Ah, the wonderful world of Email Service Providers (ESPs). But first things first: what is an ESP? Great question! An ESP, which stands for Email Service Provider, is a super handy service provider/platform that helps you manage your email campaigns and communicate with your subscribers effectively. It’s like having a trusty sidekick in the world of email marketing! While some ESPs have been around for years, the kicker is that they often go through various mergers and acquisitions, every so often changing their names too. Well, fear not, my dear readers, for I have taken it upon myself to dive into the history of these mysterious email providers and uncover their tales of mergers and acquisitions.
Email Service Providers: the Big Players
When it comes to larger businesses with loads of online traffic, they tend to seek out the big guns in the ESP world. Names like Marketo, Adobe, and SalesForce are frequently thrown around. Let’s take a closer look at these intriguing players, shall we?
Before we get all worked up, let me make one thing clear: I’m not here to rank these ESPs or crown a victor in the realm of email providers. This is merely an investigative journey for us to embark upon together.
Marketo Engage: aka Marketo
Our first subject of interest is Marketo, which made its debut in 2006. Ten years later, it was acquired by Vista Equity Partners in 2016 for a whopping $1.79 billion. But wait, there’s more! In a surprising twist, Adobe swooped in and snatched up Marketo in 2018 for a jaw-dropping $4.75 billion. Talk about a rollercoaster ride! And it looks like we should be calling Marketo Engage, not simply Marketo. I guess old habits die hard.
Speaking of Adobe, they’ve been on their own acquisition spree. In 2013, they acquired Neolane for a cool $600 million, which became a crucial part of the Adobe marketing suite (I guess we should refer to it as Adobe Experience Cloud now?). And as discussed above, in 2018, they made a strategic move and acquired Marketo. And, from what I can see, Adobe’s ESP is now called Adobe Campaign.
Now, let’s unravel the intriguing story of Acoustic. It all started with Silverpop, founded in 1999. In 2014, IBM swooped in and acquired Silverpop for $275 million. The name change followed shortly after, and all the marketers had to get used to calling it IBM Watson instead. Fast forward to 2019, and bam! Centerbridge Partners acquired IBM’s marketing platform, forming a standalone company known as Acoustic. Phew, that’s a lot of twists and turns! And it looks like in October 2022, Acoustic obtained what they call a “strategic growth investment” from Francisco Partners (“Francisco”). Still, Centerbridge Partners remains the primary equity holder in the company.
SalesForce Marketing Cloud
Did anyone use ExactTarget back in the day? Well, this pretty well-known email service provider, ExactTarget, was founded in 2000. Along the way, ExactTarget acquired a few other players like CoTweet, Pardot, iGoDigital, and Keymail Marketing.
But wait for it… in 2014, the tables turned, and Salesforce swooped in, acquiring ExactTarget for a whopping $2.5 billion. And just like that, ExactTarget transformed into Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Salesforce also offers Pardot, Salesforce’s more of a B2B marketing automation solution to its customers.
Oracle Email Service Providers
Oracle, too, has been quite active in the acquisition game. You might be familiar with these brand names – Eloqua (acquired for $871 million in 2012) or Responsys (bought for $1.5 billion in 2013). Oracle owns them both: Oracle Responsys Email Campaign and Oracle Eloqua Email Campaign.
Email Service Providers: Changes are Inevitable, for Better or For Worse
It looks like change is inevitable in the email industry. Does anyone remember EmailVision? I believe it was one of the UK-based email service providers founded in 1998. In 2011 EmailVision bought SmartFocus for $40 million. Furthermore, after just a few years – in 2013 – it rebranded as SmartFocus, and EmailVision name disappeared.
It’s a testament to how much the email industry has evolved. Familiar names morph into something new, and smaller ESPs find themselves becoming part of larger entities. The giants of the industry expand their offerings, leading to a whirlwind of acquisitions and mergers. Large companies scale by offering more services to their clients.
Marketing automation is continuously developing, and no surprise that email service providers will have to keep on improving to meet their customers’ needs. To offer more services and more technological solutions. Are we going to witness another wave of mergers and acquisitions? Who knows.
SME Email Service Providers: David vs. Goliath?
Now, let’s shine a spotlight on ESPs that target small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). These Email Service Providers may not have the same influence as the big players, but they certainly have a unique charm and, in most cases, much more flexibility. Let’s get to know them a bit better, shall we?
The Not-so-small MailChimp
Mailchimp Email Service Provider is a popular choice among SMEs. Many small businesses, entrepreneurs, and bloggers start email marketing with Mailchimp.
MailChimp was founded in 2001 and is operated by Rocket Science Group. Fun fact: in 2016, MailChimp was ranked No. 7 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list. How much are they worth? According to Forbes, in 2018, Mailchimp achieved $600 million in revenue and doubled its estimated valuation to $4.2 billion. To add, around November 2021, Intuit (the global technology platform that makes TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Credit Karma) completed its acquisition of Mailchimp for about… $12 billion.
MailerLite: The Blogger’s Best Friend
MailerLite, the darling of the blogger community. Founded in 2005, it took them a few years to find their groove in the world of email marketing. It’s interesting to note that MailerLite has its roots in Lithuania. How cool would it be to visit their office in Vilnius? 🇱🇹 🧡
Fun fact: according to their website, their first-year revenue was 1,652 EUR. And in three years, they hit their first million and bought their first big purchase… a coffee machine. Cheers to caffeinated success!
Let’s take a trip back in time to 1995 when Constant Contact first emerged as “Roving Software.” Fast forward to November 2015, and they found themselves embraced by the loving arms of the Endurance International Group, which acquired them for an estimated $1.1 billion. Now, Constant Contact operates under the Endurance International Group portfolio, alongside big brands like Bluehost and Hostgator. Despite the changes, Constant Contact’s mission remains the same: to help small businesses thrive in the vast digital landscape.
Final Thoughts: The Great ESP Adventure
Phew! What an adventure it’s been uncovering the mysteries behind these ESPs! My head is spinning from all the changes. I hope you enjoyed this journey as much as I did. If you have any other cool facts about Email Service Providers up your sleeve, please share them with me. I’m always excited to learn more.
Originally published May 2018, updated July 2023