In September 2018, when Postscript COO Colin Turner and his two co-founders launched Postscript, a text-message marketing platform for Shopify stores, they weren’t sure what to expect. They knew there was a need, but also that most launches into app stores aren’t met with droves of new customers.
Still, after a couple months and only a handful of customers, unease tends to set in. So, the team doubled down on continuing to improve the product and moving forward with their plans to apply for Y Combinator. Generating $200 in monthly revenue, the founders didn’t think YC would give them a second look. But by November, the forecast for Postscript completely changed.
Read more about why Colin and his co-founders started Postscript, what they’ve learned along the way, and how they grew to more than 1,500 customers and a team of 24 employees (which will likely double by year end).
What prompted you to create Postscript?
My brother’s friend was running a Shopify store that had grown to a relatively large size by marketing to a college-age audience. College students are mobile-first, and he wanted to send marketing text messages to his customers and subscribers in the same way he could send emails to them. There were some tools available on the Shopify App Store but they were nowhere near as comprehensive as the email marketing tools he was using.
At the time, my brother and I were developing a few other ideas, but we kept this one in the back of our minds. After the others didn’t quite feel like the right product, we went to work on developing what would soon become Postscript.
This felt like a really viable idea because one of the major things that differentiates text messaging from email is the two-way nature of the communication. It's also more casual, concise and conversational. It allows people to respond easily to messages and because of that, it creates a much more human and conversational relationship between the brand and the customer than email, which has more of a broadcasting approach.
What makes Postscript stand out from other platforms?
Postscript is the product with the deepest e-commerce feature set, combined with an intuitive self-serve user experience. At this point, there's a fair amount of different apps and platforms that are doing text messaging marketing in one way or another. But most of them have a limited e-commerce integration or are too clunky for users to master on their own. Most of our competitors also treat text messaging just like email even though text messaging is so much more than that because of its two-way, conversational nature.
What were the first few months after launch like?
We launched in the Shopify App Store in September 2018 and just waited for customers, which is not very fun. It’s usually a slow start, which we anticipated.
We started to gain a few customers just by businesses searching in the Shopify App Store, which operates very similarly to the Apple App Store or the Salesforce App Store. The Shopify App Store was very important to our visibility because it targets a lot of SMBs, which usually have smaller, more entrepreneurial teams that are willing to try new techniques.
But despite that, our first couple months were very slow.
We remained focused on improving our product and getting those first few reviews. As a result, we gained a few customers which equated to about $200 per month in revenue, which is better than zero. But we knew we needed some support, so we decided to apply to Y Combinator in October, even though we didn’t think we had much of a chance of getting in.
In November, we got a call for an interview. By then we had started gaining a little bit of steam. Our revenue was 10X higher, but still low at $2,000 per month with about 20 customers. Y Combinator saw the progress we had made and our idea resonated with them. I think they probably knew text messaging was becoming more of a mainstream channel, and recognized Shopify’s growth potential. We ended up getting accepted, which was huge for us.
We came out of the three-month program in March 2019 with a solid infrastructure and some seed money (approximately $1.5 million) which was pivotal to our growth.
You were also accepted into the StartupAZ Collective 2019 Scale Cohort. How has that shaped your journey as a startup founder?
I didn't really know what to expect joining the program, but I was just blown away by how many high-quality startups and founders were part of the program and pushing each other to reach their highest level.
Coming back here from Los Angeles and San Diego, I knew there was a thriving startup scene but that it was relatively small compared to other cities. It has been great to see so many startups that are seeking really large opportunities and operating at the highest level.
The relationships I’ve built through the program are probably the greatest thing to come out of it.
It's really interesting to see the difference between the StartupAZ Collective and Y Combinator. It's a similar program, but also quite different in terms of structure and the length of time. Over the course of working alongside the same people for a year, I’ve been able to develop both great working and personal relationships with other founders.
What has been one of the most rewarding parts of growing Postscript?
One of the best things has been bringing on the team members, seeing all of them bring their experience, values, and opinions, and integrating those into the greater whole.
Before this, I had never managed more than a small team. That's been such a new and rewarding experience to have people come on.
Our vision of Postscript is to build the world's greatest remote organization by modernizing communication between brands and consumers. The latter part of that is what we do. But the former part, building the world's greatest remote organization is why we do it.
Our co-founding team started this as a side project. And then this side project turned into what has the potential to be a very large business. But it was always just because we loved building, being engaged in meaningful work and working with people we really enjoy. Being able to bring that experience to other people is really satisfying and rewarding.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
I've heard lots of people say the search for product-market fit and company building are challenging. Those are the two major phases of a company. But within a couple months after launch, we realized that we had a pretty strong product-market fit. And so since then, it’s been about learning how to build a company for the first time. The human component is extremely tricky. It's an endless source of learning and iteration.
We are at 24 employees, with three more starting soon. It’s really wild to think about. It’s been a wild journey full of all sorts of learning and growth, but building the team and figuring out what it means to start building a culture has been special.
What’s next for Postscript?
A huge focus for the whole company is hiring the right people and putting them in a great place to succeed here. We hope to grow our team to 40-45 people by the end of the year.
Beyond that, we have a product roadmap that lasts years based on all of the things that customers would love to see. So there's an endless runway of opportunity with the product and it'll be really cool to see that continue to evolve over the next few years. It feels like this is just the beginning.