Email Automation Sequences

About 3.8B people have used email at least once in 2019

I have written about personalized emails before, but never really covered about the state of email automation. Companies of all states and sizes send automated emails that get triggered when you complete an action on their website or app. User signups forgot passwords, abandoned carts, shop purchases, deals of the week, newsletters, rights issues, account statements, social media updates – every app or website will utilize email automation to a large degree.

Email Automation Sequences are complex workflows that trigger personalized emails to customers based upon triggers and conditions

Just recall a recent service that you have been using and how many emails you receive from them. Be it a simple webinar that you have signed up for. The sequence will look like the below

  1. Welcome email after when you register
  2. Reminder email before a day
  3. Reminder email before an hour
  4. The webinar is currently ongoing –
  5. If you did not attend, join our next webinar
  6. If you did attend, an upsell or a survey about their product
  7. After 3 months, we have another webinar for you

7 Emails just for a 1-hour webinar. Why? Because people engage with it. It’s your primary identity bigger than any of your social media handles. Now similarly, recall when you sign up for a service or complete a product purchase – at the backend multiple email sequences are always running – pushing you to the next step, reminding you to take action, informing you about their new product and service

Just how complex are these email sequences ?

Detailed email sequence for an e-commerce firm
Another Email sequence for e-commerce companies

Email continues to be the most direct way to reach customers, not Facebook, not Instagram, and not Twitter.

Which is why there are hundreds of email automation service providers catering to companies of all shapes and sizes. If you are looking out for more templates for motivation, just visit Autopilot HQ – you have email automation sequences for SaaS, subscribers, follow-up emails, split AB email tests – close to 155 different types of email automation sequences available.

The importance of having a drip campaign is well known to all marketers – even if the first cold email does not work, the second one might or the third one after 2 months will definitely work. If your KPI involves increasing customer signups and reducing churn, check out the below automated examples

Re-Engage: Check this email from Asana for users who have not logged to win back customers who have not logged in for a long time

Upsell at different points in the customer journey – Vimeo does a good job of it

Win-Back after Cancellation

Abandoned Cart: Very necessary to have to push the customer along the journey

Welcome Email along with free + Upsell:

Webinar Reminder

How to start incorporating in your website?

The plethora of options available for email automation sequences is bound to confuse newcomers and experienced professionals alike. That is why I have a written a quick guide to choose the best option based on your requirement

  1. eCommerce on Shopify, Woocommerce, Bigcommerce, etc – < 10K customers

    Do not try to go for fancy alternatives, just look at their respective app stores, and choose the most popular email platform app available. It will save you tons of time and resources with access to ready-made templates.

  2. Blogging – WordPress

    Sendpress, Mailpoet, and Mailchimp remain the best options available. If you are creating a paid newsletter publication, take a look at Substack which will fulfill all your requirements quickly.

  3. Bootstrapped SaaS Firm < 50K emails a month

    This remains the most competitive category as companies want to lockin the company with the pricing usually per customer. Some of the available options get expensive quickly once you get outside their free tier but if you are a new company, it’s just simpler to rent rather than build.
    Autopilot, Omnisend, Intercom, Mailchimp, Hubspot, Campaign Monitor are just few of the companies competing for this space. My favorite option would be Intercom due to integrated chat and email to quickly resolve customer queries. But for complex user onboarding, I would prefer Autopilot. Be prepared to shell out close to $150/month for an email platform at this size with integrations for SMS, Chat and CRM.

