Company name: GMass, Inc.
Revenue: 450K/ Month
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Ajay, and my business is GMass. GMass is an email platform for sending email campaigns through your Gmail account. It works as a Chrome extension for Gmail. That means you install the extension, and then you do everything from inside your Gmail account.
Our customers run the gamut from solopreneurs promoting their business to salespeople doing cold outreach to prospects to non-commercial uses like teachers emailing test scores to their students.
GMass has grown month over month since our first day back in 2015, and we’re completely bootstrapped.
Since our last Starter Story profile in March of 2020, we’ve added 700,000 users, quadrupled our revenue, and doubled our pricing. We’ve also added hundreds of features and launched several new email services, like our email validation service and our email warmup tool.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
I’m hiring new people. I’m building new features. I’m fixing old features. I’m keeping our servers up. I’m scaling. Every day, we’re handling more emails for more users, and this presents all kinds of architectural challenges.
I’m severely short-staffed, and I’m always struggling between foregoing some important task to spend time hiring versus just getting it done and delaying the hiring. It’s a never-ending battle.
Hiring “cogs in the wheel” will get you going as a startup, but eventually, you’ll plateau and need to hire “stem cells.”
We’re exploring cultivating our product for some specific niches. For example, a lot of musicians use GMass to promote their music, and we’re about to launch a platform that will have features specific to musicians, like allowing them to see how long a prospect listened to their sample MP3 and then automatically follow up with an email sequence based on the length of the listen.
I’ve also recently hired a full-time content producer. My goal is to have the best content library of any email outreach platform within a year.
I recently realized we’ve been wasting a ton of money on Facebook retargeting ads. Being a Chrome extension, where the experience takes the visitor off our website to do the install, it’s hard to get accurate analytics because there aren’t any analytics tools that properly handle the unique flow for websites that offer Chrome extensions.
So I ended up rolling my analytics solution. After poring over the data, I’ve realized the $10K/month I’ve been spending on Facebook retargeting ads is resulting in zero users. Of course, Facebook will tell you that the ads are resulting in thousands of new users. That’s because of a tricky thing called “view-through conversions.”
Most of the time, I feel like I’m running a growing business, but there are those weeks where churn outpaces growth, and that’s when I panic. Usually, the panic subsides the next week when growth resumes, but the bigger GMass gets, the more innovative I have to be to keep growing. There’s a growth point at which the usual growth strategies of ads, podcasts, content marketing, affiliate marketing, and videos run out of steam.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Hiring “cogs in the wheel” will get you going as a startup, but eventually, you’ll plateau and need to hire “stem cells.” This isn’t my metaphor, by the way. I’m stealing the words of Expensify’s CEO. I’ve found it to be true, though.
In the beginning, GMass grew by employing low-cost labor in Africa and the Philippines. The talent pool in overseas markets is great, and the wage arbitrage you can run results in great savings. I thought I could do this forever, but I’ve found that unless I hire some higher-earning Western-educated strategic thinkers, I’ll never grow from here.
On a personal note, I’m currently married with four kids. When I was single and running a different software company, I would often think, “I bet if I were married and my life was more stable, I’d be more focused and could grow the company more.” Now that I’m married with children, I often think, “If I were single, I could spend so much more time growing the company.” So for me, the lesson is that it’s impossible to spend 100% of my time growing the company, but that’s probably to my benefit.
I’ve also realized that now, at the ripe age of 44, I don’t have the stamina to work 80-100 hours/week as I used to in my 20s and 30s. That doesn’t necessarily mean my productivity is lower though. Being forced to work fewer hours has also forced me to work more efficiently. I’m more organized, and my time working is more focused, except when I go down a TikTok rabbit hole.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I’m actively thinking about how to expand GMass’s communication capabilities beyond just email.
Sending an email is a commoditized service, and for the most part, the thousands of platforms that send email are competing for the same customers, just trying to undercut each other on price, with each platform promising the best deliverability to the Inbox when in reality, no platform should ever make that claim.
That’s also why this year, I’m focused on building workflows for specific audiences that use GMass. There are thousands of email marketing and email outreach platforms, from behemoths like MailChimp to platforms with a dozen users that nobody’s heard of, and GMass sits in the middle somewhere.
I think that the only way to distinguish ourselves from this point is to provide solutions for specific markets. One of those markets, as I mentioned, is musicians. Another market is real estate agents.
We’re going to build specific workflows and features to make sending email campaigns better. Someone recently uttered the expression “The riches are in the niches” to me. It’s a popular saying amongst entrepreneurs, but it only recently made its way to me.
I never plan beyond a year, so I have no idea what the four years after that will look like.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
No, I stopped reading books many years ago in favor of short-form literature like blog posts, Twitter threads, and Medium articles. That said, most of the content I consume on Twitter is written by people that have no idea what they’re talking about and just want to sound inspirational to get followers.
I love reading the in-depth analyses offered by The Information. I asked for a subscription to it for Christmas last year. I’m also an avid reader of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and TechCrunch+ (which is very different from regular TechCrunch). That idea of hiring “stem cells” came from TechCrunch+. When I’m ready for a break from business reading, I love reading stories on The Cut.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I’m going to take the Elon Musk approach and say that if you need advice, you shouldn’t be running your own business. I’ll add that asking any entrepreneur for advice is a terrible idea because they’re never going to be able to put themselves in your shoes. Ask for an experience share instead. So my advice is, don’t ask for advice.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!