The email service provider (ESP) buyer’s journey—the process of shopping for a new ESP—usually feels a little bit like this…
With hundreds of ESPs to choose from, the buying process can be overwhelming. Throw in a couple T-Rex’s with laser guns on top of it and things get totally out of control.
If you’re lucky, it’s a process you only have to experience once during your career. For others, it can feel more like Groundhog Day, as it’s not uncommon for marketers or product teams to switch ESPs every two years. So, regardless if you’re shopping for your first ESP or looking to switch, I want to help.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Before arriving at 250ok, I previously worked at three ESPs: Aprimo (acquired by Teradata), StrongView, and, most recently, SparkPost.
To help you jump-start your list of questions for potential ESPs, I sent five questions of my own to a small group of fellow email nerds for feedback.
Below are some of their responses (because I only have so much space) and they are placed in no particular order:
What’s the one question most senders fail to ask when shopping for an ESP?
Dan Deneweth (Senior Director, Strategic Services [Deliverability], Oracle Marketing Cloud): “What does the ESP’s deliverability onboarding process look like? Will your team help us with our IP and domain warm up and ramp up?”
Mike Hillyer (Director of Product Marketing SparkPost): “I think the most commonly missed question is ‘will changing ESPs truly affect the outcomes we are looking to change?’ This often happens when a sender is facing issues related to practices and falsely believes (or is led to believe) that simply changing ESPs can fix things.”
Len Shneyder (VP of Industry Relations, SendGrid): “By now most companies understand the basic concept of deliverability—the assumption is that if I pay someone else to send email on my behalf it should be delivered to the inbox. However, what senders don’t ask is how the culture of an ESP they work with will help them become better senders; or to put it another way, what kind of resources exist to help me help myself? What many senders don’t realize is that good deliverability starts with good opt-in practices, matures into engaging content and finishes with segmented frequency and cadence. Customers that understand what to look for know to ask about the kinds of available resources their ESP can deliver. This can help measure their effectiveness, inform their strategy for success and set them on a path to achieving happy customers and revenue that is up and to the right. Some of the things to look for include the kind of reporting available to the customer, the size of the deliverability team, a professional services team and the kind of engagements they can carry out on an ongoing and one-off basis. Does the company provide help on strategy and creative? Is there technology and tooling at the disposal of the aforementioned team to thoroughly analyze every point along the journey from the sending infrastructure to the MTA and the decisions leading up hitting send. Small nuances like this may go unnoticed until a problem arises, so it’s important to understand every angle involved in working with your chosen ESP partner.
Laura Atkins (Founding Partner, Word to the Wise): “How does the ESP handle authentication? Do they have the ability to provide custom SPF and sign with customer domains for DKIM? If they don’t right now, when will they have it? Is it an additional cost or is it included? With the rise of DMARC, alignment is becoming a critical factor in getting into the inbox, and some ESPs are still behind the curve. Others charge extra for it. Senders should be striving to make all their mail align, and some ESPs don’t make that easy.”
Roger Barnette (CEO, MessageGears): “This is a hard one. I would flip the question a bit and wonder if senders are asking themselves why they’re shopping for an ESP in the first place.”
What are the top considerations when shopping for an ESP?
Jordie van Rijn (Founder of www.emailvendorselection.com): “When shown a demo, be aware that it is the job of the salesperson to show the best version of the software as possible. Skipping over things or not digging into your questions is a red flag for you to investigate deeper. Another good one is ‘we can’t do it now, but it is on the roadmap.’ One way to avoid that is by asking them to do a demo with your use case, email, and data-model. Pretty hard to make excuses that way.”
Roger Barnetter: “For large senders with in-house data living behind a firewall, all initial considerations have to revolve around access to data. How can data be accessed? How fast can the data be utilized and updated? How does the ESP handle PII/data privacy concerns? After that, usability and support are important. Senders need tools they can actually use and need to know someone will be there to pick up the phone and help when they need it.”
Len Shneyder: “That really depends on the stage that a company is in. Younger companies may only require transactional email services so an API driven email platform may be just the thing. However, as companies mature they embrace and rely on the power of email to drive brand awareness and other aspects of the business. At this point, a company may bring on another platform that begins a vicious cycle of messaging sprawl. At the high end a company could be working with 6 ESPs and suddenly realize that the use cases are so customized and unique that they have to build their own and they are back to looking for the best email infrastructure they can find to simply power the layer above. To put it neatly: can you grow with your ESP or is the ESP you’ve chosen a one trick pony? Or equal importance is the partner network and tools that neatly plug into your ESP. Maturing companies will connect to commerce engines and other technology that has an output through email. It’s important to look as far ahead as possible when choosing an ESP and ensure that the cloud service is architected in such a way as to be accessible and extensible. Again, it depends on what you as a sender need. Are you looking for a super sophisticated front end to minimize your reliance on IT? Do you require professional and strategic service around your marketing calendar? Do you need a production team to build your templates on an ongoing basis? ESPs come in all flavors, sizes, and shapes—the right one is out there you just have to do a little digging.”
