That which you manifest is before you.
-The Art of Racing in the Rain


Downtown Austin


Nashua, New Hampshire

Joshua Baer


  • Joshua Baer spends all day worrying about email so that you don't have to. He is an email marketing pioneer and the Founder of OtherInbox, which was acquired by Return Path in 2011. He has founded or invested in a dozen email startups and you can see his mark on about half of the email messages in your Inbox.
  • Joshua helps people quit their jobs and become entrepreneurs. He brought together 20 others to form the Capital Factory early stage accelerator to mentor and invest in tech startups. Joshua founded his first startup in 1996 in his college dormitory and now teaches a class at the University of Texas for student entrepreneurs.
  • He received Computer Science and Information Decision Systems degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and lives in Austin, TX with his wife and three children.
  • Interview

  • Q: Tell me about the different companies that you have started.
  • My first company was called SKYLIST. It was one of the first cloud based email solutions and I started it in my dorm room at Carnegie Mellon in 1996. I bootstrapped that business for 10 years before selling it for more than ten million dollars.
  • In 1999 I helped start at Trilogy Software. We spent 4 million dollars in 4 days launching it which was stereotypical of dotcom's at the time. A year later we sold it for twenty million dollars. Unfortunately we got paid in stock and that company went out of business before we could sell it. It was very 1999.
  • In 2004 the US passed a new law called CAN-SPAM that put some basic rules around email marketing. I founded UnsubCentral to help email marketers comply with that law and to make sure that when you unsubscribe from an email it really works.
  • After selling SKYLIST and UnsubCentral, it was kind of inevitable that I would start another email company. My first two companies helped big companies to send all of their email marketing… so it was only fair that my third company be OtherInbox - a solution for you and I to deal with all of the stuff they send. We have more than a million active users recently were acquired by Return Path.
  • I've also been involved in the early stages of Bazaarvoice, WPEngine, and numerous other companies.
  • Q: Did you start any companies that failed?
  • Not every company that I've started has been successful. I've probably had just as many failures as successes. NetMonitor was a website monitoring service that I launched in 1999. It was a good idea, but we didn't know how to market it. So we built some cool technology and signed up 10,000 free users before we shut it down.
  • Q: What kind of companies have you invested in? How do you decide?
  • I primarily invest in Austin tech companies and Email companies.
  • Some of the Austin companies I've invested in include Sparefoot, Famigo, and Volunteerspot. Each one is different but they all have incredible founders and are in markets that I'm interested in. I can do a lot to help Austin companies with fundraising, hiring key employees, and plugging into the local press and tech community. I want to be an investor in every great tech company that comes out of Austin. That's probably unrealistic, but I'm going to try anyway.
  • I'm also an investor in the Grove Wine Bar and the Alamo Drafthouse, but those really aren't the kind of deals I'm looking for.
  • Some of the email ToutApp, MovableInk, and LiveIntent. I can do a lot to help email companies because I have a deep understanding of the technology and have personal relationships with many of the key players. I want to be an investor in every great email company in the world!
  • Q: What's the most recent investment you've made?
  • Outbox - they hit both of my sweet spots because they are an Austin company and an email company. Well, actually they are a postal mail company, but their plan is to intercept your postal mail and email it to you instead. I can't wait to sign up!
  • Q: You're really passionate about Austin - what do you think is special about it?
  • I love Austin. I've been here since 1999 and I think it just keeps getting better and better. I love Silicon Valley and New York City too, but while they are already at the top of their markets, Austin feels like it is just hitting the steep part of the growth curve. It's exciting to be in a place where things are growing and improving so fast, and it creates lots of opportunity. There is also an incredible vibe to Austin - everyone here wants to help lift each other up.
  • Q: You're involved in a lot of different things - OtherInbox, Capital Factory, Ignite Austin, Startup America, 1 Semester Startup at the University of Texas, plus you have 3 kids - how do you balance it all?
  • I don't watch sports.
  • I don't watch TV.
  • Most of those things you mentioned overlap significantly. I'm pretty good at making "templates" for processes and events so that once I figure it out the first time it's easy to repeat. There are also a ton of people who help me out behind the scenes. My focus is email and entrepreneurs and that's a common theme across all of my activities.