Anti-spam Company Grows at Same Time

December 05, 2005

By: Sheena Harrison
Crain's Detroit Business

Eliminating junk e-mail, or spam, is an annoyance for most people. But it's a boon for Ann Arbor-based Greenview Data Inc.

Greenview created SpamStops-Here, a service that stops junk e-mail from entering client's mailboxes. Greenview expects sales to reach $1.4 million this year, up from $700,000 in 2004.

Companies that sign up for the service have their e-mails passed through Greenview's server, where the system compares the messages to a list of more than 590,000 risky Web sites. Messages that contain those links are removed and the remaining e-mails are sent to the client's inbox.

While most programs eliminate about 95 percent of spam, SpamStopsHere eliminates up to 99 percent, said Theodore Green, president of Greenview Data. That elimination rate has helped Greenview achieve a 98 percent customer retention rate, he said.

"Very few of our customers change services, and usually it's if they get bought by a company that uses another system," Green said.

Finding ways to eliminate junk e-mail is becoming a more pressing issue, said John Mozena, co-founder and vice president of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Email. The organization is Internet-based, though Mozena is based in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Mozena said most experts agree that spam accounts for at least half of all e-mails, although some say that number can be as high as 75 percent. As spam increases, it puts a larger burden on computer servers, memory and Internet bandwidth, he said.

"What that means to businesses is that you need twice as much infrastructure for your e-mail as you would normally need," Mozena said.

Finding an effective anti-spam solution can be tricky, Mozena said.

"One of the big challenges in anti-spam technology is that it's an arms race between the spammers and the anti-spam technology developers," Mozena said. "One side comes up with a tool, and the other side comes up with a system to defeat it."

There are more anti-spam companies entering the market as the spam problem continues to grow, said Daniel Freeman, senior product manager for Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp.

"The anti-spam market has been a fast-growth market to be in," Freeman said. "There are numerous players all trying to deliver solutions for this market space."

Greenview Data started out in 1980 as Compuview Products Inc., a company that created word-processing programs and other tools. Green changed the name in 1990 after the company dropped some of its product lines and focused on VEDIT, software that edits computer programs and data files.

Green saw the opportunity to come out with an anti-spam program several years later after experiencing problems with spam in his own company.

"My business, like all businesses, was getting more and more spam," Green said. "So I saw there was an opportunity to come out with a product."

Green and his brother Philippe, who previously owned a Web design company in Battle Creek, joined in 2002 to create SpamStops-Here.

"Being an unknown competitor in the anti-spam market, we started targeting our VEDIT customers who already knew of us," Green said. "We did fairly well with that."

Green said SpamStopsHere had modest sales until the program was named the top hosted spam-filtering program by Network Computing magazine in 2004.

"It quadrupled our business in a couple months," Green said. "We were pretty low-key until that came out."

So far, SpamStopsHere seems to have worked for Howell Public Schools. Paul Pominville, the district's director of technology, said the system has helped his six-person staff manage the junk e-mail that was once a problem.

"I'll bet you 90 percent of all incoming e-mail that we received was probably spam," said Pominville, whose district started using the system three years ago. "Now I would say that's under 1 percent."

Although Green hasn't made any revenue projections for next year, he plans to continue expanding Greenview. The company is in search of venture capital that would allow it to launch an e-mail archiving system and hire more than 30 new employees.