Dan Deneweth: “My top four:
David Baker (Cofounder and Chief Strategy & Operations Officer, Cordial): “Today, it’s speed and flexibility. We believe the old processes are broken and fraught with opportunities to make mistakes, so organizations typically over-process to reduce errors, thus impacting speed and efficiency. We feel there are new ways to do things that may: require process changes in how you produce content; how you manage data; how you manage personalization; and how you operate testing and optimization. We have to remember that many of the core technologies were architected a decade ago aren’t agile or flexible, and require labor and workarounds, and customization that contradicts agility as the business changes. We know optimization is the catalyst, and data is a feed, and real-time is the chain that pulls it all together, so force real-time views of data, performance and optimization as key criteria when choosing a new partner.”
John Caldwell (Principal and Founder, Red Pill Email): “Does the platform do what you need it to do (objective) and is the platform what I expect it to be (subjective). Demos are cool, fun, and often exciting, but while the sales team is showing you all of their cool demo-ware, how much of it supports your business today and your plans for tomorrow? Ideas and innovations are fine and it gives you something to look forward to, but if the platform can’t support the way you make money today then it doesn’t matter what it can do tomorrow.”
Should senders use multiple ESPs?
David Baker: “I’d not recommend it unless you are a global organization where there is no centralized control and in region requirements that differ dramatically. You are minimizing the value of engagement by separating transactional from triggers and promotional/batch. You also lose the aggregate value of ‘seeing’ what’s happening across your customer base, market and people that may be in different markets but exhibit like-behaviors. It’s just as hard to manage at scale without a mission and the mission shouldn’t be to Band-Aid your existing ESP, as you’ll get fractional value from each. I would only use multiple vendors if you plan to switch to help ease the transition, or you are so big you aren’t centralized to reap the benefits.”
Len Shneyder: “My advice would be to avoid messaging sprawl. Messaging sprawl can lead to a dangerous over messaging of clients. Let me give you an example: the marketing team uses one ESP, the partner and loyalty team uses another, a third is used by customer service, and legal/compliance uses some in-house tool. It’s nearly impossible to know when or how often one of these groups sends a communication. The likelihood that someone could hear from all four groups in the course of a single day can be quite high. Additionally, there is the question of efficacy: how do you analyze performance and understand the impact of all that messaging? You wind up burdening yourself with building a BI system, getting all the data into it to analyze, synching things like bounces, suppression lists etc. across platforms. You see where I’m going with this? Choosing the right ESP is important, it’s your bridge, a conduit, a critical line of communication to your customers and it is highly measurable and should feed your understanding of your company’s performance.”
Mike Hillyer: “Using multiple ESPs is like a frequent traveler staying in multiple hotel chains: most don’t do enough volume to build reputation across both. If you’re spreading yourself across multiple ESPs, odds are you will not only lack the volume per IP to build reputation with the internet service providers (ISPs), you’ll also put yourself at risk of being identified as a snowshoe spammer.”
Dan Deneweth: “Using multiples ESPs is no replacement for a proactive, well thought out deliverability sending strategy. However, there are use cases where sending from more than one ESP fits into a company’s business goals. For example, if your company has both B2B and B2C divisions, this could warrant using different ESPs to cater to each market. Keep in mind that there are higher costs associated with using multiple ESPs. Splitting your volume across ESPs will usually increase your CPM costs since CPM rates typically drop with higher sending volumes. There are also labor costs associated with learning and training staff on a second ESP platform. These labor costs can be easily overlooked, but could become significant over time.”
Roger Barnette: “Not as a long-term solution. If you’re evaluating or testing various solutions out (running a proof of concept, for example), that’s one thing. Some senders will also send transactional, triggered, and marketing mailings from different ESPs, but that can get messy. Ideally, one ESP handles it all.”
John Caldwell: “It depends; some don’t like all of their eggs in one basket, and that can be a legitimate concern for some, but thinking that you need a “marketing” vendor and a “transactional” vendor is silly. Gasoline and diesel are different fuels, but email is email is email. Promotional and transactional messages are both electronic messages that follow the same RFC specs. Some think that they might save a few bucks by using a platform marketed as ‘transactional” (typically not full-featured, and just a fancy relay with some reporting), but the reality is that by splitting your message volumes you’re splitting your buying power; and where the added volume of transactional messaging could bring down your overall CPM, you end up paying more for your promotional to save a little on transactional. Another problem with this is leveraging interactions and learning across both types of messages (i.e., if a subscriber clicks a link in a transactional message that could trigger a promotional message). Since promotional messages come out of a different platform, the two platforms somehow need to synchronize—and that’s usually through the user’s backend systems, usually with some level of built-in delay (batch file transfer). And then the pennies you saved in a separate ‘transactional’ platform are eaten—and then some—with additional backend programming and maintenance. When we see a user with multiple platforms they either have multiple autonomous business units working independently of each other; have gained additional platforms through business acquisition and haven’t migrated all to a primary platform where they can leverage CPM buying power; or it’s a political decision (e.g., the product team doesn’t want to use what the marketing team is using).”
