Ironclad started as a joint venture between me and Ben. We were both working in affiliate email marketing, and had used software given to us by another company, and worked with their network of offers, and had our arms around what the industry was doing. At some point, we said to ourselves, we can do this on our own. We were paying a huge percentage of what we made back to the network just to use their software, and I was certain we could build our own for cheaper.
So after we broke out on our own, we started with a few simple scripts that would send email off of servers. These were standalone php scripts, and were very lightweight. Just reading in csv files and churning out email using a template. Over the course of about 3-4 years, it was built into a management system where it was all controlled through a GUI instead of a command line, and all the options and systems were as streamlined and automated as we could get them.
At some point, we were going to conferences and meeting people, and talking about what systems they used, and people started looking at alternatives, and we started leasing our platform out to other users. Similar to how you would work with constant contact or mailchimp or something.
Ironclad was known for being super fast, for having decent delivery, and for being one of the cheapest options in the industry. We were handling 20-30 clients at our peak, and our software was humming with very little outages or bugs or downtime.
We got a bit fragmented with how we developed new features. Some people wanted things to automate stuff they were doing on their own. Some people wanted things to integrate with specific networks. Other people wanted to be able to work with ESPs like AWS's SES platform or similar platforms. So because we didn't really have our own plan, we just kind of did all this for anyone. So we didn't end up being the best in any single category, we were just good in all those categories.
Ironclad eventually died because we didn't have a specific value proposition that was heads and shoulders better than other people. We ended up being one of the cheapest options out there, but we didn't really want to cater to all the low end of the market.
If I had to do it again, I would probably say no to some people requiring features, and focus in on one thing that we could do better than everyone. If we were to have focused on a single thing, or have a better direction of how we could fit into the landscape of email platforms, we would've been better positioned to carve out a niche. As it stood, in a crowded market, we didn't really have a solid place where we could explain why someone would use us over others, except on price, which didn't cut it.