Web Masters Episode #60: Sabeer Bhatia


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Sabeer Bhatia:

I was on a track doing a PhD, that’s what I wanted to do. When you go to Caltech, you look around you, everybody wants to do a PhD and join JPL, or one of the big defense-contracting companies. And academia is the focus, Caltech really does not make entrepreneurs, although a lot has changed since then. Back then it was, they don’t make engineers, they make engineering scientists. But luckily my undergrad academic advisor sent me to Stanford and said go get an education outside of Caltech otherwise I would’ve continued doing my masters and PhD there, and probably would’ve become a professor or a researcher today. It’s only when I came to Stanford, that I took a course called business for electrical engineers at the Stanford Business School. And that’s where we had people like Scott McNeily, Vinod Khosla, Fred Gibbons of Harvard Graphics come and give us talks about how they had started their companies and what kind of ideas they had.

Aaron Dinin:

There were some pretty good ideas too, Scott McNeily founded Sun Microsystems, Vinod Khosla was his co-founder before moving to a storied career in venture as the founder and namesake of Khosla Ventures. And Fred Gibbons founded software publishing corporation, a rather unassuming name for a company that pioneered graphical user interfaces back before. Well, computers had graphical user interfaces.

Sabeer Bhatia:

They were not rocket scientists, I mean, they were simple of people who would solve practical problems for other human beings. It wasn’t that they were working in a lab thinking of the next big idea and creating a chip that nobody had seen before. And it was simple ideas like Fred Gibbons said, “Listen, you know what? This is how software was sold in these little pieces of plastic in plastic pouches. All I did was come in, made it into a proper product with proper documentation, explanation of how to consume it. I brought a few different programs together like WordPerfect and then a database and something else like a PowerPoint presentation, like thing, put it all together and just sold it through fries. I mean, that was the big idea. It solved practical problems.” And that’s what inspired me, and I’m like, these guys are human like you are I, you already one of us. And it’s just that they’ve got these good ideas that solve practical problems. And that’s when I decided, okay, I don’t want to do this PhD anymore, I want to become an entrepreneur.

Aaron Dinin:

That entrepreneur is named Sabeer Bhatia, and he would eventually go on to solve a practical, but important problem himself. Before Sabeer, people had to access their email from their own computers, using a special piece of software called an email client. After Sabeer, and thanks to Sabeer, people started being able to access their emails from any computer with a web browser that’s because Sabeer founded Hotmail, the web’s first and most popular free email service provider. Are you ready to hear the story? Let’s get dialed in?

[INTRO]

Aaron Dinin:

Hi, welcome to Web Masters. You are listening to the podcast for entrepreneurs and people interested in learning more about entrepreneurship and maybe also people who love good stories about the history of the web or people who just love learning interesting things, or you’re one of my students and listening to this episode as an assignment for class, whatever reason you’re listening. I’m glad you’re here. I’m your host, Aaron Dinin. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I teach entrepreneurship at Duke University, and I study the history of the internet and worldwide web.

As you already heard on this episode, we’ve got Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of Hotmail. I’m very excited about this. My first email account was a Hotmail account. And I’ll never forget the 13-year-old version of me staring over my older brother’s shoulder as a helped me register. And, of course, I wasn’t the only one getting an early Hotmail account, Hotmail was far and away the most popular email service provider on the early web, meaning it was probably the first email account for at least a decent chunk of you listening as well. So let’s get to a story right after I take just a minute to thank our Web Masters sponsor.

This episode of Web Masters is being brought to you with support from our partner and sponsor, Latonas. Latonas is a boutique mergers and acquisitions broker that helps people buy and sell cash for positive internet businesses and digital assets that includes things like e-commerce stores, Amazon FBAs, SaaS apps, content websites, domain portfolios, and any other type of online work from anywhere internet business you can think of. If you’ve got a business like that and you’re thinking about selling it, take a few minutes to connect with a team at Latonas. They can walk you through the process, give you great advice, and when you’re ready to sell, they can help you get it sold for a great, great price.

