In the world of email, a short list of companies dominate–Google, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft–but there’s a new player in the game that’s ready to tear down their firewalls: Ronald Reagan. Just as Reagan took on Walter Mondale and Jimmy Carter, the conservative icon’s family isn’t about to bow down to any lily-livered liberals, be them presidential candidates or billion-dollar tech giants.
Last year, in his father’s memory, Reagan’s son Michael launched an email service to end the monopoly of left-wing Internet companies. His charge was simple: “Every time you use your e-mail from companies like Google, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple and others, you are helping liberals,” Reagan wrote at the time. “These companies are, and will continue, to be huge supporters financially and with technology of those that are hurting our country.” For only a small $39.95 annual fee, conservatives around the country could purchase an @Reagan.com email address, and rest easy knowing their money was going only toward conservative causes.
Today, on the eve his late father’s 100th birthday, we caught up with Michael Reagan to find out how the hot startup was faring–and how he planned to win this one for the Gipper.
As Reagan tells it, the service is flourishing. With little marketing, Reagan Email is growing, and on the path to becoming a big threat to Google, AOL, and others.
“I’m excited by the fact that we started, when? April of last year? We haven’t done much promotion, and we have sold 4,000 accounts,” says Reagan. “When I go out and do interviews, if I’m on Sean Hannity, and I say I have an @Reagan.com email service, I can sell 1,000. Wham!”
Reagan speaks with palpable energy about the service, and believes it has the potential to be a major player in email. When I ask whether it could one day compete with the likes of Hotmail or Gmail, Reagan affirms. “Yes, at some point, it is going to be a competitor,” he says. “I’m actively looking for an investor to really take it to the next level.”
And Reagan has a lot to sell potential investors on. Apart from the roughly 4,000 accounts already sold–at an astonishing $40 each–the rate of growth is increasing, Reagan boasts. “There was like 5 [sold] yesterday,” he says. “It’s like three or four or five a day–they just keep on trickling in.” Reagan also describes to me the innovative features of Reagan.com: “We got the calendar. We got everything going for it. Our search engine–I think we have the only search engine that gives you both [results from] the left and the right.”
Currently, he’s looking for an investment in the range of $500,000 to $1 million. “We could take in a million users–we’re set up,” he says. “With a large investor to put some really big bucks behind it, I think it can be huge–we’d be able to expand and get bigger servers.”
When I asked how a $39.95 service could ever compete with Google or Microsoft’s free email, Reagan explained that once he gets enough users, he too will be able to offer free, ad-supported service. After all, it’s no different than how his competitors began.
“When AOL started, it cost more than that–look at what AOL or MSN was charging on a monthly basis–it was more than $40 a year,” Reagan says. “And look at what you’re getting for the $40.”
Reagan says his team is “always upgrading” the service, and looking for new ways to attract users. (Though, according to Reagan Email policy, upgrading isn’t necessarily included in the service’s price: “You are using the Services AT YOUR OWN RISK and we are under no obligation to provide you with any support, error corrections, updates, upgrades, bug fixes and/or enhancements of the Service.”)
So will Reagan Email soon chomp away at the market share of Gmail and Yahoo and Hotmail? For $39.95, there’s no telling how big this service could become.
“People forget: I was the first one to stream a radio show, and everybody laughed at me,” Reagan says. “I was the first one in radio with a website, and people laughed at me then.”