  4. SaaS Firm < 2M emails a month

    At this stage, you will be probably spending hundreds of dollars on your email campaigns. Depending upon your ROI you might be looking for some cheaper options to cut costs. See no further than Amazon SES – 2.5 lakh reliable emails at less $50/month. But you might have to manually set up email sequences and code API for the same which is time-consuming.
    Sendy (one time fee of $59) + Amazon SES – becomes your most preferred option now. Check out this blog post for more options

  5. Self-hosted Newsletters

    If you have huge email lists > 1M subscribers and are planning to go for mass email campaigns, then Amazon SES + Moonmail remains the best option for you to get started. $5/month and $1/10K emails is a great way to start your email campaigns
  6. Enterprise Firms

    Marketo, Pardot and Adobe Campaign – Large firms who are looking for dozens of customizations, run multiple campaings and have a team of marketers

Sidenote: Good email copy is a great website if you are looking for motivation on how to write great email content and pageflows if you are looking for beautifully designed newsletters

Do share your thoughts on email automation sequences below

What I am excited about in 2020 and 2021

Technology shifts at breakneck speed with new products being released every day, new patents being registered every day. Very few of them eventually see the light of the day and fewer make a mark on the world. 2019 for me was the year of voice-enabled speakers, machine learning, and multi-camera phones.

Although 2020 has turned out to be the year of coronavirus with remote working (Slack, Teams and Zoom) and contact tracing apps occupying the most mindshare yet the year is not over yet. There are several promising technologies that I am keeping a close watch on which can move to become giant ecosystems in themselves. These can be companies, products, open-source technologies, hardware platforms, new tech-enabled business models, but something that drastically alters the way people and businesses live and thrive. Although each warrants its own blog post due to its potential, seeing it all come together gives you a fair idea about where the world is heading.

1. No-code / Automation tools

Excel is the tool that kickstarted the no-code revolution enabling millions of people to create quick automation tools for carrying out simple tasks – Data Entry, Expense Management, Quote Generation, etc. It is bound to be around long after we will be gone with the way it has ingrained itself in people’s lives with many schools teaching it as a mandatory course. No-Code and Automation tools enable non-programmers to quickly build apps without writing a single line of code. Zapier is the best example for the same with an ARR of $35M, a 20X revenue multiplier would imply a valuation of $700M. This is for a tool that does simple tasks like saving your email attachment to Dropbox.
Tray.io, Integromat, Appgyver, Appsheet, Airtable, Bubble, and tens of others are trying to capture what Zapier and IFTTT have built. Let’s see what the next year has in store for them

Example of a no-code automation builder

2. GraphQL and Strapi and …

GraphQL is a query language for APIs and a runtime for fulfilling those queries with your existing data. In layman’s terms, it reduces the developer effort of writing custom API by a large amount with having to describe the data structure only once. Facebook and multiple tech giants are using GraphQL in production today. With tools like Strapi and Hasura, building out an API has never been easier today. I am pretty sure this is a technology which is here to stay

Side-note: Building an app has never been easier today, with hundreds of no-code, e-commerce, and automation platforms, I expect a lot of simple SaaS apps to be launched now. This is a nice list of these apps

3. Oculus Quest

Virtual reality has been hyped for too long now. But Oculus Quest might be able to finally get it right. With a low price point, hundreds of games and apps on the platform, and COVID-19 pandemic it has already started selling out. Having used it before, I can say the experience is extremely good and this can be the next big gaming moment. Virtual collaboration using https://immersedvr.com/ might be a good usage of the technology

Screenshot of Oculus Quest

4. LoRA

LoRA is a long-range (10km +) low power sub-gigahertz radio frequency protocol useful for battery-powered IoT devices transmitting small amounts of data. Although this technology has been flying below the radar, yet thousands of sensors are being manufactured with LoRA capability with a number of deployments taking place. New low power chipsets are being developed actively with LoRA now being used for utility metering in India, smart parking, reindeer tracking, sea turtle monitoring the usage for the same are endless. You only need to take a look at https://lora-alliance.org/showcase to understand the broad usage of this technology and subsequent platforms and deployments possible in all areas of life

Screenshot of LoRaWAN Certified Devices

5. FPGA

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are semiconductor devices that are based around a matrix of configurable logic blocks (CLBs) connected via programmable interconnects. FPGAs can be reprogrammed to the desired application or functionality requirements after manufacturing. FPGA is a big deal, as they can be reprogrammed until the ASIC or processor design is final and bug-free. Intel acquired eASIC as a way to accelerate its designing and prototyping process. Imagine being able to work at the chipset level to create dedicated chips for AI, Image processing, Video streaming, the possibilities are endless. Market size is estimated to be close to $10B
This is a good article explaining the potential about FPGA

6. Netflix for Games

Pay X dollars per month, get access to hundreds of games, streaming, and an ecosystem. With Playstation and XBOX soon to launch their new consoles and Google Stadia already out in the wild, everyone will try to get as many subscribers and titles to their platforms and create lock-in.