Ultimately, if you’re interested in buying an already profitable internet business, Latonas is a great resource too. Simply head over to their website where you’ll see listings for all the businesses they’re currently helping sale. That website is latonas.com, L-A-T-O-N-A-S.com. If you ask just about anyone to make a list of the top 10 most recognizable and used early web companies, I’m guessing Hotmail would be on every one of those lists alongside companies like Yahoo and MapQuest and GeoCities.

Basically, if you were on the internet in the late ’90s and early 2000s, you either had a Hotmail email address or knew someone with one. Heck, you might even still use your Hotmail email address today, and at the very least, you probably still know someone who does, that’s a pretty big impact for any entrepreneur to have. It’s also an impact I could tell that Sabeer Bhatia was quite proud of when I spoke with him as well, he should be. But what was particularly interesting to me was that unlike a lot of people who proudly consider themselves entrepreneurs, that’s not where Sabeer started his journey. Relatively speaking, Sabeer actually came to both entrepreneurship and tech relatively late in his life, which by the way, makes the incredible and rapid success of a Hotmail that much more impressive.

Sabeer Bhatia:

The first computer that I had set my hands on was an HP 1000, which was installed in the undergrad school that I went to school in India called BITS Pilani. And they had the HP 1000 that was newly brought in into the school. And we would get few hours of computer time each week, just about enough time to go and type in a program in Fortran or in Pascal. And those days Fortran that could just print out “hello world.” And that was the big accomplishment after the first couple of hours of programming. And that was my first introduction to computers.

But then I was fortunate that I got admitted to Caltech. I transferred to Caltech from this undergrad school in India. And at Caltech, I had access to all the PCs at the computer lab, Max and Sun workstations. And so that’s where I picked up the use of Unix. And then I requested that I get a computer in my dorm room, and lo and behold, I was given a Sun workstation in my dorm room that connected to the main computer, supercomputer mainframe at our university at Caltech. And I was able to do all kinds of Unix commands to send and receive files, do my homework, do all that.

Aaron Dinin:

A lot of the tech entrepreneurs I speak with were coding when they were still in middle school, so for someone who became a tech entrepreneur, it seems like you got a fairly late start with computers?

Sabeer Bhatia:

That’s correct. Yeah, I didn’t get to start programming until I got to college, that’s correct.

Aaron Dinin:

And can you give us the timeline on all of this? When were you in college?

Sabeer Bhatia:

So I joined undergrad school in 1986 and then in 1988, I transferred to Caltech. And ’88 through ’91, I was at Caltech and then 1991, I came to Stanford. And all along, I was doing electrical engineering.

Aaron Dinin:

At what point do you discover the web because the public web doesn’t even come out until after that, right? When do you see the web and recognize it as a compelling opportunity space for maybe launching a venture?

Sabeer Bhatia:

Yeah, it was not in college, I think I was at Apple computer and then I joined another startup called Fire Power Systems. While I was at Fire Power, that’s when I first experienced the web and HTML browser. And I thought that was so cool that I was able to connect to any computer in the world and get this information. I instinctively knew that this was going to be massive because there were pieces of software that were being written that just enabled two different operating systems to talk to each other. For example, if you wanted to get information from PC to a Macintosh, there’d be some sort of a connector in between, and also with Unix systems to PCs, you’d have to have some sort of interface and connector in between. I’m like this completely eliminates all of this, this is one standard interface, it looks the same, it runs on any kind of computer. So instinctively, I knew that this one day was going to become all pervasive, everyone was going to use it. And in 1994, I think Amazon started selling books online, and that was quite inspirational.

Aaron Dinin:

And for the sake of context, what was your relationship with email prior to building Hotmail? And how did that push you to build Hotmail? Because, of course, email is way before the web around 1970, I think is when people started using it.