Why do senders jump from one ESP to another?
Roger Barnette: “Lack of innovation, especially from the big players, coupled with bad, impersonal service is frustrating senders who are under an increasing amount of pressure to deliver great experiences to their customers. Data is key, and access to that data is very important, and large senders are beginning to understand that the traditional model of syncing data back and forth from an in-house database to an ESP’s database just to send email isn’t very effective.”
Len Shneyder: “There are a number of reasons. One could be that they simply outgrew the capabilities of their current provider. Or they realize that their provider is working with companies that may generate numerous blacklisting and the lack of a white hat culture at the ESP is affecting performance. A common scenario is that something the customer does (e.g., let’s try to re-engage opted out users) destroys the sender’s reputation and ability to deliver email. The normal (and I’ve seen this) response is to blame the ESP, decide that they are incompetent and jump ship to another ESP. Did that solve the problem? No. The problem was how the customer perceived the effect of sending to unengaged and opted out users, not the ESPs software/infrastructure of deliverability practices for that matter. The important thing to keep in mind is that sending email at scale is hard—email, as a channel and ecosystem, has developed a powerful mechanism for establishing trust and a long tail memory for brands, domains and IPs. Simply changing ESPs doesn’t solve the problem if the root cause is a lack of best practices. There are definite reasons why changing ESPs is totally warranted, but not following best practices isn’t one of them.”
David Baker: “We’ve been in this business for two decades, and been on both ends of the marketing side, the key reasons people switch are:
Mike Hillyer: “It’s all too common to see senders jump ESPs because poor practices lead to poor results, and they are drawn into the false promise that simply bringing their poor practices to another vendor will magically make their results improve.”
Dan Deneweth: “Senders often think they will get better deliverability just by switching ESPs. The ESP sales teams often foster this false expectation, saying their platform will give you better deliverability. The truth is most modern, large ESPs provide an equally strong environment for good deliverability.”
Laura Atkins: “There are a couple reasons I’ve heard over and over again but they all kinda boil down to the same reason: The sender is unhappy with the service provided by the vendor. Why they are unhappy can vary. Sometimes, the sender has just outgrown their current ESP and needs more or different features. This is one of the good reasons to switch.
In other cases, the ESP has some systemic problem that’s causing all their customer’s sending reputation to be tarnished. This is an ugly spiral I’ve seen a couple times. The ESP lets in some questionable customers and they end up getting blocked. But the revenue from the questionable customers is vital for the business, so they can’t shut them down. Better customers start leaving because they can. The company becomes even more dependent on the revenue from the questionable senders, and more good customers leave, and so on. Eventually, the company is stuck with bad customers and poor delivery. It’s ugly, but I’ve seen it happen, repeatedly.
The final reason senders jump from ESP to ESP is because they have bad practices and their ESPs tell them ‘no more.’ So, they shop around to try and find someone that will let them send their problematic mail.”
John Caldwell: “Senders jump ESPs because they didn’t take a measured business approach to selecting the right platform. They are swayed by nice sales people and cool demos and pay more attention to those things than they do their own functional specifications. A lot of times this happens because they don’t know what their functional specifications are when they go shopping. They buy based on price and personality and not on how the platform can support their current needs with the ability to scale to their future needs. Rinse and repeat. There are legitimate reasons to change vendors and companies do it all of the time, but if you do your homework there’s no reason that you can’t find a platform that you can comfortably stay with for five or more years.”
Is deliverability dramatically different from one ESP to another?
Len Shneyder: “It can be. Some ESPs like to tout the highest deliverability in the industry. That’s fine, I’m sure that every ESP has brands and customers with engagement so high that they achieve 99% inbox all of the time. However, those same ESPs most likely have customers with deliverability rates around 50% and those are casually not reported or excluded from the data set as outliers. This lack of transparency makes it rather difficult to judge an ESP as a whole. There’s a surprising amount of public data on how white hat or black hat an ESP is, it takes some digging but it can be found. Additionally, and this is anecdotal, ESP size is probably a good measure. If an ESP was incapable of delivering email then their customers would go elsewhere. It’s important to read between the lines, not to get hung up on the marketing, to find a team that you like to work with, talk to customers using the product who can reference its efficacy and the team’s responsiveness and determine if you can grow with the company. This is key—if you’re building a business that’s built to last then you want to work with companies that share your DNA and understand that a partnership is a long-term investment in the success of your product and customers.”
