To Boldly Fish Where No Email Has Gone Before

It’s been said that pollution is just a misplaced resource. The same can be said of spam which seems to have become an inevitably corrosive e-frustration filled with credit card offers and promotions for Bambi and her online cheerleader friends.

BoldFish thinks its “opt-in” aka “permission-based” e-mail software and services can help prune back spam hassles and make the e-mails more profitable for legitimate businesses.

Betting on their success are Alloy Ventures, the Mayfield Fund and Stanford University which invested $3.3 million in first-round financing last month.

In general, opt-in e-mail systems allow users to register at Web sites to receive newsletters, product updates and other specifically desired information. A recent Jupiter Communications study estimated that by 2002, opt-in e-mail will be a $3.1 billion market, including some 250 billion e-mails that Forrester Research believes will be outsourced by that same year.

BoldFish was founded in 1997 as Email Solutions by Rob Anue and Dean Drako who found themselves buried by the hassles of sending out a popular e-mail newsletter for customers of Design Acceleration, the chip design software company they founded. They enlisted Tasos Kostikonas, the author of the highly acclaimed listproc program, a public domain e-mail list processor.

Anue and Drako got so excited that they sold Design Acceleration to Cadence in January 1999 to concentrate all their efforts on their new e-mail company.

Analyst Matt Cain of the Meta Group said that BoldFish is well positioned for success in this crowded field because they offer both a service bureau and server software for companies that want to in-source opt-in e-mail.

While the service bureau concept is fine for smaller operations, Cain believes that “as e-mail becomes more strategic, companies — especially the Global 2000 — will want to in-source rather than use a service bureau. I think the service bureau model will get old.”

If he’s correct, that would be unwelcome news for MessageMedia, Digital Impact and Exactis (the former Mercury Mail). These companies will probably be affected, at least at the lower end, by free services such as Topica and eGroups which offer no-frills email list services that are a subset of standard service bureau offerings.

But for now, BoldFish is having it both ways. Service bureau fees run $0.005 per message with a $100 monthly minimum while a license for server software starts at $5,000 for a 5,000-user list and tops out at $150,000 for a 7-million-user list.

BoldFish’s only other dual-threat competition seems to be from Connectify which emphasizes its in-sourcing server software that starts at $100,000 and goes up to $250,000. Service bureau prices were not available from the company.

BoldFish’s dual and affordable opt-in email solutions make them a top contender regardless of how the market evolves.

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