Sabeer Bhatia:

So I had the stanford.edu account and I would tell net into Stanford computers and then log into my email account and access email through a Unix script and do it while we were at Fire Power Systems, that was my personal account. And then I had a Fire Power email system that we accessed through outlook or in those days there was Eudora from Netscape, that was their normal way of accessing email. And then Fire Power Systems put a firewall around the corporate internet, and that made it impossible for me to access my stanford.edu account because I could not tell net into it, all ports were blocked, but I could very easily access any web browser through a web browser anywhere. So that’s when Jack had the idea, “Why is email blocked, where any other information is available as a webpage? What if we make email available through a webpage that will solve our problem, right?” And lo and behold, that was the genesis of the Hotmail idea.

Aaron Dinin:

You heard Sabeer mentioning Jack as the person having the idea for email in a web browser, that would be Jack Smith. Jack was Sabeer’s coworker at Fire Power. And even before they came up with the idea for Hotmail, they were busily working together toward developing some sort of entrepreneurial idea. According to Sabeer, they were basically brainstorming all sorts of possible cloud services before any of those things really existed.

Sabeer Bhatia:

Jack was at Fire Power as well, and my original idea was actually not to do email because the web was brand new, my whole idea was why can we not create a personal stack of information on the web? Why are there no tools to allow us to make, for example, a database of photographs or a database of our phone records or a database of whatever information that was important to us? So the original idea was to build a tool that would enable people to point and click and just create a file maker pro like database on the fly for non-programmers, just create a tool. I mean, it was the genesis of the original cloud idea, if you will.

So I wrote a business plan, recruited Jack to join me. And while we were putting this together, the corporate internet was shut down and we were exchanging information in those days on floppy discs and pieces of paper. And that’s when Jack came up with the idea, “Wait a minute, why do we not make this available on the web, like email on the web? At least we would not have to exchange information on floppies?” And that led to the creation of Hotmail. So we quickly shelved the original idea, even though that could have become the first cloud-based CRM app or a personal database app or a personal records app or whatever to store all their information online.

Aaron Dinin:

Out of curiosity, why do you think those other ideas, which would all go on to become huge industry and markets in and of themselves? Why didn’t they really go anywhere for the two of you?

Sabeer Bhatia:

I mean, that’s the beauty of technology, it’s like a train and it’s constantly moving and you can get on and get off at any time. Newer things come about that make room to build upon whatever has already been done. Sometimes there are ideas that the timing is just not right for them. For example, in the early 2000s, there were companies that were trying to do kind of this whole video chat and video messaging, video calls like we are doing right now, too early, not everybody had bandwidth, right? And it was kind of grainy spotty, be in work, lots of software, bulky software, I mean.

Fast forward 20 years, and today, every kid on the planet is using Zoom for everything from learning to communicating with grandma, to talking to Santa or whatever the case may be. So I think timing is very essential too, you’ve got to know what the state of the art today is and then you have to try to predict what the future is and have a sense and instinct that this could be the future. If we were to live in a future of this kind, these are the problems that we would solve. And then obviously as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to think, what can I do to get to that future? Is there something I can do to contribute to getting to that future? That I think is the essence of great entrepreneurs that is they can see the future and feel it slightly before the rest of the world.

Aaron Dinin:

And, of course, Sabeer is talking about something very important here that every aspiring entrepreneur needs to constantly be aware of, timing really is critical. A great product executed at a bad time won’t go anywhere. Conversely, a not so great product executed at the perfect can become an enormous success. In this sense, timing is like a force multiplier in entrepreneurship. If you nail the timing, it can help you overcome a lot of mistakes, that’s what happened with Hotmail, Sabeer nailed the timing. But for what it’s worth, he also missed the timing in a later venture, it was a messaging service that was intended to do the same thing for texting that Hotmail did for email.

Sabeer Bhatia:

I was pitching a WhatsApp-like product to VCs in 2010, 2011 and my own friends didn’t get it. They’re like text is already free, try sending an international text, it costs you 50 cents per text message, whereas email is free. Why can’t I not send an international text message through the same pipe that the email goes through, right? Simple idea, it’s not rocket science. I couldn’t raise money. Two years later, oh, my, God, it’s all for $20 billion, we should have funded you.