GeForce Now has a small library of just over 400 excellent games

7. Windows for Linux

Microsoft has doubled down on its efforts on Linux and open-source to ensure its as easy to deploy enterprise apps on Azure as it is on Linux. Their new Terminal for Windows 10 works almost similar to any Linux terminal which appeals to the developer community to a large extent. Microsoft has been appealing to developers like never before having missed the App Store revenue stream, it does not want to be left behind for whichever new platform will come.

More developers -> more apps -> larger platform -> more Windows licenses -> more Azure servers -> more enterprises sign up

8. Animation Engines

I have covered the Unreal Engine can become the AWS of Gaming but the trend to bring animation tools and engines by the likes of James Cameron and Disney is slowly making its way to the hands of new creators with a tight budget. Expect a lot of innovations in this area to bring the creation of animation to everyone. Case in point – Pose Animator. I expect a lot of YouTube Creators to start using these new technologies.

9. Notion

Notion describes itself as an all-in-one workplace for notes, documents, wikis, projects, and tasks. It claims it is the missing piece for Slack. ( I had written about office collaboration tools before). With remote work being the new normal Notion’s usage has exploded in popularity. It is already a unicorn with $2B valuation

Have I missed out any worthwhile technology that can potentially change industries? Do let me know in the comments

The AWS of Gaming – Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine

Before starting the blog post, just take a look at this video

Unreal Engine 5 Announcement

The level of complexity achieved is astonishing, a single statue in the video contains 33 million triangles, the unreal engine demo as a whole contains a rendering of billions of triangles. Second, lighting which is a crucial component that gives depth or equivalence of a 3D is now powered by Lumen, a global illumination system that can work from millimeters to kilometers. If you look closely, the lighting source change affects the entire scene almost instantly.

Don’t fret if you have never heard of Epic Games, They started first by making games but later on moved to license their core infrastructure (Unreal Engine) which helps developers make games faster as well. The company last valued at $15B is growing by leaps and bounds now with major titles like Gears of War, Fortnite, Tom Clancy, Batman-Arkham City, Borderlands, Mortal Kombat, Dragon Ball Fighter, Street Fighter and hundreds of other games. The Unreal Engine now powers games build on all platforms – future and current, iOS, PS5, XBOX Series X, Windows, OSX which lets developers focus on building the game itself.

The new announcement also reduced the license cost for all developers with no royalties until $1M of sales have been generated after which 5% will be charged. If the game is sold via Epic Games Store, no royalty fees will be charged. Epic Games also launched its Platform service allowing developers to build real-time games like Fortnite giving it out for free.

What excites me the most is the usage of Unreal Engine for real-time in-camera VFX –

Previous versions of the Unreal Engine have been used in video games as well as films and television. Disney used the Unreal Engine, for instance, to create 3D environments and landscapes in The Mandalorian. Technology like LED walls and game engines allow production to “travel” to new locations without ever leaving a sound stage. A future is not far where filmmakers will never have to leave their studio to shoot a film. This can potentially save millions of dollars in production for film-makers.

In 2007, architecture firm HKS used a previous iteration of the Unreal Engine to produce a virtual environment of the new Dallas Cowboys stadium that clients could virtually walkthrough. As Hurricane Florence ravaged the Eastern seaboard, dangerous storm surge towered over a meteorologist – only she was safe inside a studio.

