How This Bootstrapped Startup Reached $3.7 Million In Annual Revenue

How This Bootstrapped Startup Reached $3.7 Million in Annual Revenue

Founders face many challenges when it comes to starting and growing a business, but sometimes the biggest obstacles aren’t the types of challenges you’d expect. Stripo is a Ukraine-based company, and the Russian invasion has impacted their business and the daily lives of team members.

In this interview, Stripo founder Dmytro Kudrenko shares how he and his team have achieved incredible success despite this significant threat.

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Stripo succeeds by taking a specialized approach in a crowded niche
  • The Stripo team interviewed ideal clients to better understand their needs
  • Stripo relies heavily on content marketing, including interviews with industry leaders, client case studies, and educational webinars
  • Dmytro’s advice is to focus on the problem, not just how you want to solve it

Overview

Business Name: Stripo
Website URL:  https://stripo.email/
Founder: Dmytro Kudrenko
Business Location: Ukraine
Year Started: 2017
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 70

How much revenue and profit does the business generate?

We’ve been growing at a steady rate of 10% each month for several years. Right now, our Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is around $381,499. In 2023, Stripo’s revenue hit $3,726,008. We’re proud to have reached over 1,000,000 users across the globe. 

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I started my journey 25 years ago in high school and continued it in university. There, my friends and I set up a software development company. For more than ten years, we made SaaS products for clients. This experience made us want to create our own meaningful products. I learned that being successful in software isn’t just about being good at technology; it’s also about understanding the market, what clients need, and how marketing and sales work.

Now, as the founder and CEO of Stripo, I’m proud to lead a company that’s making a name for itself in email design. Our main goal is to improve how emails are made. Unlike other tools that handle many parts of marketing automation, we focus on what we know best — design.

This specialization not only makes us different but also a great partner for ESPs, CRMs, and CDPs. Stripo works with them, not against them, offering a unique, focused, and easy way to design emails.

How does Stripo make money?

Our business model incorporates both freemium and subscription options. Users have access to a free version of Stripo and can also select from various paid plans that best suit their needs.

For instance, the Prime plan offers the ability to add up to 100 team members, provides unlimited projects, credits for testing emails on different clients, and includes access to a countdown timer feature.

In addition, we run an affiliate program designed for individuals interested in assisting with Stripo’s promotion. On average, our affiliates earn around $1,500 per month.

Stripo team members at an event
Photo courtesy of Dmytro Kudrenko

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

When we began developing Stripo, we already had a clear idea of what it needed to be. With over ten years in email marketing and access to a CDP (Customer Data Platform), we already understood the main problems email marketers face.

We knew that making HTML emails work well across different email clients and devices was tough for marketers who didn’t know much about coding. They were spending too much time figuring out code instead of focusing on marketing.

So, we decided to create Stripo, an editor where users can quickly make professional emails without any technical skills. Our goal was simple: let marketers easily create fantastic HTML emails without coding so they could spend more time on their marketing strategies and other important tasks.

How and when did you launch Stripo?

The MVP took three months to develop, and it was released in February 2017. Additionally, we aimed to kickstart website development and marketing campaigns even before the MVP launch. Stripo wasn’t the team’s first product, so our experience helped us avoid major mistakes. Here’s what we prioritized:

  • Conducting interviews with clients from our target global market right away instead of focusing on local markets.
  • Engaging top developers to collaborate on product creation.
  • Initiating marketing efforts well in advance of the MVP launch.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

Stripo is a bootstrapped company. I was the investor with my partners. Initially, expenses reached $20,000 monthly. With an average revenue of $10 per month per customer, we aimed to acquire 2,000 paying customers within a year and a half to sustain the team working on the editor independently.

We had invested $500,000 by the time we began to generate revenue. This milestone was achieved in 2021, after a total of four years.

Currently, we are not actively seeking investments, as we are capable of developing the product on our own. However, we are open to meeting and communicating with potential investors because we are looking for a model that would allow us to return five dollars for every dollar invested within a year or two. Then, we would be ready for Series A investments.

Dmytro speaking
Photo courtesy of Dmytro Kudrenko

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

Our first adopters were marketing agencies of various sizes, from small teams to large organizations with over 1,000 employees. To better understand their needs, I visited countless agencies across different countries. These experiences provided invaluable insights, enriching our technical knowledge through active engagement with marketing professionals.

From the start, we aimed for global reach, launching our website in four languages and quickly expanding to eight based on user demand. Our platform was built for easy addition of new languages, with translations by native speakers, emphasizing our commitment to accessibility and user-friendliness.

