Liviu Tanase is the founder and CEO of ZeroBounce, an email validation company, no. 40 on this year's Inc. 5000 list. ZeroBounce helps businesses improve their inbox placement by detecting email typos, nonexistent and abusive email accounts, and spam traps. With more than 15 years of experience, Liviu is an expert in the telecommunications sector. Not only has he founded five companies but also participated in three exits creating quadruple-digit returns. Today we have the pleasure to chat with him about his company ZeroBounce, his career, and his life in California.
Liviu, you’re the CEO and founder of ZeroBounce. Could you tell us a little bit about what your product is?
ZeroBounce is an email validation and deliverability platform. It’s a place where marketers and business owners can find everything they need to send emails with confidence.
Effective communication starts with your emails landing in people’s inboxes. There are so many things that can prevent you from getting there. One of the obstacles you’ll encounter is invalid and poor-quality email addresses.
Almost every business collects email addresses. At the time they are collected, they are most likely valid and high-quality. However, once they’re on your list, they can become risky for a variety of reasons.
A little over five years ago, I thought there had to be a better way to quickly, efficiently and securely identify and remove these risky addresses. My business at the time was suffering from this. These invalid contacts were causing us to not communicate as effectively with our subscribers.
I knew there had to be a solution to this problem, and as a result, we created ZeroBounce. It has solved my frustration, and as we’ve increasingly learned in the years since, what seems to have been a common frustration for all businesses.
So you solved a problem for yourself that obviously many others are struggling with as well…That’s often the beginning of a successful founder story! Who should definitely use ZeroBounce, and what are the benefits of using it?
Any business that uses emails in any way.
Virtually every business has to send emails for transactional and marketing purposes. And when you have an outdated list, your communication may never reach people.
Email addresses go bad every minute of every day. An email address that was valid yesterday may no longer be in use today. People change their addresses, and there are some that you don’t want on your list to begin with. For example, there are people that routinely mark emails they receive as spam (even those they signed up for). Detecting them ahead of time is key to your sender reputation.
The benefits are that you can send emails with confidence, knowing they have a better chance of being seen. Marketers can expect more engagement and a higher ROI from their email campaigns.
Your email list is an extremely valuable asset, but to maintain its value, it requires maintenance in the form of frequent email validation.
As the CEO and founder, what is your daily work about, exactly?
In the first year and a half, I was involved in every single aspect of ZeroBounce – including talking to customers and solving their problems. We had a small team and we were all working around the clock to grow the platform and make it better.
While our passion and drive haven't changed, now our team has 30 people and that allows me to focus more on strategy and positioning in the market. I’m in constant touch with our Chief Operating Officer, Brian Minick, who oversees the entire team. He’s excellent at what he does and I feel confident working on partnerships and expansion strategies while he handles everything else.
What does the first hour of your day look like?
Five minutes of simple physical exercises, just to get my blood flowing – water – coffee – work.
I have a 15-minute call with Brian to sketch out our plan for the day. He runs our headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, and I run the Santa Barbara office, so we’re on opposite coasts. The reason our small business is so successful is that we communicate constantly. We always know what is going on and what we’re trying to accomplish.
Communication is the key! What has your path been like, up to today? What steps have you taken to get to where you are?
I started my first business early, at 18, selling computers. It took off quickly and that gave me the motivation to continue. So I moved on to create a telecom company selling B2B internet connections and services. That was the first business I sold.
Fast-forward to 2014: I was running a successful digital publishing company but was increasingly involved in my business partnerships in the United States. I realized the incredible potential of the market, so I moved to California to expand my telecom, software, and email platform ideas. It was an opportunity I’m glad I took!
My path has been a fun one. Not everyone would call hard work fun, but I would. I wake up every day with the satisfaction of knowing that our work makes a difference to people.
This definitely sounds satisfactory. I saw that you’re originally from Romania and now, as you said live in Santa Barbara. What does Romania offer that California doesn’t, and vice versa?
Romania cultivates your competitive spirit from a young age, and that’s something that’s served me well, especially in business. But in the U.S., the competition is even fiercer and it fosters rapid growth and incredible development. Only the very best succeed, and that’s more true in the U.S. than anywhere else. It’s a country that constantly pushes you to do better and accomplish your highest ambitions. I love America for that.
