Advertising sales executive Conor McCluskey wished he could clone himself.
That would have solved his problem of having too many clients to personally meet each month — something he felt strongly about in order to cultivate and maintain relationships.
Instead, he thought he would video tape himself with a personalized message and e-mail it to his clients. He searched, but couldn’t find a company that sold a video e-mail marketing program. So, he created one.
“I kind of mashed up the technology together and did a demo account and sent it out to 150 clients,” he said.
Within hours of sending his video e-mail, his phone was ringing off the hook. His clients wanted to buy his video e-mail product. The product, they said, was the bomb.
Five months later McCluskey quit his job at a giant outdoor advertising firm and in November 2006 launched BombBomb, an e-mail marketing company.
BombBomb has grown 700 percent over last year, has eight employees, has a patent on real-time e-mail, an international client list of 237, including Nordstrom’s 1,000 personal shoppers, and in July moved into a trendy 1,800-square-foot loft in Old Colorado City.
“Yes, we are a technology company,” McCluskey said. “But, at the heart we are a people company.”
McCluskey worked solo for two years from home, building up his client list, working on the technology of video e-mail and developing a plan for growth. He’s no stranger to entrepreneurship. He co-founded a service company in the multi-family housing industry growing annual revenue from $50,000 to $1.7 million in four years and he owns a winery in Washington.
BombBomb attracted the eye of investor Kevin Dibble, who co-founded a DSL modem company, Efficient Networks, in 1993 and sold for $1.5 billion in 2001. Dibble, who also led development at XAware — one of the Colorado Springs Technology Incubator’s biggest successes — was looking for technology companies to invest in, he said. Although it wasn’t his area of expertise, he was intrigued by the video e-mail market and the technology — it was growing in use by 50 to 70 percent a year, still is.
Dibble had often seen engineers come up with a cool technology and then try to figure out whom to sell it to. But, McCluskey knew his market, Dibble said.
“That really impressed me,” he said.
The technology was so exciting to him, he signed on as McCluskey’s first employee, coming on in 2008 as chief operating officer. He called working in McCluskey’s home “the coldest winter of his life” and tells stories of wearing winter gear while conducting conference calls from McCluskey’s second bedroom. But, video e-mail was making its meteoric rise and he couldn’t miss out on that.
The pair built up the company, finding niches in real estate and mortgage companies and in the nonprofit and church industry — all firms that want to send personalized video e-mail to their clients. BombBomb charges $20 a month for a list of 500 clients and $175 a month for a list of 10,000 clients.
One of BombBomb’s customers faced a problem where certain details of an e-mail sent at 9 a.m. in the morning were irrelevant later in the day, by the time someone got around to opening it.
“What if you could send one e-mail that could be opened multiple times and it would have different messages?” McCluskey said.
BombBomb developed real-time e-mail — the message is different depending on when it is opened. The company filed a patent one year ago on its real-time e-mail and is testing it now with a few customers including a major auto dealer in Detroit.
But, that’s the future, Dibble said. Right now, video e-mail marketing hasn’t yet hit full throttle and that is where BombBomb is most focused.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
“Have Fun” is part of the company’s core values. So, at 4 p.m. on Fridays, it’s “BombBomb Friday” in the office. The team gathers in the meeting room, which has comfy leather sofas and chairs, and they pour themselves a glass of wine or beer.
“We tell stories — customer stories about the week,” McCluskey said. “What are you struggling with where are you stuck?”
McCluskey has thought a lot about his company’s culture –studying the success stories of major companies like Zappos and others. He developed a list of core values that include “value people,” “consistently learn” and “give gifts.” He hires employees that match the core values, even if they lack some of the technical skills. He’s sure that his attitude that it’s OK to fail when trying something new in the company will make the company successful. “Be humble”, — it s No. 6 on the list, he said.
“I don’t’ have it all figured out,” he said. “I make mistakes every day. But, it’s all about people and when you focus on that everything else is just going to fall in line.”
Each morning McCluskey holds the 9:18 morning meeting to stay focused on the company’s core values, he said. It is the key to the company’s growth. And, he’s ambitious: his five year goal is 50,000 international clients — BombBomb already has clients in Ireland, Indonesia, Australia and the U.K.
“Everything is driven out of our core values,” McCluskey said. “At the end of the day, people want to buy from people — they want a relationship.”
After all, they can’t clone themselves.