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How I Built a Successful Company from My Parents' Attic at 17

Simon Grabowski, founder and CEO of GetResponse

During my years growing up in Poland, I was somewhat of a rebellious kid. Given my personality, I knew all along that working for someone else was never going to be my cup of tea. I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Along with an older business partner, I started my first business in 1996 – an online travel website called Travel Poland. Once the site launched, I blasted out hundreds of emails one at a time to attract customers. I knew there had to be a way to automate this tiresome process. After some research, I used the minimal coding experience I had to build my own tool that made it easier to send out emails.

After a year in business, my partner forced me out of Travel Poland. But I still had the email tool that I had designed. Since it was so helpful in sending out emails, I figured other entrepreneurs might need a similar solution. It turns out they did. And just like that, in 1997, GetResponse was born.

Going with my gut

I started GetResponse in the attic of my parents' house as a one-man operation when I was 17 years old. And while I did have previous business experience from my time with Travel Poland, GetResponse was the first time I focused on the U.S. market. American business culture fascinated me, and I thought going global was the best option. So I went with my gut.

My initial idea was to assist small businesses and provide them with software to help run more efficient marketing campaigns. I wanted to help them tell their stories and grow their companies as well as larger businesses. The first incarnation of GetResponse came together in about a year. And from there, I paid close attention to problems that my customers were having and improved the technology accordingly.

From the get-go, my main goal was to create marketing software that was easy enough for less tech-savvy marketers to use. The easy-to-design email campaigns, autoresponders and landing pages allowed customers to track their marketing results in real time. I wanted the tool to be simple, no matter how advanced the technology behind it was. Since technology is always changing, I always make sure we develop new features that anybody can understand, since most people don't have the time or desire to learn complicated software. Instead, they want to see positive results as soon as possible.

Success is a team effort

It's funny to look back to when I was the only GetResponse employee, in charge of the entire operation all by myself. The tiny company I started from my parents' attic has really taken off. Today, we sign up more than 2,500 customers daily and send a billion emails every month.Our team consists of top-notch programmers, creative marketers and product development, an energetic back-office team and five-star support.

GetResponse has come a long way in terms of customer service, and that's one aspect of the company that I'm especially proud of. We have customer success teams on two continents – at our Polish headquarters and in Halifax, Canada. We're there for our customers 24/7 via phone, email and live chat. We also educate and provide free resources for anyone who wants to become a fully-trained marketer.

Over the past 20 years, GetResponse has grown dramatically, far more than I ever could have imagined. And it continues to change in new ways that are consistent with the world's ever-changing technological landscape. But the most important part is that it's a successful business, created out of passion. It's the best source of pride and fun I could have ever hoped for.

About the author: Simon Grabowski is the founder and CEO of GetResponse. GetResponse is the easy-to-use yet advanced online marketing platform with more than 350,000 customers in 182 countries.

Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Email your pitch to Shannon Gausepohl at

Image Credit: Simon Grabowski