about this pricing model. It’s a win for our customers, and it’s a win for our business model.

These pricing plans mean that SparkPost is matching (and even beating) the rates Mandrill customers have been paying. That’s really good news. But I want to make a further commitment to you today: should the terms of our free tier of pricing ever change in the future, I promise we will nevertheless honor it for any customer currently enrolled at that tier, for the life of that account.

And for anyone who wonders if it’s really possible for SparkPost to keep this promise, the answer, unequivocally, is yes. In his post last week, Alec explained why. I agree with his analysis one-hundred percent.

Giving developers the tools to do great things with transactional email is hard-wired in our DNA. It’s who we are, and our love for developers runs deep—most of us here are developers (or in my case, former developers) ourselves! I’m proud of how our team at SparkPost has risen to the occasion to support the Mandrill developer community, and I’m thrilled we’ve also gotten the pricing part of that right.

Whether you take us up on our 100K free emails per month plan, or a paid level of service, we’d really like to have you as a customer. I look forward to working together to build something awesome.

—Phillip