Aaron Dinin:

So, yeah, timing is incredibly important, and to be clear, timing isn’t luck, great entrepreneurs are good at recognizing trends and market shifts. And, of course, that’s what Sabeer was doing when he recognized the opportunity for Hotmail, he didn’t invent email, heck, he didn’t really make email any better than it already was. In truth, as an email client, Hotmail was originally quite limited compared to other pieces of software people could be using, what he did was make email accessible anywhere. He correctly recognized a market shift before everyone else saw it, though convincing other people, particularly investors wasn’t always easy.

Sabeer Bhatia:

So two of the biggest hurdles that we had to have people overcome was I already get email for free. I subscribe to AOL or to CompuServe, why do I need another email account when I’m getting free email from CompuServe or AOL? That was one, one big hurdle we had to overcome. And the second is okay, you’re going to give it away for free, how you going to make money? Advertising was not yet fully baked, fully proven, people had their own ideas. A lot of the VCs were old-world VCs, where we had funded companies like Apple and Compaq, and they wanted to see something hardware like, are you selling something, a physical piece of software that you sell at fries that you get paid $69.954. The whole concept of the web and free and data, it was just foreign, it was new, people couldn’t get their hands around it. And some kind of have this instinct of looking at the future and saying, yeah, the future is going to be like this.

Aaron Dinin:

Were you fundraising with a product in market or were you trying to fundraise for the idea pre-launch?

Sabeer Bhatia:

We started to fundraise even before we launched, we needed some money, and the 300k that we got was inadequate, but we still used it because 100k of that 300k went in buying servers. Unlike today, where you can rent space on Amazon Web services and just get off and be running with a business literally in a few thousand dollars a month. In those days, you had to buy the hardware yourself, physically go and install it at a data center and rent space, real estate space, not power, but real estate space and not knowing how many simultaneous connections. And you had to do all of the load balancing yourself, make it hack proof yourself, do everything on your own. Today, thankfully, because of cloud services like Amazon and Google and Azure, all of that, you can just give to somebody else to do and you just have to worry about your core business and be up and running in months, in weeks, not even months.

So what we were pitching to people was we were going to be the world’s first free web-based email, and the uniqueness was, it was web-based and it was free. And so people asked how you going to make money? We were like, well, the same way that Yahoo was going to money. In those days, what mattered was page impressions and I would try to impress upon investors that there are so many page impressions that Yahoo generates, we will generate 10 times as many page impressions, which is true. But those are 10 times more useless page impressions because when people are reading their email, they’re not looking at the ad. But that was kind of super close at that point in time, let’s at least get the page impressions going.

Aaron Dinin:

So that $300K was enough to get you off the ground, and then what? I know Hotmail famously launched on July 4th, American Independence Day as sort of a publicity stunt to celebrate freedom and free email. How did it grow from there?

Sabeer Bhatia:

So very quickly, use PR to get more people to hear about it. And literally in 3 months we had 100, 000 users and at the end of the first year, we had like 5 million users. By the end of 1996, we had a million users, so it’s growing exponentially. And then you know that you’re onto something that is going to be big, at least on some metric, user metric, user base kind of metric. And these are pretty loyal users because their email ID, we’re going to keep coming back to check their email on a daily basis. So we didn’t have the whole monetization angle worked out, but had pretty good solid instinct that it was going to grow and continue to grow. And at one point in time, in the early days, the total size of the internet was like 40 million people, and we had 10 million on our network, so 25% of the entire user base of the internet.

Aaron Dinin:

25% of the internet, that’s incredible. And this was primarily through PR and what? Word of mouth?