Dan Deneweth: “ESPs provide a strong environment for deliverability, but deliverability success is mainly the result of a sender’s mailing strategies. While good ESPs will help senders with their mailing strategies, deliverability results are less about the ESP platform and more about the sender’s mailing practices. Sender’s who switch ESPs hoping for better deliverability, without changing their mailing practices, will be disappointed.”
Laura Atkins: “Yes and no. There are clusters of ESPs. Most of the ‘big name’ ESPs have similar deliverability. They’re well managed, they police their customers, they enforce standards, mail gets through. Then there’s a different cluster of ESPs, mostly smaller, that are stuck with a few dirty customers and can’t get out. These are often very cheap, but their overall delivery is bad. A case from a few years ago, an ESP had all their customer mail and their corporate mail going to bulk at Gmail. Their reputation was so bad, that everything was filtered. It happens. But, overall, the major players in the space invest enough in compliance that their reputation doesn’t factor into delivery.
Which actually brings up a question that’s never asked and probably should be! ESPs often tell me they want to be as clean or respected as this-ESP or that-ESP. They’ll do whatever needs to be done. Then I tell them how large the compliance teams are at the place they want to be like. Better ESPs invest money in compliance and deliverability. Ask how big their compliance team is and what tools they have to identify and address delivery problems. That shouldn’t be a hard question to answer if it is there’s a sign the ESP isn’t investing in deliverability.”
Roger Barnette: “It really depends on how tightly they monitor and regulate their senders, how they educate their customers, and who they work with for monitoring and troubleshooting.”
Jordie van Rijn: “Yes, deliverability can vary. All ESPs can say they are the best at delivering email and they do. But most of the time a sender with deliverability problems will bring his trouble along with him if he is having trouble. And then he is having trouble at the next ESP as well!”
Mike Hillyer: “Only when it’s paired with the people and tools that help improve a sender’s practices. Poor practices will produce poor results on any ESP.”
John Caldwell: “Deliverability has more to do with the sender than the platform with a few exceptions. Typically, users on a shared IP address are only as good as the worst sender. There are always exceptions to the rule, but we’re looking at the fat part of the Bell Curve here. Along those same lines, if the platform is known to be a bit loose in the quality of their users then that platform may develop some reputation challenges to their entire IP block, which could even impact their users with dedicated IP addresses. But when it all shakes out, a sender’s own practices are the biggest factor in that their ability to deliver to the inbox.”
David Baker: “No. The semantics of deliverability are the same, what is different is the level of support and forensics provided. Everyone does monitoring, but it varies so widely by company given the type of mailers they have on their roster. Sadly, this is the least-funded service element in all ESPs, and typically you don’t get the level of support or proactive management of your reputation until there are issues. This is definitely something marketers and/or brands should dig much deeper into and check references as a good healthy relationship here will ensure sustainability of performance long-term. It’s far too easy for vendors to say, ‘We got it covered.’ I knew an industry-leading ESP that touted great deliverability and they had literally people managing hundreds of clients! As you can imagine, everything was an auto-response and it took forever to get any meaningful resolution. Yet again, the key to deliverability is not the process, monitoring or remediation, it’s the synergy between the client and the deliverability-people proactively addressing things which are known to cause problems and managing that level of risk with business pressures. This is an art form that only the most ‘green’ to our space promise and under-deliver. Experience goes a long way.”
Do you still have some questions that need to be answered? Feel free to contact me at info [at] 250ok.com and I will do my best to help you think through your requirements. In the meantime, here are some additional resources to help you on your journey.
Mark Briggs serves as chairman and CEO of Validity, a company he founded in partnership with Silversmith Capital Partners. He has over 25 years of experience building and leading high-growth technology companies with a strong track record of generating exceptional shareholder value. Most recently, Mark served as CEO of ABILITY Network, recognized in the Forbes Cloud 100 as one of the top 100 cloud companies in the world, which was acquired by Inovalon (NASDAQ:INOV) for $1.2 Billion.
Prior to ABILITY, Mark held executive leadership positions at Carefx Corporation, at NaviNet, was the President of MPI Solutions at QuadraMed Corporation, and served as the Chairman and CEO of LinkSoft Technologies, a company that he founded. Mark is a member of the Board of Advisors to the Dartmouth Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies and is a Senior Advisor to Silversmith Capital Partners, a leading Boston based growth-equity firm.
Mark holds a Master’s in theoretical physics and a Bachelor’s degree in physics, both from Dartmouth College.
Wayne Parslow serves as Executive Vice President of Validity for International and is building a world-class sales and go-to-market team to maximize Validity’s opportunities across the UK & Ireland, EMEA, LATAM and APAC. In addition to general management, he is responsible for the development and execution of business plans, go-to-market programs, sales management, strategic partnerships, and public representation for the International markets, and to develop the business at least in line with the aspirations of the US domestic market.
