Software entrepreneur Christian Springub, his
mother, and his grandmother spent Easter Sunday pouring sand into bottles and
packing the bottles into boxes that would later be mailed to journalists and
bloggers. The sand was from a beach in San Francisco, and the package was part
of a promotion announcing Springub’s company’s American launch.
Springub is German, and his company, Jimdo, which makes free web pages, has 3.5
million users, mostly in Europe and Asia, not in the U.S.
Jimdo was founded in Hamburg in 2007 to make
websites for businesses, and its ease of use quickly turned it into a consumer
product as well. It got almost immediate traction in Europe, and caught the
wave of Asian Internet expansion as well.
Moreover, the customer service is phenomenal, as
I found out when I abandoned my test site because I had learned enough about
the product to form an opinion. I immediately got an email from Jimdo’s
Customer Geek asking me if he could help. I was embarrassed to have to admit I
was only playing with the product for blogging purposes.
However, how do you explain your advantages to
potential customers you may never meet? if you start a software company
in Europe, how do you get it noticed in the rest of the world?
Technically, software is a global product the
moment you turn the servers on, because it can be purchased or used by anyone
who comes to a company’s web site. But the truth is that most companies begin
by selling to the people closest to them, and only branch out later.
Christian and his two partners decided someone
should actually move to the United States and personally launch the company
there. Two months later, I was introduced to Christian by a mutual friend in
San Francisco who knew that in a previous incarnation I had owned a public
relations agency, and that as an investor in startups I knew something about
When the subject of press and journalists came
up, I explained to Christian that American journalists often despise PR people
and show contempt for press releases, with which they are deluged on a daily
That encouraged the Jimdo guys to create the
“we’re establishing a beachhead in San Francisco” theme of the
launch, and to order 200 bottles they would fill with sand from local beaches
and mail to the journalists and bloggers instead of a press release. As a
mother and grandmother myself, I know how Christian’s family was enticed to
help out. You can see pictures of the launch preparations on Jimdo’s blog.
So yesterday I found my own bottle of sand on my
desk. “This isn’t a message in a bottle,” it said. “The message
IS the bottle.”