Direct & database: Matt Blumberg, Chairman-CEO, Return Path, New York

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While ongoing spam problems have created obstacles for many e-mail companies, Matt Blumberg has managed to double Return Path’s revenue in the past 12 months. The company will record between $20 million and $25 million in revenue this year, said Blumberg, Return Path’s founder and chairman-CEO.

The e-mail direct marketing company, which began as an e-mail change of address (ECOA) and list hygiene business in 1999, has steadily added capabilities.

It now handles services that help marketers maximize e-mail performance, including delivery assurance, lead generation and online direct marketing and consulting.

"It’s thematically similar to the original ECOA business, but we’ve taken on lots more problems to solve for our customers," Blumberg said. "We’re focused on solving our clients’ two biggest problems: building customer lists and assuring their e-mail gets delivered."

As part of its effort to find solutions, in June 2004 it acquired NetCreations, a move that enabled it to add e-mail acquisition, list management and market research services to its core expertise.

In April, it acquired the Bonded Sender Program from IronPort Systems, an e-mail security firm. With Bonded Sender, legitimate e-mailers post a financial bond with Return Path to guarantee that their e-mail is not spam.

That move added an e-mail accreditation program of sorts to Return Path’s growing roster of services and, Blumberg said, it makes a huge difference in response rates.

In a recent Return Path study, the Bonded Sender Program increased e-mail deliverability rates by an average of 20.6% across the Internet Service Providers using the Bonded Sender Program as a "whitelist" for incoming e-mail.

In June, Return Path launched Sender Score, a reputation management system, under the Bonded Sender banner. It enables marketers to determine an e-mail message’s reputation score based on 40 data points.

"The overarching theme is that we’re trying to help differentiate between the good mailers of the world and the bad mailers of the world," Blumberg said. He agreed that the road has been fraught with concerns over spam, phishing and virus attacks but pointed out that his company is thriving because it helps solve some of those problems for customers. "It has been a bumpy road," Blumberg said. "We help marketers deal with the bumps."

Blumberg writes a blog called OnlyOnce about e-mail marketing and entrepreneurship.

—Carol Krol

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