Behind the Success of Simple Relevance

Even as young as the age of eight, Erik Severinghaus, CEO and Founder of Simple Relevance, already stood out against his peers.

“I was really the weird kid reading the Wall Street Journal and programming computers,” says Severinghaus. “Technology was always a big passion of mine.”

Simple Relevance turns company data into actionable information for personalized marketing.  Some companies are good at sending relevant email, says Severinghaus, others are terrible.  Even if the company has demographic information and knows what customers click on and engage in, they don’t personalize their communications or optimize their marketing. He decided to build algorithms to do just that and Simple Relevance has garnered attention for both its innovative technology and its recent fundraising through TechStars and Hyde Park Angels.

Severinghaus began writing code as a kid and was drawn to the idea of an innovative technology community.

“Growing up, a dream of mine was to work for RedHat,” he says. “I wanted to build technology and be part of innovative companies that were changing the way that technology works.”

In the early 2000s, while a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Severinghaus was part of the founding team iContact, an email marketing company which would go on to be acquired by Vocus in 2012 for $169,000,000.  After leaving iContact, he worked for IBM and founded several companies including MainBrain, KoalaDeal, and Wanderlust Ventures before founding Simple Relevance.

Simple Relevance was one of the first companies at co-working space 1871, which opened it’s doors in May, 2012.  Prior to that location, the company was on the 19th floor of the Merchandise Mart along with Tap.Me Games and Media Chaperone. Kevin Willard, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center encouraged Severinghaus to move to the 12th floor.

1871, and the incubator, TechStars, have helped Simple Relevance ‘do more… faster’, says Severinghaus.  Within the community, there are more opportunities to interact with investors, and with other companies.

“We work a lot with business to consumer companies that are sending email, we work a lot with retail and e-commerce is a big sector for us, we also work in the spaces of travel and hospitality, financial services and auto.”

It is not uncommon for Simple Relevance customers to double the revenue they bring in from email, says Severinghaus.

The company brought in a $750,000 investment from the Hyde Park Angels this May.  There were a few things about Simple Relevance that caught Hyde Park Angels’ attention, says Corey Ferengul, investor at Hyde Park Angels and lead on the Simple Relevance deal.  Specifically, the company had a seasoned leader with real world experience and concrete strategies for customer acquisition.  Too often entrepreneurs fail to plan how they will acquire customers on the market, says Ferengul.  This expertise combined with the sophisticated technical product that Simple Relevance offers made the company a good investment by the Hyde Park Angels valuation. ❒

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