What was your first year in business like?

Initially, we chose to integrate with Gmail due to its popularity. It was a surprise to learn that 30% of our users were exporting their emails to Gmail. When we asked them why, we learned they were making business emails with our tool and then emailing them to their clients through Gmail.

This showed us that our tool could be used for more than just marketing stuff. This led us to add Outlook integration, broadening our user base to include HR professionals and others for internal communications.

We also shared mockups and prototypes with competitors, a strategy that, while unconventional, was key in our early development.

Stripo team members in the office
Photo courtesy of Dmytro Kudrenko

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

1. Customer acquisition

We acquired customers using a mix of channels to reach our audience. This included SEO, content marketing, partnerships, PR, and innovation. A standout moment was organically attracting large brands to our platform, with some discovering us due to our competitive pricing.

For example, a major agency found us when our editor cost less than $40, bringing their 300 team members on board. Their feedback helped us tailor our platform to better fit agency needs, enhancing our understanding and support for their workflows.

2. Content marketing

Content marketing has part of our strategy for attracting customers, perfectly aligning with our mission to “shape the evolution of email marketing.” Our blog offers insights into email marketing, and from time to time, we also share updates about our editor.

Additionally, we cover a broad ecosystem, from email builders to task management tools, and delve into new technologies like generative AI and interactive email modules. Our commitment to data security is also a key message, building trust with our audience. 

Through high-quality content, including interviews with industry leaders, client case studies, and educational webinars, we drive organic traffic and position ourselves as a trusted source of knowledge and innovation. Because of the high costs associated with paid advertising, we focus on organic reach, with customer acquisition costs between $10 and $30, making content our main and most effective channel.

3. Customer retention

Customer retention is essential. We prioritize maintaining our editor’s performance and data privacy, ensuring a secure and efficient platform. We continually add new features and enhance user experience fostering a reliable environment for our clients, supporting their collaboration needs, and helping us grow together.

Tell us about your team.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, almost everyone in our company lived and worked in Dnipro, a city near the fighting. Things were tense even weeks before the war started. So, we moved all willing team members from Dnipro to western Ukraine or abroad before February 24.

Today, Stripo’s teams of developers, customer support, designers, and marketers employ over 70 people who work both locally and remotely.

Our team is our greatest asset. Despite being spread across different countries and facing challenging working conditions due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our unity and motivation bridge the gap.

I find even more inspiration in my team than they find in me. Our shared, clear goals bring us together, fostering mutual support. It’s like magic. With this magic, along with unity, courage, and determination, we’ll emerge victorious in this battle. We’ll protect our families and secure our future.

Stream team members in the office
Photo courtesy of Dmytro Kudrenko

What are your future plans for the business?

We’re constantly developing and improving, honing in on Enterprise-grade features such as commenting and real-time co-editing. Plus, we’re committed to making emails more accessible. While emails crafted with Stripo are already screen reader-friendly, we’re fine-tuning details like alignment and font selection to make them even easier to read.

Looking ahead, we have exciting plans in the pipeline:

  • Shaping the email marketing industry by setting standards
  • Introducing a cutting-edge editor for crafting stunning landing pages
  • Steadily increasing our MRR
  • Expanding our user base to reach even more businesses and marketers

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

We’ve been facing significant challenges due to the war in Ukraine. It’s a tough situation, especially since many of our team members are there. Right now, our top concern is ensuring their safety. We’re doing everything we can, from relocating them to safer locations to making sure they have the necessities. Their well-being is our primary focus.

Naturally, the conflict has impacted our normal operations. We’re navigating issues ranging from communication difficulties to market shifts. However, we’re persevering, maintaining our high service standards, and ensuring that our customers remain unaffected.

We’re also strategizing for the future, preparing for any scenario. Our goal is to strengthen our strategies to ensure smooth operations, regardless of the challenges ahead.

Stripo team members at an event
Photo courtesy of Dmytro Kudrenko

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Focus on the problem you want to solve, not just how you solve it. I’m a developer, and sometimes I get too caught up in the technical part. That’s not always the best way to think. If you’re thinking of starting a business, I really suggest reading “Fall in Love with the Problem, not the Solution” by Uri Levine. It’s a new book, but it’s already one of my favorites.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

Let’s start with the books. If you are involved in product development or managing a startup, take into account the following:

For those in marketing, make sure to check out these must-read books:

Among other resources for email marketers, I’d highlight:

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