For over 25 years, Wayne has been successfully building, scaling and restructuring international companies in various industries, including document and workflow management, integration and interoperability, web application development, security, access management, eCommerce, business process management and the application of open source and open standards.
Prior to Validity, he served as head of European, Middle Eastern and African markets for global digital identity company, ThreatMetrix.
Wayne received his Bachelor of Science in Applied Science from Kingston University.
Gary Hall serves as the Chief Financial Officer for Validity. Gary has over 20 years of experience leading finance and operational teams at high-growth, technology companies and helping these companies generate significant shareholder value through public and private offerings and successful exits.
Prior to joining Validity, Gary was the Chief Financial Officer of Casa Systems, Inc., a provider of ultra-broadband solutions for mobile, cable, fixed and converged service providers, and helped lead the company through significant growth, culminating in an Initial Public Offering in 2017. Prior to Casa System, Gary was the Chief Financial Officer of eCopy, a provider of document management solutions, which was sold to Nuance Communications in 2009. Gary was also the Controller and then Chief Financial Officer of MatrixOne, a product life-cycle management software company, and he helped lead the company’s Initial Public Offering in 2000 and the sale of the Company to Dassault Systems in 2006. Gary is a Certified Public Accountant and worked at Deloitte, a multinational professional services firm.
Gary holds a M.S. degree in Finance from Bentley University and a B.S. degree in Accounting from Southern New Hampshire University.
Derek Swaim serves as Executive Vice President of Corporate Development for Validity and is responsible for all aspects of corporate development strategy and execution.
Derek brings more than 20 years of corporate transaction experience to Validity. He has advised leading private equity and founder-owned technology companies on domestic and cross-border strategic M&A, leveraged buyouts, and growth equity recapitalizations. Prior to Validity, Derek was a Managing Director at Aeris Partners, a provider of M&A advisory services to software, digital media, and business information companies. Derek also held investment banking positions at Harris Williams, Broadview International, and Goldman Sachs.
Derek has an AB in Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape.
Bonnie leads the Customer Success team at Validity, the most trusted name in customer data quality. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and has written for the company blog and TotalRetail.
Don Williams serves as Executive Vice President of Sales for Validity. With over 25 years in the healthcare technology industry, Don has a track record of creating, restructuring, and motivating organizations to consistently exceed sales, financial and operational goals.
Don is focused on client services for the firm, as well as creating a positive culture of accountability, developing and executing growth strategies, and monitoring business operations with attention to cost efficiency.
Prior to Validity, Don served as the SVP of Operations for MedeAnalytics Inc., a leading healthcare analytics company for providers and payers.
Don received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He also received his Six Sigma Green Belt Certificate from Villanova University.
Josh Stuber is a customer centric leader focused on delivering value and leveraging customer feedback to ensure long term relationships. Josh currently runs the Validity Global Renewal Team, responsible for spearheading Customer Retention and Renewals across the globe.
In addition to his executive career, Josh serves on the board of West Georgia Habitat for Humanity, a charity that brings people together to build homes, communities and hope for impoverished families.
Scott Ziegler is Validity’s Chief Product Officer. Leveraging input from customers and analyzing market trends, Scott sets the strategic direction for Validity’s product portfolio. Scott joined Validity through the acquisition of Return Path in 2019. He remains active in the email community and the product management community and has presented at industry events.
Before joining Validity, Scott held leadership roles in Product and Engineering at IBM and Ricoh and holds multiple patents. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science from Muskingum University.
Josh Stuber is a customer centric leader focused on delivering value and leveraging customer feedback to ensure long term relationships. Josh currently runs the Validity Global Renewal Team, responsible for spearheading Customer Retention and Renewals across the globe.
In addition to his executive career, Josh serves on the board of West Georgia Habitat for Humanity, a charity that brings people together to build homes, communities and hope for impoverished families.
Helen Parslow serves as Vice President of Validity for International managing a world class go-to-market team to maximize Validity’s opportunities across the UK & Ireland, EMEA, LATAM and APAC.
Helen is a seasoned marketing leader who is passionate about building brands and is experienced in developing and executing insights-driven marketing plans and World class event presence that span both our global and international marketing initiatives.
Prior to Validity, she served as Head of Marketing and Business Development at Medeanalytics, EMEA. Marketing data solutions for healthcare unlocking the value of data for better patient outcomes.
Helen received her BA (Honours) Business studies degree from Nottingham Trent University.
Tunc Bolluk is Vice President, APAC for Validity. He is responsible for leading sales and for overseeing general management of the region for the company. Tunc brings his extensive regional experience in the digital sector to support Validity’s clients across their marketing, sales, data & CRM business units.
For over 20 years, Tunc has worked in general management roles in sales, channel/alliance management, and client services. He has extensive experience leading and mentoring sales teams and executing strategic business plans within the Cloud/SaaS, digital, big data and the ad-tech space.
