nPost Blog

Interview with Toni Schneider, CEO of Oddpost.com

Oddpost provides a web based email tool. It was recently acquired by Yahoo! Inc. in an effort to differentiate its web mail service.

Interview conducted by Nathan C. Kaiser on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 in San Francisco, CA.

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		<a name="QA001047"></a><b>Toni, thanks again for your time today.  Could you please start off by giving us an overview of Oddpost.com?</b>
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		Oddpost is a software company, and we have developed a technology framework that allows us to run web based software applications that perform just like a desktop application.  The first product we have built is a web based email system, that runs, looks and performs very much like a desktop email client.  In essence, it is Microsoft Outlook, or something like outlook running inside a browser.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001048"></a><b>How are you positioning this product within the consumer and enterprise markets?</b>
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		We target both markets, and our business model is two fold.  We have a consumer subscription service where users can sign up for individual email accounts for $30 per year, and we have an enterprise offering that is a license software package that allows corporations to use our email client as a front end to an existing email system.  If a corporation already has an email system, and is not happy with their web based access to that email, they can license Oddpost and plug into their existing email server.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001049"></a><b>Could Oddpost act as a complete replacement for a corporate email system?</b>
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		We don't have a complete replacement system.  We have our own system that we have built for our site and it can be licensed as a complete service, but that would be more suitable for an ISP.  They would then offer a subscription service for consumers.  For a business type environment, we do not have a complete email system.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001050"></a><b>You are now operating as an ASP (Application Service Provider) for the consumer side.</b>
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		That is correct, on the consumer side we do act as an ASP, for the enterprise market we license the software to each customer.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001051"></a><b>How are you marketing to the consumer and enterprise markets?</b>
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		With our recent launch, our main marketing tool is our website, and the exposure we have received from launching the company at the DEMO 2003 conference.  One of the great things about our product is that someone can visit our site, and try out the product completely.  That is our best sales and marketing tool right now, is through word of mouth, and people trying out the site with the free offer.  Moving forward, we are entering some distribution agreements, because we really want to focus on the development of this technology, and teaming up with marketing and sales partners.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001052"></a><b>May a consumer use a personal domain via the Oddpost direct offering?</b>
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		Users can point to additional email accounts, with up to six additional email accounts that is invisible to the end recipient.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001053"></a><b>What additional applications are you pursuing, in addition to email application?</b>
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		We haven't announced any additional applications, but there are two categories; one is additional communications related applications, and two, which are brand new applications.  The communication applications relate back to the email application and include a calendar application, and instant messaging.  Instant messaging does not have a solid web based solution, so users don't need to download each instant messenger client to individual desktops.  There is of course a whole range of additional applications that we move into and are currently exploring.  Our technology can be applied to any web based application that has an interface and user experience which are not up to the desktop experience, which is almost all web based applications.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001054"></a><b>Which market do you see as the key opportunity moving forward; consumer or enterprise?</b>
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	<div class="IntACont">
		The business enterprise licensing is the more lucrative market.  That mostly has to do with it being easier to get into as a small company.  On the consumer side, we see a tremendous demand for better email.  The people who do find us, end up signing up and converting to a subscription level at a very high rate.  We get 25% of people who try the product on our site, sign up for subscription.  Without a large marketing budget, it is very difficult to compete with Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail.  Our consumer service has really given us a showcase, and raised our profile, and is driving business sales for us.  The main revenue is from businesses that want to upgrade thousand, or five thousand employees to a better web mail system.  We see a lot of interest in both areas.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001055"></a><b>What is driving that demand in both the consumer and business markets?</b>
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	<div class="IntACont">
		From an enterprise perspective, it is a productivity issue, where you have people who travel, or have multiple machines, and need to have web-based access to email.  The web based access they have is slow and cumbersome that they lose a lot of time when trying to access and respond to email.  It is purely a productivity booster for employees, which is easy to justify.  On the consumer side, it has more to do with people being fed up with the free services that are available.  The productivity aspect is important as well, but I don't think people realize it, because as a consumer you don't sit in front of email all day long as you do in a business.  Consumers also don't like all the ads being served, and the level of intrusiveness of those ads.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001056"></a><b>When targeting the enterprise market, how are you looking to get into that market?</b>
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		We have broken it up into two distinct segments; small to medium business, where we are setting up publishing and distribution relationships with companies who already service small businesses with a range of Internet products.  These partners are usually small consultancies that assist small to medium businesses with setting up their email, and Internet.  We can then be sold alongside their current product and service offerings.
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<div class="IntQCont">
	<div class="Bold StepFrom">
		<a name="QA001057"></a><b>As an additional product they can provide to their end customers.</b>
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	<div class="IntACont">
		That is right.  it works very well because it is so difficult to target the small business market, because there are so many of them.  We can leverage these existing distribution channels.  The other segment is made up of the large corporations, which are serviced by the larger software providers.  We are working directly with the messaging providers, to essentially bundle Oddpost in with their offering.  If you have a large company with 50,000 people, Oddpost can be and add on, or built in feature to your platform.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001058"></a><b>From a strategic perspective, this enables you to focus on your core business.</b>
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		We don't have to develop a marketing or direct sales team, and continue to focus on developing additional applications.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001059"></a><b>How do you see the competitive market?</b>
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		We have mostly focused on the email side of things.  One example is Microsoft, which is currently improving the web-based access for their Exchange line dramatically.  This is creating a lot of pressure on the other providers to come up with a better web-based solution as well.  In terms of others solutions, people who are really based on the web-based solution, there are a number of providers who have HTML solutions that don't work well as a desktop application.  There is no one with our level or performance or featured, and for the time being are quite unique, and at the high end of the market.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001060"></a><b>As the CEO of Oddpost, how have you been managing to take in account the current market realities?</b>
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	<div class="IntACont">
		For us it is quite simple, since we are self-funded, we are growing based upon our revenues.  We have to focus on those deals that generate revenue for us.  We also have to be very frugal, and careful how you grow, and bring on additional people.  The focus is on deals that have very low risk, and preferably an up front cash component as well.  It limits our choices to certain types of deals, which we have been able to secure.
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<div class="IntQCont">
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		<a name="QA001061"></a><b>Are you currently profitable?</b>
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	<div class="IntACont">
		Yes we are.
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<div class="IntQCont">
	<div class="Bold StepFrom">
		<a name="QA001062"></a><b>What are the key aspects that you look for when hiring new people?</b>
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	<div class="IntACont">
		We are very technology and engineering focused.  We are between 80 and 90 percent engineering.  Within our field we look for a specific skill set that is quite difficult to find.  That has to deal with the technology we use.  Our product is based on DHTML, and also makes heavy use of XML.  DHTML is a technology that not a lot of people have used to build complete software solutions.  Typically, it has been used in website design to handle roll over affects, or menu bars.  In the past it has been used by webmasters to enhance their site, not as a complete framework.  We are one of the few companies that have taken DHTML and built a platform around it to create a complete software application.  To do this requires an expert level of understanding of DHTML.
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<div class="IntQCont">
	<div class="Bold StepFrom">
		<a name="QA001063"></a><b>Where did the name come from?</b>
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	<div class="IntACont">
		It was still early on, when we started the company, and it was difficult to secure domain names.  We knew we wanted it to convey mail or posting, short, as well as capture some of the quirkiness of the company.
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