Black Pearl Mail was three years and 11 days old yesterday. It's taken that long for the company to solve what outwardly appears to be a simple problem -- making email look better.
Founder Nick Lissette was running an anti-spam company when he received a promotional email from Air New Zealand and it looked great.
"Why can't my normal, everyday email look this amazing?" he asked himself. At least he should be able to move his company logo to the top rather than leave it at the bottom.
He asked one of his engineers to make the change only to be told it would be quite hard to do.
"I said: 'That's okay, you've got til the end of the week'. So three year, eleven days and several million dollars later ... I guess it wasn't the cinch we thought it was."
These days, Wellington, New Zealand-based Black Pearl does more than just email signatures, Lissette says. It transforms email into a digital communications platform.
"It's different things to different companies. Some want to manage their email signatures. Some want more graphical email so they stand out in busy inboxes and to make sure that works on all devices and some want to use their daily email to drive traffic to their website, social site and things like that."
Users get the power to create their own letterheads and systems with analytics built in to track results.
Black Pearl's SaaS service uses IBM's cloud infrastructure and works with all email platforms delivering to all email platforms, desktop and mobile.
Black Pearl has only been pushing hard in the market for about six months and is not yet cash flow positive.
"Our focus in 100 percent on growth at the moment and in a SaaS business the more you focus on growth the more you are going to spend," Lissette says.
"We reside in a one billion business user market and have unique technology. We'd be nuts to take our foot off the throttle right now."
Momentum is building with 40 percent month-on-month growth and customers in 42 countries.
"We go to bed and wake up with more customers than we had the night before," Lissette says. "It's real SaaS nirvana stuff."
So what about the often touted death of email? Isn't email traffic being diverted into chat and collaboration channels? What about HipChat, Slack, WhatsApp and that lot? Won't they make a hole in Black Pearl's business model?
"Remember everyone said social media was going to kill email a few years ago?" Lissette asks.
"Statistically about four years ago the average white collar employee sent about 7000 emails a year. Now the average is 12 and a half thousand emails a year.
"All social media did was take out all the social email which turned email into a hardened business communications tool."
Lissette says the new channels are clearing out the noise and bringing email back to being the communications channel it should have be.
In some companies the marketing department implements Black Pearl for the organisation or different groups in the organisation, he says. In smaller organisations different people can have administrator authority.
Email users are not affected and continue sending emails as usual.