Tunc holds a Bachelor of Computer Science from Macquarie University.
Chris Bryan serves as Vice President of Sales for the UK & Ireland at Validity International managing Validity’s go to market efforts in the region.
Chris brings 27 year’s experience working for technology companies predominantly SaaS based Software Companies. Chris is passionate about enabling everyone to make better fact based, data driven decisions coming from the Business Intelligence and Visual Analytics space (Qlik, Business Objects (SAP), Crystal Decisions) building and developing highly successful Sales & Business Development teams.
Chris is passionate about Sales Best Practice to deliver positive outcomes with excellent service for our customers and supporting his teams personal and professional growth.
Brian Winters brings nearly 20 years’ experience in the marketing technologies field to Validity and has worked for many marketing technology software companies including ExactTarget, Salesforce, and Movable Ink.
He has held positions in Sales, Sales Leadership, Operations, Strategy, and Partnerships. He has provided tactical execution strategies or program deployment guidance for organizations such as Intel Corporation, Motorola, and 3M amongst many others. He is truly passionate about the positive impact that a well-designed, deployed, and executed partner program can bring to an organization and is considered to be a thought leader in the development of indirect sales channels within the SaaS industry.
At Validity, he leads our efforts to develop programs that empower partners to best leverage Validity technology and solutions for our customers.
As Senior Vice President and Global Head of Data Solutions at Validity, Chris is responsible for executive direction, roadmap, and overall management of Validity’s data solutions. He works closely with industry operators, customers, and data analytics to drive an informed product strategy.
One of the first International employees of Validity, Chris brings 25+ years experience as an individual contributor and leader in Pre-Sales, Product, and Customer Success roles across multiple startup and large enterprise software companies.
With a passion for technology, Chris is a regular contributor to events, blogs and an active member of the International Salesforce Community.
Cecilia Belele serves as Vice President for LATAM. She is responsible for leading sales team and also oversees general management of the region.
Previously she served as Regional Director for Return Path and earlier as Channel Director responsible to develop the partner program for LATAM Region. With an extensive experience leading sales teams and executing strategic business plans she helps Validity to increase its presence in Latam market.
Cecilia has Bachelor of Economy with an MBA for Business and Technology Management
Kevin Randall serves as the Head of the Integration and Project Management offices at Validity. Kevin brings 15 years of experience in Integration, Portfolio, Operations, and IT Service Management as well as a track record of developing the teams, processes, and systems to scale growth oriented organizations.
Kevin received his Bachelors from Bentley University in Waltham MA.
Guy is a passionate advocate for intelligent use of customer data to drive responsive sales and marketing programs. With a knowledge base spanning twenty years, he is globally recognized as an email & data expert and thought leader.
Over the past decade Guy led Return Path’s global consulting team and worked with world-famous clients across 6 continents to improve their email delivery, subscriber engagement and revenue.
Now Validity’s VP for Customer Engagement (International), he continues to explore his passion for email and data and share it with his clients to maximise their program value. He’s a strong believer in giving back to his community, speaking at flagship events, providing training, and producing fresh and insightful thought leadership.
Outside of work, Guy has had long-term involvement with the DMA, currently sitting on the email council and involved with key pieces of research. He is a regular contributor to the industry press, and a 3-time finalist as data storyteller of the year!
Alex Rubin serves as Vice President Business Development at Validity. He is responsible for data acquisition efforts including mailbox provider and filtering company relationships. Alex has worked in leadership roles at several successful start-ups including Return Path (acquired by Validity), RemarQ (acquired by Critical Path), and Rocket Science Games (acquired by Sega Software).
Alex was born, raised and currently lives in San Francisco, CA. He holds a BA from UC Berkeley and an MBA from UCLA.
Brendan Peregrine serves as the Vice President of North American Sales for the midmarket. Brendan has spent the last 12 years in sales leadership roles, building process driven teams that achieve results.
With a background in data and years of working in data related business, Brendan is passionate about coaching problem solving skills in the data and world with his teams. Previously Brendan served as Vice President of Sales at Greenway Health, after spending 10 years in operations and services roles.
Elaine Ginsberg serves as Vice President Sales Operations. Elaine brings over 25 years of operations, sales and product experience to Validity. She has a solid track record building organization infrastructure and executing programs utilizing process, technology and employee engagement to drive rapid growth.
Prior to Validity, Elaine served as SVP Customer Operations & Success for ABILITY Network, a leading healthcare technology company, recently acquired by Inovalon; and held leadership roles with Vitera Healthcare Solutions, Sage Healthcare and Emdeon.
Tom Bartel is Validity’s Senior Vice President of Data Services. Tom has more than 20 years of email delivery, data, technology, operations, and privacy experience. He most recently joined Return Path through its acquisition of ThreatWave, where he served as CEO/Founder. Prior to that, he has held roles at Return Path, MessageMedia (acquired by DoubleClick), and founded several other startups.