Sabeer Bhatia:

In those days you had to get some real PR and articles written about you, and that’s how words spread about what you were doing. And luckily we were one of the few companies on the internet so people would write about email, but a lot of them dissed us too. So it’s not truly free, you’ve got to get your own internet access. But what they forgot was the rest of the world does not own internet access. In developing countries, it means a lot to give them an email account where they could get this internet access from public kind of places such as internet cafes and other places. Whereas obviously over here, everyone had their own PCs, over their people didn’t even own PCs. I mean, today, look at the whole world today, they have leapfrogged the PC revolution and gone straight to mobile. I mean, in India, there are more mobile devices than there are PCs.

And even over here, many of us now today do all of our work on mobile devices other than for typing or our real other work. And some places like India and other parts of the developing world, there are 1.2 billion smartphones and maybe only 200 million PCs. So the phone has become the versatile device for everything. And today with Zoom, everybody’s doing everything on mobile, it’s truly become virtual. So people are still very local in their thinking, no disrespect to them, that’s the world we know. If they funded 10 companies, 9 out of 10 companies are local, that is their sphere of influence. They don’t try to think that we are truly living in a global interconnected world without barriers.

Today, a millennial has the same habits, whether that millennial is in the United States, in Latin America, in the Middle East, Asia, India, doesn’t matter, same way of thinking. People don’t get that the internet and mobile technology has brought the whole world so close that we truly live without barriers today. So if a product may not be successful because of local habits, local laws, or local level of affluence in one country, it may have phenomenal potential the rest of the world over.

Aaron Dinin:

Here again, Sabeer is making an important point, we live in a really big world that, of course, most of us never fully see and technology is used differently in different places. So just because at the time, people in the United States were getting their email bundled with their internet access, not everyone around the world had their own computers or own internet access. Heck, let’s be honest, relatively few people anywhere had their own computers or internet access. Sabeer noted that 40 million people were online with Hotmail having 25% of them as users, that still means billions and billions and billions of people weren’t online. And when they did get online, one of the first things they needed was an email account they could access even if they weren’t on their own computers, that’s the problem Sabeer and Hotmail solved.

Sabeer Bhatia:

So email was actually very rich, we were not like the best kind of email, the only one thing that we solved for people was that of ubiquitous access. Previously, if you had emails, you went for a conference, you would have to sign on to your email from your own laptop. You dial into an internet connection, bring up your email client outlook or whichever email client you had and that’s how you would access email. I’m talking about pre-smartphone days. If you were walking around on a show floor or at a conference, there’s no way you could check your email, right? Unless you open your laptop and connected to a physical connection, or if there was wifi, do it that way.

And whereas with web based email, you could literally walk up to any computer and just go to a website, check your email, clear the cash, and you’re done. And that kind of ubiquity gave you the freedom to go anywhere, I tried this out from India and other places in the world and I loved it. And everybody would go to web cafes and see people in pre-Yahoo days or pre-Rocketmail days, everyone was using just Hotmail. And for six months we had no competition and that’s why that six months translated into a massive lead.

Aaron Dinin:

What was it like sitting in the driver’s seat of that kind of startup rocketship?

Sabeer Bhatia:

Oh, it was very tremendously exciting, I think the thrill of being part of something that is growing so much, and it’s a consumer product and everybody’s heard about it was amazing.

Aaron Dinin:

And by the way, how did you wind up as the CEO versus Jack? I mean, since you mentioned the idea for web-based email came from him?

Sabeer Bhatia:

So I told Jack, “Listen, I think this email is a great idea and solves our problem and solve the problem with everyone else as well, so what do you want to do? Do you want to go raise money or do you want to write the code?” “So I’ll write the code, you go raise money, I have no idea how to do that.” So that’s when I started basically knocking on the doors of different venture capitalists and found somebody who was willing to fund our idea and believe in it and that was the start of the journey that is now Hotmail.

Aaron Dinin:

And quite a journey, it must have been culminating in if I’m remembering correctly a sale to Microsoft pretty soon after launching, is that right?

Sabeer Bhatia:

We sold it in literally in a year and a half launched the company 4th of July, 1996. Literally on the 30th of December, 1997, it was sold and there was a little bit of back and forth negotiation before we sold it to Microsoft.

