Our guest for today is Liviu Tanase, founder and CEO of ZeroBounce – an email validation and deliverability platform. As a serial entrepreneur, he founded five companies and has participated in three exits.
In this interview, we’ll find out more about the man behind ZeroBounce. His business ranked no. 40 on the 2020 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. With headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, ZeroBounce also took no. 9 on the Inc. 5000 Regionals Florida list in 2021.
Liviu moved from Romania to the U.S. to found this company challenged by the idea of making email a safer and more powerful marketing tool.
You seem to have such a dynamic life so I would like to get right into the game. What’s your story, Liviu? When did you first start thinking of running a business in the U.S.? What was the trigger?
Thank you for featuring me. My story began in my home country: Romania. I had a natural fascination with anything technological and that never went away.
A lot of people in the tech world want to go to the United States because it’s a magnet for innovators and creators. If you have a desire to build something, chances are you will find like-minded people here.
When I got to the U.S., I liked it right away. There was a gut feeling that said, “you’re here. Right where you should be.”
My interest in email grew to a point where people actually commented on it. I noticed that yes, it is a fascination, but I never dreamed that it would become my business. I knew whatever I could dream of, it could become a reality with persistence and the right team. I just needed a home base.
Tell us more about ZeroBounce. What’s the backstory?
ZeroBounce was born from necessity, the mother of many inventions. I started noticing that there was a real problem with email databases decaying. Email lists go bad and the inactive and harmful email addresses must be removed or you’ve got some serious issues.
I wondered how my team and I could help solve this problem more effectively. Our goal was to make the product as perfect as it could be, so people could rest assured they got fresh, highly accurate email validation results.
Once we had the launch, I knew that we could not rest on laurels. I wanted ZeroBounce to be in constant motion and improvement, and that describes us to the letter.
Our main tool is an email validator, but we have a whole toolkit designed to help your emails land in the inbox. You can find blacklist monitoring and email testing tools, and a new tool called Activity Data that gives you further feedback on your subscribers.
Using these tools together, you’ll have a definite advantage over someone who doesn’t.
You started doing business so early. What is the biggest challenge you had as an entrepreneur and also the biggest mistake you made? What did you learn from them? (Maybe some “key takeaways” for our readers?)
The biggest challenge is definitely finding your people. It’s really that simple because nobody walks alone.
Finding the right people for your team can be a lot like auditioning actors for a part. You get an idea of what you want and when the right person comes along, you couldn’t imagine anybody else in their place.
Fortunately, that’s how I feel about our company now.
The biggest mistake I’ve made is in thinking that I’ve got to have it right now. I wanted to have ZeroBounce exactly as I envisioned it, and I wanted it to come about very quickly.
The reality was not like that and I realized there was a word to describe how I was: impatient. It took a while to build something like ZeroBounce and to have it function the way I wanted it to.
We all know that the main idea of a successful marketing strategy is to make sure that the message reaches the target audience. Do you have some tips on email deliverability you would like to share with our publishers?
I have a lot of them! My first tip is to keep in mind that:
Email deliverability is a journey and not a destination. It’s ongoing.
Then, start with the basics – meaning a clean, valid email list. Your emails can’t land in the inbox if they bounce if you hit spam traps or get spam complaints.
Email validation helps ensure your email hygiene is kept up. You don’t go to the dental hygienist to get a cleaning and then think you’re set for life. You keep on going because issues do occur periodically. So, if you want your email list to perform, practice email validation routinely.
Apart from that, think of what spammers do – and practice the opposite. For instance, avoid spammy-looking words, especially in the subject line. Also, have a good image-to-text ratio. Stay away from link shorteners in your emails. Don’t email people who haven’t opted in to receive your messages.
The other thing is this: success really is showing up. Who gets the strongest? The people who show up at the gym. If you’re going to be successful with email marketing: show up. Commit to sending on a schedule.
So often a company will start sending emails and eventually they start seeing results. They’ve gotten results and they suddenly run out of things to say. Don’t be so arrogant that you think your audience will remember you. Think about your own inbox, there’s a lot going on! So, have a sending plan and do your best to build rapport and relationships with the readers. Communication is a two-way street.
With that, keep educating yourself about email marketing. Read about it, stay up to date on it and practice what you learn. Our blog is a great resource for anyone using email in business. Whether you’re a user of ZeroBounce or not, we provide lots of great information and try to do it in an enjoyable way.
