Spam as a Service

If you’re curious about where all the billions of dollars of venture and IPO capital are being spent by all these Software as a Service startups, I have figured it out. The answer is in my inbox. Every day five spam emails about signing up for this enterprise software or that – control your employees’ spending, track your employees’ benefits, a million different versions of PEO, etc. They’re basically taking all this money, divvying it up into $85,000 starting salaries and paying saleskids one year out of college to hit small business owners on LinkedIn or try to guess at the email addresses of people like me. It’s cold calling but lazier.

And that’s fine, I get it. Everyone has to start somewhere, every company has to get the word out about what they provide. But what’s really obnoxious are the follow-ups. They’re following up with people who never responded and acting as though they did. It’s corny but I guess it actually can work given how frequently I see it. “Hey, just circling back from the last conversation we had…” There was never a conversation. You sent me spam about your workplace mental health dashboard app and I deleted your email along with twenty others just like it that week.

I’ll get four follow-ups from the same person saying the same idiotic thing in the body of the email that completely doesn’t apply to the type of business we are. I know this is mostly automated and there’s no effort being put in to actually get the meeting. The kids are just happy to be somewhere besides their apartments during the day. Maybe they even have equity.

I spent my first five years in this business cold-calling. I was a big pain in the ass too. I was told “this is how it’s done” and, back then, that was true. Some of the largest financial advisory practices in the world today were born in the 1990’s cold calling heyday. It was laborious, soul-sucking work, but it got results. (I wrote an entire book on it, lol). I wish we had email outreach systems like these instead of dialing five hundred phone numbers a day. Not that I think any of this cold email stuff is actually effective. I just think it would have made the job less arduous until something better came along for me to do.

If your son or daughter or little brother or sister are currently doing this sort of spam for a venture-backed SaaS startup, my apologies if this hits a little too close to home. It’s just a first job and first jobs are supposed to suck. Builds character.

As for the valuations being assigned to all these companies, and the expectations of their investors – I would be terrified. Nobody needs 50 different software vendors and no one’s looking to add new monthly subscriptions on to the cost of running their firm.

And the emails just have to stop. Do some research on your target customer. Find a way to meet them or provide value up-front. If you actually have a platform or product or service people need or want, they will find it.


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