UK-based Pharmaceutical research firm C4X Discovery recently starting using Unreal Engine technology to visualize and manipulate 3-D molecules in virtual reality, with the potential to let scientists collaborate remotely in the virtual environment. But Virtual Reality is still a very growing niche with the technology not yet fully developed which makes sense for developers to use Unreal Engine as no royalties until the first million dollars in sales. Unreal Engine will sure power the games and applications built on VR as the people start to buy more headsets and developers build games on it.

Unreal Engine is slowly building out to becoming the AWS for Animation Engines. Epic Games is surely poised to reap the benefits, be it from developing games, royalties from its game engine, its game store, real-time in-camera VFX, virtual walkthroughs, etc

Did I miss something out? Do let me know in the comments below

Live Demos of Artificial Intelligence

Live Demos of AI

We have all read that one article which says that AI is going to completely transform the world, these articles are becoming increasingly common now. Most common examples when people interact with AI are while using Google Search, Beautify Faces, Snapchat filters or Gmail autocomplete. Google Trends show a rather different view where it showed high interest in AI from 2004 to 2008 but dipped between 2008 to 2013. Around 2013, everyone started talking about AI.

Artificial Intelligence – Interest over time

But if we start focusing whether its hype or reality, based on the demos of AI which I have seen, AI is already here. Not something in a computer lab from Google but real-world which you can use today. A recent project from Generated Media led to this blog post.

1. AI Generated Faces

1,00,000 faces generated by AI. Where can you use it ? All types of projects -> In your decks, sample websites, presentations, mockups & mobile apps. The global stock photo & video market size is estimated to be $4B. This represents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and everyone. Just looking at a sample face makes it difficult for a normal person whether this is generated by AI or a real person. Don’t believe me ? Browse through their Google Drive .

Forecast – Stock Photo on Demand.
Seeing the rapid speed of development, the day is not far where you will only describe the stock photo you require to generate it.

2. Remove Objects in a Video

Quickly remove any object

Not a new demo you must have seen, as there are plenty of apps available already which remove objects from photos like Touch Retouch or Adobe Photoshop Fix but the github project sure looks interesting as it can remove objects from videos. Just draw a bounding box over the object and it gets magically removed. The entire source code is available on Github.
Forecast – Standard feature in all video editors

3. Deep Style Phototransfer

The examples showcased in the github repo are pure amazing !!

One of my favourite project available right now, you can transform entire tone, style of your photo through this project. The nature photographs taken look breathtaking. It even has a python script to run the transformation for your own images. One of the most popular open-source AI repos with close to 9k stars on github.
Forecast – More Filters available on Instagram & Snapchat

4. Google AutoDraw

Google Autodraw

One of my most used websites – Google Autodraw – Doodle Icon Recognition.
AutoDraw pairs the magic of machine learning with drawings from talented artists to help you draw stuff fast, but it can be used for almost all types of presentations and projects. Not able to find an icon, or forgot the name of what to search for, use Google Draw to quickly doodle something and find the corresponding icon.
Forecast (or Why isn’t this feature there yet) – Available on Photoshop & Powerpoint to quickly get icons from Doodles

5. Deoldify – Color Old Images

A Deep Learning based project for colorizing and restoring old images (and video!) – very useful to transform black and white photos. The project does what is says – color black and white pictures and videos.

6. DeepFakes

DeepFaceLab and Faceswap are the most popular projects available

DeepFakes, although controversial, remains one of the most popular examples available of AI. There are countless videos (some very funny!) available on reddit with some of them looking very real. For those who don’t know about Deepfakes – Replace faces in a video with an actor model or your own choosing. When it was first published it was groundbreaking, machine learning available at the click of a button to all. There are pre-built windows app available now.
One real-world application would be in movies similar to how VFX artists were able to bring Paul Walker back in Furious 7 with the help of his two brothers kept him in 350 scenes.
Forecast: (Might be a reality already) Replacing faces in Hollywood stunt doubles scenes

7. Talk to Transformer

Story generator – Link to website

AI not only operates on photos and videos but also can operate on text. GPT-2 is the largest model trained on 40GB of Internet text just to predict the next word. GPT-2 is a large transformer-based language model with 1.5 billion parameters, trained on a dataset. You might have seen this in action in Gmail where it presents you with options to complete the sentence. Talk to transformer is an online webapp that creates small stories based upon the a given string of words. The following input of text :

I went to a lounge to celebrate my birthday and

gave me a result

I went to a lounge to celebrate my birthday and I came across some girls who were doing all the karaoke of that night. I thought, hey that's weird," he says.

