Mike Rowan, the vice president of research and development service at Boulder, Colo.-based email delivery service SendGrid, is also the head of the Providence-based SendGrid Labs, the company’s research and development arm, which opened in Providence in the May 2012.
PBN: Can you explain a little bit about SendGrid Labs and what you do?
ROWAN: SendGrid, the core company, sends emails. It’s not marketing-focused emails, it’s things like signing up for your application, verifying your account, password resets – those sorts of critical emails. At SendGrid Labs what we do is, because our core service basically helps developers so they don’t have to build an email infrastructure, we focus on building the tools to help developers save time.
We identify engineering bottlenecks that cause developers to get distracted from building their core business. And then we build tools and services and solve problems that help them be more productive.
PBN: SendGrid told you that you could choose anywhere to station SendGrid Labs, why did you pick Providence?
ROWAN: So I picked Providence because I’m a lifelong Rhode Islander. I live down in South County. My previous two startups were based out of Boston. … I was part of the Rhode Island tech ecosystem before that. My first company was started in ’95 down in South County, it was an ISP. The technology scene in the mid-1990s, early 2000s just wasn’t where it needed to be for me to build the businesses that I wanted to build, so I kind of had to go out of state, but I always wanted to live here. So when SendGrid said “Hey you can create this lab environment wherever you want,” I immediately thought: “Providence is where it’s at.”
PBN: What do you think the state – whether it be legislators or the local business community – can do to make Rhode Island more of a technology hub?