Ceos / Marketing / Startups

Tech giants rely on this Columbia company to send customer emails. A new CEO wants more

SparkPost delivers emails for Pinterest, Comcast, Zillow and LinkedIn. Rich Harris, formerly of AddThis and Oracle, has plans to “scale to the next level.”

The lobby of SparkPost's office in Columbia. (Courtesy photo)
Get an email from LinkedIn? It was delivered by SparkPost.

The Columbia-based email delivery service has a new CEO as the company eyes its “next phase” of growth.
Rich Harris, who previously led Northern Virginia social bookmarking service AddThis through its acquisition by Oracle, began as CEO this week. Harris remained at Oracle for a time following the 2016 acquisition as Group Vice President of Oracle’s Data Cloud business unit. With SparkPost, he is returning to an earlier-stage company (compared to Oracle), though it’s a later-stage company in venture-backed terms.
While personal email is often handled through interfaces like Gmail, SparkPost is used by larger companies to send API-driven email, which is used for the more high-volume variety of messages, such as those that are sent to confirm a transaction.
“When you use SparkPost to send email, typically it’s a developer that’s embedding access to our API in a software application,” Harris said in an interview this week on Day 2 on the job. Along with the ability to send lots of messages, he said the service offers reliability and security to companies.
The company has built a customer base including Pinterest, Comcast, Zillow and LinkedIn, and says it delivers 25 percent of the world’s “non-spam” email. But there is competition, and Harris sees room for further growth. After getting settled, Harris said his goal is to develop a plan “scale to the next level.” Given his past acquisition involvement and the fact that we chatted with him on the same week that fellow Columbia-based company Tenable announced plans to go public, we asked about M&A or IPO possibilities. Harris said such options would only come as a result of achieving scale.
“Our No. 1 goal is to really build a great company that’s a leader in the space that’s driving growth, that’s driving profitability,” he said.
In the immediate term, hiring will be part of the growth plan. The company recently opened a new office in Columbia and with it announced plans to add more team members to an employee base that is approaching 200 people. It also has an office in San Francisco.

Rich Harris. (Courtesy photo)

Rich Harris. (Courtesy photo)

Harris is succeeding Phillip Merrick, who held the top day-to-day role at the company for the last four years. The company said only that Merrick is leaving to “pursue his passion for growing early-stage companies.” Founder George Schlossnagle remains with the company as CTO.
“I am grateful to Phillip for his leadership of SparkPost over the past four years,” Schlossnagle said in a statement. “He’s been a great partner, and I am proud of what we accomplished.”

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