Tom is actively involved in key industry organizations, such M3AAWG and ESPC, and advises start-ups and non-profits. Tom has a Bachelor in Speech Communication from Colorado State University.
Karen Friedrich serves as Vice President of Enterprise and Channel Sales for North America. With over 15 years’ experience in enterprise software sales and strategy, Karen has a track record of success in both the private and public sector markets including sales management, product strategy, marketing, channel management, and solution deployment. Karen brings an entrepreneurial drive, strong relationship development skills, and credibility gained through sales and operational experience.
Prior to joining Validity in 2018, Karen served as VP of Channel Sales at MedeAnalytics, Inc. a leading analytics company for providers and payers, and held sales leadership roles at Harris Corporation, Carefx Corporation, and WebMD.
Serving as Validity’s CIO, Steve Doyle is responsible for creating and executing upon the business-aligned vision and roadmap for Information Technology systems and solutions at Validity, including IT Corporate Services, telephony, corporate networking, and Core Business Systems. Steve brings more than 25 years of prior industry experience in a variety of IT roles, all in High Tech, SaaS-based industries.
Prior to joining Validity, Steve was Vice President of IT & Business Systems for Endurance International Group, where he oversaw Corporate IT, Infrastructure, CRM, Data Warehouse, and other mission-critical business applications for Endurance’s 4,000+ employees, globally.
As Vice President of Strategy & Corporate Development, Lily is responsible for developing and executing cross-organizational strategies that drive scale and growth for Validity.
Lily started her career as a consultant at PwC, and has since moved into high-growth technology startups where she has held various leadership positions at industry-leading SaaS companies. Prior to Validity, Lily ran Strategic Partnerships for Optoro – a VC-backed reverse logistics company – where she was responsible for the company’s channel revenue and network of distribution partners. Before that, she was the Co-Founder and COO of Aspire – a tech-enabled employee engagement company – where she managed all business strategy and operations. Aspire was acquired by Raffa, P.C., now a part of Marcum LLP.
Lily graduated Summa Cum Laude from Georgetown University with a BSBA in Finance and Chinese. Hoya Saxa!
Michael Fairchild serves as the Vice President of Financial Planning & Analysis for Validity and brings to us his expertise regarding all aspects of strategic corporate financial planning, and valuable analysis which drives business decisions.
Michael brings 12+ years of financial experience in SaaS technology companies, ranging from start-up companies to large enterprise technology companies. Prior to Validity, Michael supported the growth of a Rhode Island based start-up, from venture backed to private equity sponsorship. Additionally, he spent 5+ years in various roles at IBM in the SaaS finance group, where he supported mergers & acquisitions, integration, and growth of over 10 acquired technology companies into a single business unit.
Michael holds a Master’s of Business Administration from Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School and a degree in economics from Dickinson College.
Diane Gordon is an accomplished C-level executive with over 25 years of driving retention and growth by creating scalable infrastructure in support of profitable P&Ls and customer loyalty, the basis for minimizing churn. She designs and leads the development of market-leading products, programs and solutions, achieving high growth, while ensuring customer loyalty, and healthy renewal and NCVI rates for technology companies. Diane’s career includes executive roles in customer care, operations, marketing, product development, product management and corporate development.
Greg has BSBAs in Economics, Finance and Real Estate from University of Denver and an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
As Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kate leads all of Validity’s marketing efforts.
Prior to Validity, Kate was Vice President of Marketing at Drift, where she discovered her passion for helping and marketing to sales professionals and marketers. While there, Kate built the demand generation function from the ground up, achieving more than 200% in pipeline growth. Before Drift, Kate led the demand generation and marketing operations teams at SmartBear, where she managed the pipeline generation for a portfolio of more than 20 products.
Kate has also led marketing and product for a number of early stage startups ranging in size and industry, from education and healthcare to employee engagement. She is passionate about bringing businesses to life in the hearts and minds of prospects and customers by creating amazing customer experiences across the entire customer lifecycle.
Kate holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature from Regis College.
As Senior Corporate Counsel, Eduardo owns the global legal function at Validity.
Eduardo has practiced law for more than 20 years in both corporate and law firm environments. Eduardo has broad legal experience in SaaS commercial transactions, risk management, M&A, due diligence, entity and product integrations, intellectual property, data privacy, regulatory compliance, and corporate governance.
Eduardo has an LL.M. in Securities and Financial Regulation from Georgetown University Law Center, a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and a B.A. from the University of Dallas.
Jim co-founded Silversmith Capital Partners in 2015. At Silversmith, Jim focuses on investments across the firm’s two core verticals, SaaS & Information Services and Healthcare IT & Services. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Absorb Software, Centauri Health Solutions, Impact, PDFTron Systems, RedAwning Group, and Validity. Jim first worked with his partner Todd MacLean at Summit Partners in 1996.