Aaron Dinin:

And what was it like to be wooed and corded by Microsoft and Bill Gates?

Sabeer Bhatia:

That was great, fantastic, great human being and it was great interacting with them in the early days. And it was intimidating at first when I first met him but then once I was part of whole Microsoft, it’s completely different.

Aaron Dinin:

Do you have any regrets about selling Hotmail? Does any party you feel like you could have turned it into something bigger if you’d kept going with it on your own as opposed to selling it to Microsoft?

Sabeer Bhatia:

No. See the one part that we did not have sold, I’ll be very honest was the one about revenue, right? Every VC puts that pressure on [inaudible 00:29:15] in those days, even today, what is your revenue model, right? We did not have a revenue model. Until today, email doesn’t have a revenue model, I mean, it’s like WhatsApp, WhatsApp still doesn’t have a revenue model. I mean, you can have all the billions of users on WhatsApp and you can spend all this money, but what supports it and advertising really is not made for email or email is not made for advertising, I should say, you cannot advertise products. Search fits like hand in glove because you’re looking for something. And if whatever you’re looking for happens to have even remotely any consumer kind of product we are in business, you’ve got tens of people, different companies willing to spend money to reach you, to get to you, email is not that kind.

So we did not have the advertising or the revenue model built in, so it wasn’t like if we were scaling and adding 100,000 new users every day, it was translating to $100,000 a day, if that were the case, I would’ve kept it till today and it was just one avenue of growth. So then you are faced with, okay, Microsoft wants to own you at the same time Microsoft also, if they don’t partner with you, can compete with you too. They can come up with their own, not looking at just the payout that one time, you’re looking at zero possibly, and those are the kind of decisions that one has to make. And so it wasn’t an emotional decision it was like, it is the right thing for the company and that’s how we started and that’s why we sold to them. For all the folks who were working at Hotmail it was a great exit, they looked forward to it and they welcomed it and made them wealthy individuals and famous in the valley.

Aaron Dinin:

And how did you feel when Microsoft retired the Hotmail name in favor of the Outlook brand, I think it was 2011 or 2012? Any sadness about that?

Sabeer Bhatia:

Yeah, it is retired, I think because they needed more names and Outlook is the new interface, so opening up a whole bunch of new names. So I retained my old Hotmail name. I even have sabeer@outlook, but I just don’t use it, it’s fine. I think it’s a new fresh look and they should do what the right thing is for the audience, for its people. I don’t have any emotional attachment just to my email ID, so I will always be sabeer@hotmail. And every once in a while I come across people who have a Hotmail ID and I strike a conversation with them they’re like, oh, I love it, I still use it, I still kept it.

Aaron Dinin:

When I first reached out, I actually thought about emailing you from my old Hotmail account, figuring you might have responded quicker?

Sabeer Bhatia:

Probably. But I have a very strong spam filter where only people who are in my address book are allowed to email to me. So I really probably had to fish your email out from junk, which I look at every so often just to see interesting emails from people and that’s why I responded to you.

Aaron Dinin:

So that’s actually kind of a good place to wrap up. You mentioned interesting emails, I’d love to get your thoughts on the value and purpose of email as a whole in the modern world? I feel like I often come across people claiming that email is dying or already dead and that’s because of things like spam and just how many emails people get nowadays. But as one of the people, most responsible for popularizing email, what do you think about the role of email in today’s world?

Sabeer Bhatia:

Email has been around since the start of the internet, since 1969. I don’t profess to have invented email, I just made email available on the web, along with Jack Smith. It’s overloaded, it’s got junk, but people still reach you and we still log into our inbox every single day. It’s here to stay and there are different forms of communication, whether it is video chat or it is text messaging or it’s Facebook messaging or Slack or whatever else we use, WhatsApp. Today, if I have to send you a well-thought out proposal, it may take you a week to respond. I don’t want a yes/no answer, I will still send it over email. I get so many emails from marketers, from everybody trying to reach me. AT&T just shipped my latest phone, how do they let me know? On email. Is here to stay.