There is another strange thing about the relationship. "I think they're more than friends," he adds, but they still hang out when he visits the hospital for a few days where he works.

"It's a bit of a weird relationship," says Kim. "I think they're just like friends. We're friends with our partners. We like to have fun together."

But not everyone likes it.


"I hate it because I think it's weird. What is a two-hour karaoke session?" asks Alex.

But it has a different effect on each partner.

Mum is an artist and also likes to karaoke and hang out. And Dad is an IT worker and sometimes karaoke too, but doesn't really enjoy it because he likes to enjoy his home. They are best friends, but he says they are just friends. If they get into something 

The above sentence, although not very coherent but is still correct in terms of grammar and has some amount of small coherence built in. A reason might be due to the model in talktotransformer is trained on a small dataset of 700MB, but you can see the rapid advance possible if trained on the real model of 40GB.
Forecast: (Reality already?) You might already be reading news & articles written by AI without realizing it

8. Deep Voice Conversion

Text to speech API are already available from Microsoft, Google and AWS which can simulate real human voice. But deep voice conversion takes it a step further where you can covert the tone, modulation and style of your voice to someone else’s voice. They implemented a deep neural networks using more than 2 hours of audio book sentences read by Kate Winslet. You can listen to both the audios above and see for yourself the potential of the technology.
Forecast: Real audio and AI Audio will be indistinguishable

Have I missed out any project ? Do reach out to me over twitter or comment below

Startups disrupting Uber

Cost vs Convenience

The above tweet about Bounce achieving 80,000 daily rides in a day led me to this blog post. You travel everyday whether you love it or not, even if you are working remote. A recent study says that 7% of average work day in India is just spent on travel Depending upon the location, distance and your mode of travel, be it metro, e-scooter, boat, (helicopter for Mukesh bhai), you would love to cut down on travel time. India is notorious for its congestion being out of control as showcased by below

Mumbai, the land of finance and Vadapav still tops the list

Uber, with a market value of $74B has changed travel as we know it. 10 years back, it would have been crazy for someone to even consider getting a cab through a mobile, but now it has become ubiquitous to use daily. Ola, Didi, Gett, BlaBlaCar & Lyft are all part of the same equation where you use an app to get a cab. For this blog post, I would be more focused on Bangalore, considering the innovations in travel happening over here.

Cost vs Convenience

Uber might have started the disruption of the personal transport industry, but a different company is going to disrupt Uber itself

If you think Bird (e-scooter startup) is the peak of transport innovation in Silicon Valley, wait till you hear about India’s Silicon Valley. Every resident of Benguluru can now actually travel through 8 different ways for reaching his office. Why is this important ? Because it is disrupting personal transport as we know it, changing customer habits and preferences, ultimately having huge implications on the trillion dollar automobile market in India.

What are the most important dimensions to personal travel ? Cost, Convenience and Distance, but for practically, I have only chosen cost and convenience and tried to map them on the below scale. It vaguely represents a line with cost increasing as per convenience. (To ensure brevity, these travel options are not mentioned: Waymo’s Self-driving Taxi, Cycling/Jogging/Skating, Waterways, Trams, Local Trains, Bike Taxi)

DriveU: The only thing that can be more expensive that owning a personal car would be having a driver on demand. A friend has used this once while travelling and it is a godsend for people who travel a lot. One of the few services who just does one thing quickly, securely and efficiently. A startup that is bound to disrupt this personal travel space for millions of people in India, especially useful for outstation travels, but can be used inside the city as well
(Another example of this would be Hopp)

