The “Accidental” $10k/mo Side Project

Paul Tyma

In Episode #703, Nathan interviews Paul Tyma. He’s the founder and creator of a tool called Mailinator which is an email system. He’s also a startup veteran and has focused on 4 Silicon Valley startups including Preemptive Solutions, Manybrain Inc which owns Mailinator, Home-Account.com which was acquired by Bills.com, and Refresh Inc which was acquired by LinkedIn. He’s a frequent speaker, writer and author of one of the original books on Java called Java Primer Plus. Dr. Tyma has received his PhD from Syracuse University focused on Java/.Net performance.

Famous Five:

  • Favorite Book? – Influence
  • What CEO do you follow? – Amy Errett and Bradley Kam
  • Favorite online tool? — Linode
  • How many hours of sleep do you get?— 8.5
  • If you could let your 20-year old self, know one thing, what would it be? – “How to talk to girls”

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:53 – Nathan introduces Paul to the show
  • 01:48 – Paul started his first company during his PhD
  • 01:56 – After getting his PhD, Paul worked for Google
  • 02:12 – Paul is still part of the board for Preemptive Solutions
  • 02:18 – Refresh had a very visible exit and is currently at LinkedIn icebreakers
    • 02:37 – The acquisition was in 2015
    • 02:45 – Acquisition price
    • 02:54 – Refresh was a consumer application
    • 03:10 – Refresh has raised $10M in total
    • 03:20 – The first round was a priced round
    • 03:53 – Refresh had 100K users
    • 04:30 – Refresh built its own identity from scratch
    • 04:40 – The technology of Refresh
  • 05:40 – Home-Account.com was built prior to Refresh
    • 05:59 – Paul was a minor founder
    • 06:15 – Option pool
  • 07:23 – Selling a company and staying with the company who acquired it is a cliché in Silicon Valley
  • 08:19 – Mailinator was a side project Paul built 13 years ago
    • 08:30 – It was a receive only mail service
    • 08:50 – Mailinator lets you create a disposable email
  • 10:17 – Mailinator had some ads which paid for the server
  • 11:30 – Mailinator now makes money from affiliates
  • 11:47 – Mailinator’s brand became strong
  • 11:56 – There was a high usage from QA departments who tested their signups process and welcome email
    • 12:11 – They asked Mailinator for additional features
    • 12:40 – Hundreds of QA teams now are using and paying Mailinator
    • 13:16 – Mailinator also has a private paid domain
  • 13:40 – Pricing is $29 for single user and $129 for a team
  • 13:56 – Average RPU is $35
  • 14:31 – Average MRR
  • 14:57 – Paul is now turning Mailinator into a business
  • 15:21 – Churn is pretty high
  • 15:48 – Less paid advertising
  • 16:16 – Mailinator has 45K unique users a day
  • 16:44 – 25K new inboxes are set up everyday
  • 16:58 – “This is not a DAU product”
  • 17:21 – Mailinator has not raised money
  • 18:09 – Team size is 3
  • 18:30 – Gross margin
    • 18:59 – Server cost
  • 19:53 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. A side project can definitely turn into something more—don’t underestimate its potential.
  2. An email does NOT reflect one’s identity.
  3. There are thousands of emails being made and sent every day—having a disposable one is almost a necessity.

Resources Mentioned:

  • The Top Inbox – The site Nathan uses to schedule emails to be sent later, set reminders in inbox, track opens, and follow-up with email sequences
  • Klipfolio – Track your business performance across all departments for FREE
  • Hotjar – Nathan uses Hotjar to track what you’re doing on this site. He gets a video of each user visit like where they clicked and scrolled to make the site a better experience
  • Acuity Scheduling – Nathan uses Acuity to schedule his podcast interviews and appointments
  • Host Gator– The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for the cheapest price possible
  • Audible– Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5-hour drive) to listen to audio books
  • Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives