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Interview: Q&A with Mailcheap Founder Pavin Joseph on Staying Ahead of the Pack, Evolving with the Market and his Career

Tags: , , Date/Time: August 10, 2020 @ 5:35 am, by Jon Biloh

Earlier in mid July we talked to Data Wagon Founder and CEO CJ to talk shop and today, as we continue our Interview style Q/A sessions, we’re chatting with Pavin Joseph, the Founder and Chief Engineer of Mailcheap, a leading email delivery service. Mailcheap has been featured on Low End Box in the past and is an active member of the Low End Talk community. So let’s get started with the interview!

What can you tell us about yourself, how you got to where you are today, and your role at your company?

Hi, I’m Pavin Joseph, founder and Systems Engineer at Mailcheap. My journey with computers began in the year of ’97 when my father who was working away from home at the time bought a Compaq PC so that my mother could email him. I later learned that did not work out as my father intended but it gave me a very early introduction to computers and I’m very grateful to him for that (among many other things). At that time, it came pre-loaded with Microsoft Windows and I was only preoccupied with playing games. I can fondly remember Road Rash, NFS 2 SE, Age of Empires and then later Microsoft Flight Simulator 1998. I was totally and utterly hooked on the latter and for the better part of my life I’d wanted to be a pilot. So in the year Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov and the web as we know it was still in its infancy (both of which I wasn’t aware of at the time), these games showed me the potential of what could be done with a computer and to a child the possibilities seemed endless (even now, it does!) and thus was born a lifelong fascination with all things computer.

My introduction to programming came later in life with Logo, BASIC and then Java/C in high school & university. At university, I was also introduced to the wonderful world of Linux and it truly was a turning point in my life. Up until that point, even though I knew how to program a computer, the underlying operating system was an enigma, a black box which I couldn’t really understand or even thought was possible to understand. From there, the fascination quickly grew into an obsession with experimenting and hacking together single-board computer (SBC) projects using Raspberry Pi, Orange Pi and later VPS’es. My first dip in the hosting pool was from these initial forays in securing a cheap VPS and experimenting with what could be done with it. This also gave me the opportunity to better understand web hosting and development by creating simple HTML pages with PHP for server-side processing.

The first time I setup a mailserver was after Edward Snowden’s global surveillance disclosures in late 2013, more as a personal challenge and to test my Linux skills than as a potential business. It wasn’t until 2015 when I became more familiar with bash scripting, working with APIs and KVM VPS/cloud servers that I considered I could create a business out of providing dedicated mail servers without the traditional per-user/per-domain limits imposed by shared email providers, namely Gmail for Business, Office 365, etc.

From the outset, I wanted to provide a service that was cheap, fast, and good. Some consider this to be an impossible combination, they say you can pick any two but not all three at once. It took almost 5 years of hard work and constant iteration to get to a point where I can confidently say Mailcheap became all three: cheap, fast, and good.

Today, I work as a Systems Engineer at Mailcheap with my day-to-day activities ranging from sales to development and system administration but most of my time is spent on design & development (using Python, Javascript, Bootstrap, Vuejs to name a few in the stack).

What advice would you give to business owners today or those aspiring to become one?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to provide business advise, I do not have a business degree and people with one said Mailcheap was un-sustainable but here I’m proving them wrong 5 years later and still going strong. So, if there are two key takeaways I’ve learned from this, it’s this:

  • Don’t wait for the right time, if your business or product can help at least one person solve their problems, then ship today!
  • Iterate constantly to better your service towards your goal. Aim for cheap, fast, and good!

 

Would you recommend the hosting industry as a source of opportunity for entrepreneurs?

Yes, absolutely. The hosting industry is the bedrock for modern web and what constitutes a “modern” web is constantly changing, bringing with it new opportunities every day. I’ve been in the hosting industry for only 5 years now but the changes I’ve seen in such a short while are massive. Just be ready to keep iterating and you would be good.

 

What is the most significant characteristic that makes your company unique in today’s evolving market landscape?

An API-first platform, your imagination’s the limit as far what you can do with an API-first service. To put it simply, an API is how different services on the web “talk” to each other. So just imagine Mailcheap and thousands of other APIs as little Lego bricks that you can use to build anything your mind can conceive!

 

What do you enjoy most about your role? What do you find most difficult?

Design, development, system administration. Anything and everything tech related I enjoy doing. Things I find difficult are mostly on the business side, for example, sales and marketing (as a personal and company policy we do not do email/telephone marketing which I consider to be annoying and plain spammy).

I get a great deal of satisfaction when I see that our service is truly helping someone.

 

Both personally and professionally, what guiding principles ground you?

Honesty, transparency, and putting my customers first before myself or the business. I promise to each and every one of my clients to do the best and continue to do the best for them. Each and every customer I’ve failed in any way I consider it as a personal failure and strive to ensure that it’s never repeated. To be forthright, being in the email hosting industry has changed me as a person for the better. I bootstrapped the business with less than $100 USD per month and in those first few months when the finances were in the negative and I wasn’t sure where the business was headed I did provide a service (in hindsight, not knowingly) that was sub-par and consequently put myself before the customers’ needs. This was a personal and professional failure that I’ve since vowed never to repeat. Like many here, I’m well acquainted with businesses that exist solely to serve itself (your typical greedy corporation), an imaginary construct which doesn’t care about its customers or its employees. I sincerely promise Mailcheap would never turn into one of those.

 

Tell me about some of the new and exciting things you are working on at your company?

Now that we’ve finished the beta and launched the new API-first hosted email system, work is progressing on updating and re-introducing Premium mail (active-active redundant HA mail) plans, inbound filtering & backup MX plans.

Once that is done, the next big project is to make the AI spam filtering more efficient and self-learning. We also have to manage to scale it affordably before integrating with and re-introducing dedicated SMTP relay plans.

 

Why should customers trust you and your business?

Trust is inherently a fundamental part of the hosting business, after all people have to trust you and your business to handle their sensitive, mission critical data. I believe our heart is in the right place with putting customers before the business or its employees. To clarify, I put my customers first, employees (myself included) second, and business third. From a technical perspective, we have taken every reasonable measure to protect and safeguard the customer data entrusted to us, from keeping the website and billing portal updated to performing security updates every day for mailservers, providing TLS for secure email access & transmission, and with the New Mail System (NMS) two-factor authentication and intrusion prevention as well. Access to email storage is strictly controlled, available only to select Level 3 engineers.

 

Final thoughts and anything you would like to add?

While Mailcheap does not provide a free trial, we do provide a 14-day money back guarantee for¬†Enterprise email – shared¬†product in good faith and to make clear that we stand behind our product. Mailcheap’s API is published on ProgrammableWeb.com where you can search for ours and many other APIs in unrelated fields to make your very own special soup!

 

If you would like to learn more about Mailcheap, click the banner below to be sent to their website or review their past Low End Box offer.

 

I'm Jon Biloh and I own LowEndBox and LowEndTalk. I've spent my nearly 20 year career in IT building companies and now I'm excited to focus on building and enhancing the community at LowEndBox and LowEndTalk.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for taking part in our interview series, Pavin!

    August 10, 2020 @ 11:13 am | Reply

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