Terrific Tools

Meet the man who is single-handedly building the future of email development.

  Gregg Blanchard     Feb 11, 2021    

photo of avi goldman and parcel logo

When I built my first website nearly 25 years ago, I wrote my I-hope-this-actually-works code in a Notepad document. Way too many years later, I discovered this thing called a “code editor” and my life as a wannabe developer was forever improved.

But I was writing PHP and CSS, not C++ and Java. So it wasn’t until I found a code editor that was built for my style of development, the languages I wrote in, and the workflows I needed that my life literally changed. My productivity improved, the quality of my code went through the roof, and my confidence skyrocketed. Web development went from a hobby, to something I enjoyed doing and...gasp...wanted to do.

What those tools did for me as a web developer, Avi Goldman is doing for email developers. His platform, Parcel, is a code editor that is built purely for email development and the unique coding techniques, workarounds, and challenges of getting each campaign to render beautifully across as many inboxes as possible.

Though early in his journey, Avi has already shipped an amazingly good editor that is turning heads across the email industry. I asked Avi if I could get a bit more of his story and he graciously obliged.

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Let's start with the basics, Avi. Who are you, where are you from, and how did you find your way into the world of email marketing?

Hey, Gregg! Great to be talking with you today. So yeah, I moved from Florida to Maryland when I was around 10. I’ve been here since then, except for a year and a half when I lived in San Francisco. At the moment, I spend most of my work hours on Parcel, as well as doing some contracting on the side. When I’m not in front of the computer I’m usually on a walk, making a new gluten-free recipe, or playing some pool with my partner – three habits that have kicked into high gear since COVID.

I fell into the world of email when I met SparkPost at a University of Maryland hackathon and managed to wrangle an internship. Like most email geeks I wasn’t there for email at the start but by the end, I was hooked. 

That’s awesome. What is your background? Are you a developer by trade, then?

I was lucky to have a great Computer Science teacher in high school who encouraged my love of coding. After a short stint in college, I got the SparkPost internship and they were kind enough to offer me a full-time Software Engineering position. I did that for a year and then joined the Marketing department as a Developer Advocate in San Francisco. Then I moved back to Maryland and worked as a Product Manager. So at this point, I’d say I’m a developer by trade with a healthy dollop of marketing and product management mixed in.

And that brings us to when I started toying with the idea of starting my own company at the start of 2020.

Indeed it does! Talk more about that decision to build Parcel. What made you decide that the email industry needed their own editor and you were going to be the one to build it?

Web development tooling has come a long way. There are so many dev tools that help us stay in the flow and code faster. Support tables, collaborative editors, syntax highlighters, formatters, build tools, automated testing, linting, and more. But email is different from the web. If you ask most web developers to build an email, they wouldn’t know where to start. Email has a whole different set of quirks and bugs. And all those web development tools aren’t built with an understanding of email – some will fail with email HTML or worse, mess up your email code and break it in some subtle way.

When I was a software engineer, I wanted to build some HTML email and I honestly felt overwhelmed. It felt like I was taking stabs in the dark, trying to get things to work right. When I used code I found online, I wasn’t sure which parts of it were necessary and if the new piece would work with the rest of my code. I did some digging for a tool that would give me the developer experience I had gotten used to but couldn’t find anything. And I don’t think my experience here is unique.

As an industry, we have the same problems as web development but we don’t have those same tools. So all that to say that I’m building Parcel so that we can focus on building emails and avoid all those problems that pull you out of your flow.

screenshot of parcel code editor

I can imagine this is something you'll be building for a long time, but 0-100 with 100% being where you really want the product to be, how far along are you with your vision for Parcel?

I’d have to say around say 3, maybe 4 percent. There are so many problems that I want to help solve with Parcel – this is really just the very beginning.

Even though you’ve just started this journey, what's been the biggest challenge thus far that maybe you weren't expecting when you first started out?

The thing that's been the most challenging is something that I think most new founders struggle with – balancing creation with promotion. It's so easy to keep your head down and crank out new features and fix bugs, but without letting people know that that work was done, there’s really no point. We’ve got some heavy irony here, with building an email tool yet struggling with finding time for marketing. Thankfully, I’ve got some friends who called me out on this and I’ve been putting more time into Parcel’s brand and marketing the last couple of weeks.

I hear you 100% on that. I faced the same challenge when I first built SendView. The thing that made the difference for me was the incredibly kind people in the email space who were so generous in spreading the word. 

What's been the response to Parcel so far from the email community?

Absolutely amazing! The email community is one of the most welcoming and open communities I’ve ever been a part of. Folks have shared Parcel on Twitter, in the email geeks Slack, in newsletters, even during workshops. And thanks to that kindness, Parcel is coming up on 400 users just 4 months after the beta launch!

Wow, that’s fantastic! I saw you've got a public board up to take new feature requests and such, but anything specific you're most excited about that's coming down the line?

The thing I’m most excited about is usually what I’m working on at that moment. If I had to pick something else, I’d say interactive/AMP DevTools. Interactive email is part of what drew me into the email world and there are some really cool things Parcel will do to remove friction points when coding interactivity.

And that’s the whole goal with Parcel – to keep you in the flow when creating emails.

Can’t wait to see where you go from here. Congrats, Avi, and best of luck!