The nightlife is way more intense in Bucharest. One great thing about Romanians is that they are extremely hard-working and motivated, and always aim for the top.
We’re still in the middle of the COVID crisis and a lot of businesses are struggling to survive. Is there anything you’ve changed about ZeroBounce during the pandemic?
Yes and no. Interestingly, we’ve seen increasing rates of email validations since the COVID crisis began as the need to communicate via email has increased dramatically. So, we’ve intensified our message that we're here for them and will help them reach their subscribers. We’ve also added resources to make sure we continue to provide the highest level of service with the increased demand.
Our employees and customers have always been a priority. Together with my partners, we’ve been checking on every single employee consistently to make sure they have everything they need, feel safe and are able to provide their best service to our customers.
As for our community, we've done what we can to help by offering nonprofits and local governments discounted or free validation services and additional support. On top of that, we’ve made a few hires, particularly people that lost their jobs due to the crisis.
Everyone at ZeroBounce stays agile and alert to this economic environment, which could only be described as volatile.
Is there anything that the crisis made clear was missing or needed to be improved?
We realized that having a set day for our monthly company meeting has made a difference. We used to have meetings before, but they were more spontaneous and less organized. Since switching to remote work, we all meet once a month for updates so every person in the company knows what’s going on in every department.
If you had the chance to go back in time 10 years and give yourself 3 pieces of advice, what would you say? Is there anything you would do differently?
I would, and the first thing that comes to mind is that I’d try to silence my doubts and let my confidence and positivity be my guides. Here are the main three pieces of advice I’d give myself:
- Never give up. You may not succeed right away. In fact, you may make mistakes and fail a few times before you accomplish what you have in mind. But you’ll never know that unless you keep going. The reward will be worth your hard work and persistence.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks. Oftentimes, you have to throw yourself in the water when the tide is high. It’s OK to feel intimidated but say „yes“ to the opportunities that come your way. They may not work out every time, but you’ll learn a lot and will be glad you took the risk.
- Be positive. You’ll hear this cliche many times throughout your life. Make it a part of your mindset early on. Don’t allow negative thoughts to sabotage you. Instead, nurture your mind with good thoughts and go where they take you.
Wow, thank you very much for your honesty. In your line of work, emails play an important role, right? Are you using Mailbutler in addition to ZeroBounce, to stay on top of your inbox?
I’m just discovering the wealth of the features Mailbutler offers.
First, I love the fact that it integrates with so many platforms. So, whatever app you use to stay productive and organized, you can easily add Mailbutler to your workflows.
Then, I appreciate the „Notes and Tasks“ feature. For me, email is a task management system and Mailbutler would only make it more efficient. The reminders allow you to stay on top of things without stressing out about last-minute obligations. I’ve been a fan of Inbox Zero for many years. With Mailbutler, I can see how getting to zero emails in my inbox is an easier target to hit.
Also, the customizable signature option is a nice plus. We only have a few seconds to make a good first impression, and a great email signature can make that impression last. Finally, the templates can save so much time!
I could go on about the awesome features Mailbutler offers. You’ve built a remarkable platform!
This is a great compliment, thank you. For all the Mailbutler users reading this interview: do you see ways in which using Mailbutler together with ZeroBounce could help people make their businesses more productive?
Absolutely. I could see ZeroBounce making a difference in every aspect of using Mailbutler, but especially for those who are fans of the CRM feature. It’s vital to make sure your email contacts are valid. Otherwise, you’re sending emails to no one, so it’s as if you didn’t send anything at all.
The same goes for cold emailing. If you’re in sales or in a line of work that involves reaching out to people via email, you have to be confident about your data.
What’s great is that ZeroBounce doesn’t only validate existing email lists; we also have an API. Once you integrate it into your systems, it verifies every email address in real-time and tells you whether it’s good.
Last question, Liviu: I know that you’ve already given a lot of interviews in your life. Is there a question you've always wanted to answer, but nobody's ever asked?
“What does it take to achieve success?”
A ton of work, lots of sacrifices, and a very hard balance to maintain. It’s great when you have someone who balances you out – in my case, my wife.
Thanks a lot for your time Liviu, all the best to you!
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