I think it’s demises, oh, my God, it’s dead, it’s so old fashioned just because grandma also uses it does not make it old fashion. I mean, it’s been around for the longest time, but that’s also because it’s the granddaddy of all form of web communication, it’s an existed since the start of time. I mean, you reached me on email, right? And I responded to your thing after numerous these things and said, okay, fine, I’ll do it, I’ll find some time. You don’t have my phone number, you have no other way of reaching me. That’s still my public ID, which you can use to communicate with me and I can respond to it at my own time, my own leisure and it can be a well thought out conversation.

So I think the place for well thought out two-way communication is not over just because there is also need for instant communication and instant gratification if I have to ask you, “Hey Aaron, are you free for lunch to day?” If it requires a yes or a no I’m not going to send that message over email, I’ll send it to you over a WhatsApp or a text message, right? I mean, that doesn’t mean that email is dead and that’s why it will never die, never, never, never not in our lifetimes, it’s just a different form of communication. Will there be 10 other kind of messaging applications? Yes, there will be, everyone serves a different purpose, the world is a big place. But email was around since 1969, our grandparents used it, we will use it, our grandchildren will use it as well.

Aaron Dinin:

And yet another great point worth highlighting from Sabeer, just because other technologies for messaging have come along, they haven’t killed email, nor will they in the future. If anything, they’ve streamlined email and made it even better for what it’s best suited for, which is longer, more thoughtful and less time sensitive communications. And this, by the way, points to how lots of communications technologies evolve, when new innovations come along, they rarely completely replace the technologies that came before them instead, they tend to exist beside each other with a new technology replacing some, but not all of the functionality of an older, more established one. That’s why TV didn’t kill radio and the internet hasn’t killed printing, instead, every technology has its benefits and weaknesses, the same is true for email.

As new messaging technologies come along, sure they’ll replace some of what we used email for, but I’m with Sabeer on this one, I suspect email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And since it’s not, that gives you plenty of time to say email a link for this podcast to a friend, right? Or you could text about it too, I really don’t care which one you use, heck use a tweet or a Facebook post, whatever. I just hoped you enjoy hearing Sabeer’s story as much as I did and that you want to share it with everyone.

I’d of course like to thank Sabeer first and foremost for sharing it here with all of us. If you want to see what he’s up to these days, you can find him on Twitter, he’s @Sabeer. This podcast is on Twitter too. We’re @webmasterspod. Be shared us, send us your thoughts or feedback, anything you think about this episode or any of our previous ones. You can also reach me directly. I’m @aarondinin, that’s A-A-R-O-N-D-I-N-I-N.

And you can find more entrepreneurship resources on my website, articles, courses, newsletters, whatever, all of that is over on aarondinin.com.

I want to thank our audio engineer, Ryan Higgs for helping pull together this episode. And I want thank our sponsor Latonas for their support. If you’re interested in buying or selling an internet business, be sure to head on over to latonas.com, which you should do right after you subscribe to Web Master on your podcast app of choice so you get the next episode as soon as it’s released, we’ll have that for you real soon. Until then it’s time for me to sign off.

Aaron Dinin:

As someone who’s spent a lot of years thinking about and teaching customer acquisition, I kind of feel like I have to ask you about your decision to add the famous line at the bottom of your email the one that said get your free Hotmail email account, that’s usually referenced as one of the most successful growth hacking or kind of viral growth strategies in history. Where did that idea come from?

Sabeer Bhatia:

That’s really Tim’s idea. Tim Draper, who said, we should put a little Monica line saying get your free email at hotmail.com and every email that you send out will have that so other people will find out that it’s sent from Hotmail and they’ll sign up. And that turned out to be pretty good viral mechanism of growth.

Aaron Dinin:

Oh, okay. The Tim Draper, I guess that’s why he gets credit for having coined the phrase viral marketing, that makes sense. Fair enough.

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