Jim spent 15 years as a growth equity investor prior to co-founding Silversmith. Jim joined Spectrum Equity in 2002 and became a Managing Director in 2009. At Spectrum Equity, Jim sourced, led, and served on the board of numerous enterprise SaaS, information services, and healthcare IT companies. Investments of note included MedHOK (acquired by Hearst), Net Health (Chairman of the Board, acquired by Carlyle), and Passport Health Communications (acquired by Experian).
Jim received an AB, magna cum laude, in English & American Literature from Harvard College (1997). At Harvard he was nominated by the College for a Rhodes Scholarship and awarded the John P. Reardon Jr. Award as the class’ most outstanding scholar-athlete.
Jim lives with his family in Boston. Since 1997, he has served on the Advisory Board of the Harvard Varsity Club.
Sri joined Silversmith Capital Partners in 2015 and is a General Partner. At Silversmith, Sri focuses on investments in SaaS & Information Services, including sales, marketing and customer service related technology companies. His investment experience at Silversmith includes ActiveCampaign, DistroKid, Impact, PDFTron Systems, RedAwning Group, and Validity.
Prior to Silversmith, Sri was Senior Director of Advertising Products at salesforce.com where he served in various roles to create and scale the Salesforce Marketing Cloud business unit after joining Salesforce through its acquisition of Buddy Media. Prior to Buddy Media, Sri was an Associate at TA Associates and an Analyst with Jefferies Technology Investment Banking group.
He graduated from the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania with a BS from The Wharton School and a BAS from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Mike Volpe is the CEO at Lola.com, a business travel website that aligns managed travel policies with employee preferences for organizations to have a more controlled, yet fun, travel experience. Prior to Lola.com, Volpe was the CMO for HubSpot helping the company grow from a dozen beta customers to over 15,000 customers, 1,000 employees, $150 million in revenue, and creating an IPO leading to a $1.7 billion market cap.
Volpe has made more than 25 angel investments with 4 exits including HubSpot, Cybereason, Locately, GroSocial and ThriveHive through Operator.VC. He serves as an advisor to a number of companies and is on the board of directors of Repsly, a mobile CRM company and was on the board of Attend until they were acquired by Event Farm. Volpe has built his career in marketing at a number of different startups in Boston and San Francisco.
Mark Hastings is the Founder and CEO of Providence Strategic Growth. PSG has approximately $5B in AUM and has invested in over 200 software companies in North America and Europe. The firm is headquartered in Boston, MA and has offices in London, UK and Kansas City, MO. He received a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College.
Tom Reardon joined Providence Strategic Growth in 2015 and is a managing director. Mr. Reardon is currently a director of FluentStream, Formstack, INE, LogicMonitor, ShootProof, SignUpGenius and Skybox Security. Prior to PSG, Mr. Reardon was a general partner at WestView Capital Partners, where he focused on software and technology-enabled business service investments. Before WestView, he was a director at CIBC Capital Partners. Mr. Reardon received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College.
Barbara Cooke serves as Senior Vice President of Customer Success for Validity, where she is responsible for accelerating business value for customers and delivering an exceptional service experience through our market-leading cloud solutions.
Barb brings more than 25 years of international leadership experience to Validity through senior commercial, customer and operational roles at global technology organisations, including Cloudreach, Nasdaq and Thomson Reuters. She led these organisations through significant change, including post-merger integrations, the launch of new businesses from the ground up and organisational structure transformations that radically enhanced customer experience, improved efficiencies and drove product and service innovation. She has lived and worked extensively across eight countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, gaining first-hand experience in developing value-add, unique offerings and service strategies to multi-cultural customers.
Barb spent her early career leading and training teams for The Ritz Carlton Hotel company which ingrained her philosophy on what it means to deliver an exception customer experience. She is originally from Dallas, Texas and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Southern Methodist University.
Alain Marcuse serves as Chief Information Security Officer for Validity and oversees all strategic and operational aspects of data privacy, compliance, and security for the company.
Alain brings more than 30 years of experience in information security, data privacy and global 24×7 IT infrastructure operations to Validity. He has led high-growth, global, IT, security and privacy teams in organizations based in the Americas and Europe.
Prior to joining Validity, Alain led RSM’s cybersecurity consulting practice in New England and its data privacy practice nationally. In this and prior roles, he has led large-scale engagements in designing, developing and managing security and privacy programs for a wide range of companies and industries, as well as major incident response, litigation support and regulatory enforcement matters following some of the most visible data security breaches in the country. He has also been responsible for global 24×7 SaaS operations including infrastructure, security, and customer service.
He has also served as Consul of Belgium in New England, and is an Adjunct Instructor in the Master’s in Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis University, from which he received M.A. and B.A degrees in Computer Science. He holds multiple security and privacy certifications and serves as co-chair of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ Boston chapter and is a frequent presenter at a variety of security and privacy industry events.