If you want more deliverability tips, we also wrote an extensive guide on improving inbox placement – give it a read!
What does ZeroBounce’ ideal client look like? What industries do you target with your platform?
I love this question. Our ideal client is someone who understands the power of email. People who don’t take email for granted are people who succeed with email marketing. If you understand that someone giving you their email address is a big deal, then you get it.
Email is one of the most effective ways to market your business.
As for what industries we target, that’s a tough one because I can’t think of any kind of business we don’t service. Imagine the smallest of businesses with one person at the helm. Well, they have to use email too, even if only for transactional purposes.
We don’t target any particular industry. If you use email, we can help you. All types, sizes, and locations – ZeroBounce is there.
We did some research about you and we know you love chess. It’s a wonderful strategy game. Is there any connection between playing chess and running a business?
Every day is a chess game. That’s true whether you play chess or not.
The number one ability you develop playing chess is to stay calm and adjust quickly. That becomes useful when you’re running a business. And yes, it’s true that chess players can get more strategic as, during the game, you often plan several moves in advance. It becomes second nature.
The other connection? They are two things that are never boring. I never get tired of chess and I never get tired of running my business.
There is no business without a team. What kind of people are behind ZeroBounce? What’s their main motivation?
You spend the majority of your time with the people you work with, right? It’s sometimes overlooked, but it’s an absolute fact. So, the folks you work with should be individuals you wouldn’t mind hanging out with. And these are the kinds of people we have at ZeroBounce.
Total email nerds. So talented and dedicated. Most of them have many years of experience in their fields. Easy going, but also hard-working. Always asking themselves: how can I do better?
They’re motivated by making a living, but along with that they are all very ambitious and don’t want just “a job.” They want to build careers and learn. I see these commonalities in our team. They want to improve their skills and are driven by the results that we get. I wouldn’t trade my team for anyone.
What’s the most difficult part of being a leader?
It’s hard to balance being a leader while being a worker yourself. We’re an all-in, all the time company. For that reason, it’s easy to become totally immersed in the current project. I sometimes forget to delegate certain tasks.
The other difficult thing is knowing when to stop. Seeing all of the intricate parts of the machine, you’ll always find something to do. There have been plenty of times that I see the clock and realize, “okay, I better get a little sleep.”
Last year was so unpredictable for almost everyone. How do you think EMAIL was impacted? Where is the email industry going?
“Unpredictable” is a word that describes all times, but you’re right. Last year was highly abnormal in so many ways. It’s regretful how many businesses suffered serious blows – for example, live event companies.
However, email was one of the industries that weathered the storm pretty well. Businesses became more and more reliant on email. What’s more, a lot of company leaders opened their eyes to the infinite possibilities of email.
It’s easy to see that the email industry is in full bloom. The figure being projected is that soon 4.4 billion people – more than half of the earth’s human population – will have an email address. With that come unparalleled possibilities and opportunities.
With last year in mind and based on your experience and success, what are the three most important things a leader should do to keep his business on the right track in difficult times?
The first thing is to keep the faith and never dwell on negative ideas. As the old song goes, “accentuate the positive.” I believe in that. Never accept the idea that defeat is an option – and it won’t be. I like a culture of winning.
The other thing to do is constantly be aware of the needs and challenges your people are facing. How do you find this out? You keep your ears and doors open. The time you spend with them is for you to learn from them and not always the other way around. So, if you get an inkling about a hardship someone is facing, probe deeper. Sometimes this may be met with resistance. You have to know when to respect privacy and when someone is in dire straits but is facing something.
Last, but not least: don’t slow down. It’s hard to hit a moving target. I want to do everything in my power to use every minute of the day. Even in difficult times, keep a list of goals and tasks. I’m always marking things off and then adding new things to accomplish.
Considering where you are now in your career, what would have been great to know from the beginning? Something that would have helped you a lot and you wish you knew it before joining the business / email world.
I wish I had known how much failure is a part of success and how much it can teach you. It makes you a better person and it makes you a well-rounded leader. It’s humbling and so important.
Show me a person who hasn’t failed and I’ll show you a person who hasn’t gotten far. Someone could have told me that when I started my first business, but it’s really something you must experience.
Thank you so much, Liviu, for sharing all these things. We wish you the best in business!
You can follow ZeroBounce’s work on their website: zerobounce.net. They also have a great blog full of valuable information about the email industry and their latest achievements as a business.