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*FEATURE: SendGrid – OC Success Story

SendGrid’s new office in Irvine

Went Public. Moves OC Office to Irvine.

Defining whether a company is still considered a startup is like shoveling fog or herding cats. It can be hard to pin down – based on various criteria and whether it’s still considered “disruptive.” It usually comes down to semantics.

SendGrid, which created a digital communication platform for sending emails, may or may not still be considered a startup – depending on who you ask. But its success quotient is abundantly clear. An IPO late last year raised $131 million at $16/share (it was trading at $27/share as of Monday morning). It delivers more than a billion emails every day. And, it’s constantly striving to maintain its status as a market leader by staying ahead of the competition.

The company started here in Orange County, founded by two OC residents and a partner from Riverside. It moved its HQ to Denver after participating in Techstars, an accelerator in Boulder, and recently moved its OC office from Orange to Irvine. The move was based on Irvine’s reputation as a growing tech hub. It will celebrate the official opening today.

Going Public

The company decided to go public because it was “ready for it and (the) momentum (was) incredibly strong,” spokesman David Friedman told OC Startups Now. “SendGrid’s market opportunity is approximately $11 billion today. Our customer base has grown 35%, compared with first quarter 2017 totals.”

The company raised $750,000 in its Series A round. It followed that up with a $21 million Series B round and a $20 million Series C round. And, it raised $33 million in late 2016 in a Series D.

Company Mission

The company built a platform to deliver high volumes of automatically-generated emails from businesses to their customers. It touts that its email delivery is more reliable than the competition due to its proprietary mail transfer agent. Customers include Pandora, Uber and Costco.

The original goal was to alleviate the bottlenecks that have been known to challenge some of its competitors.

“We stand apart from our competition because of our email deliverability rates, our scale, support and services,” Friedman said. “SendGrid has a 94% email deliverability rate, compared to the industry average of 80%.”

The company has two target markets: developers and marketers. The former includes a large community of companies that build cloud-based applications using SendGrid’s platform. It also offers email marketing. That feature help marketers create and deliver email campaigns to drive engagement and business growth.

Competitors include Amazon SES (short for simple email service) for transactional emails and MailChimp for marketing emails.

SendGrid’s business model involves a flexible pricing plan, based on the number of emails a company sends per month and the number of contacts they store in SendGrid’s platform.

OC Roots

SendGrid launched in 2009. It was founded by OC residents Isaac Saldana and Jose Lopez, as well as Tim Jenkins. Lopez, a web architect and senior engineer, is the only one who’s still at the company. Saldana left this year. He had served in multiple roles including engineer, CEO, President and board member. Jenkins also left this year, after eight years as CTO. All three are alumni of UCR’s engineering school and became software developers.The current CEO is Sameer Dholakia.

Irvine Entices

It moved to Irvine at 400 Spectrum Center Drive in late March. This building, and its complement at 200 Spectrum Center Drive, are both owned by the Irvine Company and house a slew of tech companies, among other businesses. Co-working giant WeWork occupies two floors at 200 Spectrum Center Drive.

SendGrid occupies 22,000 square feet, compared to the 7,800 it had in Orange. The space can accommodate more than 120 employees. The company currently has 60 in OC (with more than 400 in total – in California, Colorado and England).

The strong pool of tech talent in Irvine was a big draw, according to the company. The majority of the Irvine office is comprised of engineers. There are also product management, support, marketing and IT employees there. The location is in close proximity to train and bus routes for employees commuting from other regions.

“Being in Irvine has been amazing,” Mohammed Attar, SendGrid’s site director and senior director of engineering, told OC Startups Now. “The city has done an incredible job of making Irvine a desirable and accessible location for all our employees, regardless of where they live. A simple example is the availability of the iShuttle, which makes it easy for our team to commute to Irvine via train, and then have the shuttle drop them off and pick them up from our office.”

SendGrid is already involved in the Irvine community. It’s a corporate visionary partner of UCI’s Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. Attar is an active member of the Bren School’s Dean’s Leadership Council. (The council raises community awareness of students and faculty, raises funds and lends strategic advice.)

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a veteran journalist, who’s covered OC startups for two-plus years.

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