AWS Community Chat with atmail’s CEO, Dave Richards
As an AWS Technology Partner running cloud email platforms on AWS for our telco and service provider customers, we are fortunate to work with some super helpful and highly dedicated AWS team members. Special thanks today go to three of those – Brittany McGovern, Reagan Koryozo and Aley Hammer – for kindly inviting atmail to be featured on AWS Community Chats!
AH: Hello and welcome to Community Chats. I’m your host Aley Hammer and today we’re joined Dave Richards, the CEO of atmail. Dave, thank you so much for being here today. Can you start by telling us a little bit about atmail?
DR: Well, firstly, thanks for having me, Aley. Yes, atmail’s 22 years old now and we’ve been powering other people’s brands through the oldest social network on the Internet, email, in that time. You know, we started off with an on-premise software and we’ve, like most other companies in that space, we’ve evolved and moving to cloud.
But, you know, it wasn’t an overnight transition. It wasn’t as simple as just taking the software, installing it on a server and going, ‘Hey we’re now a cloud provider’. Having it as a conscious journey was really, I put down most of our success to.
You know, our first iteration was exactly that, we took our software, we put on our own tin in the co-lo data centre. We then moved into things like OpenStack providers, and now we’re on AWS Cloud. But every step of the way, we’ve had to relearn, we’ve had to retool, and build upon what we already knew. And today, we are still powering other people’s brands, through white label email, but we’re the only people who are doing it as an AWS Partner, on the AWS Cloud.
AH: Wow, what a unique service. And as you said the only one of its kind really. So, when it comes to emails, Dave, you really do take away the heavy lifting for the customers. You guys take care of maintenance, virus protection, spam management, you name it. So, how do you do all of this for your customers?
DR: Well, look, firstly it starts with the people. You know, our business is built around people. Just like most other people’s businesses are built on people. You know we are email experts. Our people are email experts. They stay up to date with a continuing, moving, and very dynamic environment. Email doesn’t sound like it’s continually moving and dynamic; it’s been around since the internet has been around. But trust me, it does. It’s very, very hard to recruit someone out of college and just go, ‘Hey, go be an email expert’.
You know, and inside our virtual four walls there’s a tacit knowledge transfer that happens every day, and it’s built in our cultures, our values, our processes. As I said, running an email system, it sounds simple, but it’s just not, it’s very complex. It’s actually one of the first things that people observe once they start zooming into email and all their social technologies. You don’t just need to know email, you need to know: networking; DNS; authentication; authorisation; the list goes on, alright.
So, on top of this you know, there’s an entire industry now, built around exploiting that technology. You know, viruses, spam, phishing, you know, all the bad guys. They’re active, they’re persistent, and they’re out there working right now to exploit people’s platforms. And so how can you expect someone just straight out of college, or you know not even involved in the industry, to stay on top of this, day-in day-out? How do you stay ahead of these bad actors?
You know, and this is really where AWS comes in for us. It allows us to focus very much on what we do and not what we don’t do. You know, we are email experts. We don’t want to be data centre experts. We don’t want to be DBAs [Database Administrators]. We live and breathe email, so we let AWS do their thing, and we do our thing.
AH: I love that, and it sounds like you guys make things so much easier for the customer, and you also reduce costs which is always a bonus. So, why would a customer hand over their email management to you? I mean, I’m assuming this data could be really sensitive and I feel fearful even just thinking about it. So, why would a customer do it?
DR: As I mentioned, there’s certainly those bad actors out there that want their data, right? But now we’ve also got governments legislating how users’ data must be accessed, and how [it’s] handled and processed. You know, such as EU’s GDPR or Singapore’s PDPA. It’s coming everywhere now like every jurisdiction seems to be coming up their own version. You know, some legislations require data sovereignty, other cases it’s quite simply a customer’s internal policies that require data to stay within the borders. Again, AWS comes to the party here for us because we can pretty much deploy inside any jurisdiction we need, and we can comply with those local and global requirements. Combine that legislative requirement of the data protection, it’s really part of a compelling story for customers to outsource their platform into our cloud services.
Particularly as this is the core focus of what we do and what we do every day. You know, we notice that the consumer mailbox is evolving, as it always has, you know it’s never really been static; the mailbox is becoming more and more about a digital locker for people’s lives. You know it’s where they store their movie tickets, their travel tickets, their itineraries, their reminders for important events coming up in their lives. And our roadmap is responding, as it always has. We’re providing not just the basic security functions to protect an inbox, but the tools to protect individuals’ data, and even their families and their children, and in some cases, grandparents, to navigate the online journey. You know this speaks to the promise that many of our customers make in the markets, that their brand can be trusted, and they’ll protect people online.
AH: Well, that makes sense, and Dave atmail has been in the email industry for 22 years, so you are showing your age here, which means you guys have truly watched the internet as it’s gone from, I guess dial up to cloud. So, how have you innovated as the tech world has grown around you, because I’m sure there’s been massive changes that you guys have had to kind of, learn along the way, with tech?
DR: Yes, certainly. You know, the Internet started, I guess, as a promise of, it was the ‘best of the best’, the place to collaborate; you know, everyone would come together. And that certainly is the case, no doubt about it. You know, we’ve not seen this level of collaboration anytime in history. But along the way, we’ve all been exposed to that ‘worst of the worst’, as part of that journey. And today, everyone’s online presence comes with that backdrop of requiring security. You know, atmail itself started life with a simple vision; you know, allow people to access their email from the web. This evolved, quite rapidly, into a passion for user journeys. You know, it’s not just, you know, accessing your email over the web, but you know… How can people be more productive? How can they safe? How can they be protected online? Really, this user journey has really acted as our north star during the last 22 years. You know, we’ve always focussed on the user; we’ve always focussed on what they need, and not what we think they need, you know.
Now sometimes, this requires us to surf the technology wave. For example, what new feature did AWS release last week that we can exploit for our users and ensure their journey is even better, you know? But sometimes, it means that we need to be a leader of change, you know. A few years back, we saw an amazing proposal that was made to the IETF (or the Internet Engineering Task Force) for a JMAP standard. We so firmly believed that this iteration in email was so important to our users and their journey, we’ve gone ahead and just implemented, before it even became standard, you know. It’s still going through the ratification process, but we’ve still got built the most complete implementation of it today.
So, certainly while our products have changed, our users agendas have changed, and their needs have changed, and the technology has changed all around us, you know, the latest obviously being that of cloud services and the amazing functions that are available there, we remain to true to our north star, which is to deliver what users need, and what makes their lives easier. That’s how we innovate at atmail.
AH: I love it, and honestly like that shows, because the business has been around for 22 years so you can only manage that and pull that off if you are authentic, you’re staying up with the trends, you’re innovating, and you put your people first. So, we’re very much aligned in that regard, with AWS as well, with our leadership principles. So, Dave, thank you so much for coming on the show and it’s been such a pleasure to hear about the business and how you’ve grown, and how you leverage AWS as well. So, thank you. We’ll see you next time.
DR: Thank you very much for your time today, Aley.
New to atmail?
atmail is an email solutions company with 22 years of global, email expertise. You can trust us to deliver an email hosting platform that is secure, stable and scalable. We power more than 170 million mailboxes worldwide and offer modern, white-labelled, cloud hosted email with your choice of US or (GDPR compliant) EU data centres.