Personal Car/Bike: Extremely expensive considering the rising cost of cars in India. Add to it the rising cost of petrol, maintenance, insurance, taxes, parking costs, etc), personal cars are still at one end of the spectrum. But owning a luxury car is still a status symbol for most of us, although still not financially advisable as its a depreciating asset of high expenses

ZoomCar: Zoomcar was one of the first players in India’s self-driven car ecosystem and it does give a pleasant experience. With 32% YoY growth to 158 crore, while losses growing at a robust 10% to Rs 116 crore. (Competitors are Drivezy, Myles, ECO rent a Car … ) Zoomcar is heavily used for weekend / vacation travels in India, although it remains to be seen whether its cars can achieve high utilization to achieve profitability. Zoomcar also has a monthly rental plan

Ola/Uber: Both of these companies are the 600 pound gorilla and are now rhymes with taxi / auto / rickshaw. Its second nature for most millennials to call an Ola/Uber. Ola has approximately 59 lakh users in India and does 15 lakh rides daily. Although both companies are facing driving issues, but it appears it has it under control now.

Autos: They are still huge in India and are not going to away anytime soon. I can’t imagine India with Autowalas, even after proliferation of all the transport apps, you will see them always running on the streets. Most Tier 1 & Tier 2 cities in India have millions of Autos driving daily and solve a very important part of commute.

Rapido: Ola for Bikes, not a new concept but gaining very high popularity in India. A very convenient and affordable option but with Ola & Uber almost in the same space, its sure to get crowded. With so many apps available just for point to point travel, its just a matter of time before there will be a good aggregator who can just give me a quickest option. Although I’ve never travelled by Rapido uptil now, I have heard good things about it.

Bounce: Self-Drive Bike Ride at just Rs3/km. The most simplest idea yet, Pick and Drop anywhere. I was surprised why has it not been launched anywhere yet, extremely convenient, easy and simple. Definitely an app on my phone which is next in line to Ola and Uber. It claims around 8000 scooters on its fleets, with 4000 dockless bikes and 1.3 Million rides in 3 months. I would not be surprised if it can surpass Ola in number of rides one day, its growing faster everyday

Vogo: Almost similar to Bounce, with the only difference of dropping and picking scooters only occurs at dedicated parking lots. Still a very inexpensive way of commuting around. Ola has invested $100M seeing its strategic importance. It has about 12000 vehicles in its fleet

Quick Ride: The biggest player in Carpooling in India right now. Unless you are living under a rock, you must have heard about Quick Ride, which is a big blessing for people who travel long commutes in Bangalore. You can quickly find people from your company travelling the same route everyday. A few people I know travel daily using this app. This app will indeed go a long way in solving the traffic problems in India

Yulu: Micro-mobility solutions or last mile solutions, India’s answer to Bird and JUMP. Very efficient for distances of less than 2km. These blue bicycles and e-scooters are now available across Bangalore. Quick to find and use. Future Potential – very hard to estimate, but considering the initial investment they have made in Bangalore

Shuttl: Very awesome idea where you can get a bus at your service. The app shows you shows Shuttle bus routes and timings which you book instantly. But I am more interested in Shuttle Enterprise which can be used by companies for employee transport. Imagine the improvement in traffic if all enterprise companies in Bangalore use the same platform for employee transport for bus. Watch out for this as it can get huge

Public Transport: This would be very different for Mumbai where it can be scored very high for Convenience but Namma Metro is getting complete only in 2023. Traffic congestion can only be solved through a well connected, fast and budget-friendly mass public transportation system similar to Singapore.

Image: Press-Office City of Müenster, Germany

If public transport is done right, you won’t require most of the apps shown above. Above image captures its importance enormously

I am yet to see an yearly rental from any company where you pay ‘X’ amount for a car or bike per year to use it. One of the crucial reasons behind the auto industry collapse other than economy slowdown (Maruti Suzuki sales down by 70%) is surely this app based personal services

What does the future of travel look like for you ? Have I missed out any startup ?