Liviu Tanase is a serial entrepreneur and telecommunications executive with more than 16 years of experience. He’s founded five companies and has participated in three exits creating quadruple-digit returns.
Liviu currently runs ZeroBounce, an email validation and deliverability platform. He oversees the company’s Santa Barbara office and manages a team of 30+ people across the U.S. and Europe.
Under Liviu’s leadership, ZeroBounce was recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in America in 2019. In 2020, it took no. 40 on the list, with a growth of more than 7,000 percent.
What makes Liviu different is his ability to quickly adapt to new business environments and turn every challenge into an opportunity. He is a passionate chess player and credits chess for helping shape his entrepreneurial mindset.
Where did the idea for ZeroBounce come from?
Email has seen outstanding growth in the past 10 years, and it continues to grow every year. More than half of the world’s population uses it, from people like you and I to Fortune 500 companies for whom it generates consistent revenue.
So how can we make email more reliable and effective?
This was the question my partners and I began to answer in 2015, when the idea of ZeroBounce first started to take shape. Two years later, together with some of the most experienced people in the industry, we launched the ZeroBounce email validation platform.
Millions of businesses worldwide count on email to deliver digital communication. But while email remains a tremendous channel, data decay is a burning issue. About 20% of emails land in spam and billions bounce every day because email lists go bad. Our service restores the quality of email lists by removing obsolete and risky data.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I always start with a few simple physical exercises. It’s incredible what moving your body for just five minutes can do. Water and coffee give me another boost of energy.
After checking my email, I read the papers – it’s so important to have context and be aware of your environment. Normally, I would do that in our Santa Barbara office, but since March, the entire team has switched to remote work.
Before noon I usually have a few calls with my partners and check in with our Chief Operating Officer, Brian Minick. In the first year of ZeroBounce, I was fully involved in the operational side of the business. Since Brian took over, it’s easier for me to oversee our strategy, plan and adjust for the best outcome.
Around 7 p.m. I’ll stop working to have dinner with my wife. Then we usually take a walk on the beach with our dog and maybe watch a movie. That’s a nice break for me, but after 10:30 I get back to work and continue until past 1 a.m. Those hours are some of the most productive for me – the quiet of the night allows me to focus like no other time of day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The seed of a great idea comes from the environment you’re in. Is it open and conducive to free thought? If the seed is in the environment, the birth is in the spirit of collaboration that your team shares.
Not all entrepreneurs can honestly say they have the best team, but I can. It took us a while to get here, but we gathered some of the most gifted and experienced people at ZeroBounce. Everyone brings something valuable to the table and each of us contributes to turning the best ideas into projects.
Some of our ideas are very bold, but even a crazy idea should be explored. Sometimes the best ideas start out with a bit of lunacy. When you have a great team, you can confidently express an idea without saying “So this may seem like it’s from out in left field” first.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I like the idea of companies acting like publishers and treating their content not as a form of direct advertising, but as resources to help their audience. Blogs, newsletters, infographics, videos, and other forms of content can be gold mines for your prospects. It’s worth investing in them because, before people discover how great your service or product is, they may come across your content first. It’s in your power to draw those people in, to gain their trust. Ultimately, that’s how you gain their business.
So, are you giving them the answers they’re looking for? Can you deliver those answers in a way that entertains them? Even better, can you change their emotional state in a positive way? That’s the sweet spot.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Sometimes you have to stop before you can go. One hour when you’re “on” is worth three hours when you just can’t find the rhythm. So, I take breaks throughout the day to either do a 30-minute workout, talk to a friend, or spend time with my wife.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Enjoy the ride. Someone’s criticism is a wonderful opportunity to find out the truth about yourself, which can be humbling. On the flip side, sometimes you learn that someone simply isn’t on your team. Is there something you did? Find a way to come together. Is it envy? There’s a lot of people in the world. Too many to spend time with people who don’t get you.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Price isn’t reflective of the quality of wine.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Plan. It’s a common adage, but it’s a true one. A part of your hard work is the effort of strategizing. If you put in the work of writing out a plan – including the how and when, in particular – you’ll be likely to stick with it.
Nothing comes without hard work, but usually you have a great chance of using time wisely when you have a game plan.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The 3 F’s have been critical in my development of strategy.
Specifically, to optimize strategies in a dynamic environment, I push my teams to 1) Fail often, 2) Fail quickly and 3) Fail cheaply. An excessive fear of failure is damning to any business or pursuit where it’s an integral component of progress and growth.
Rather, I believe we should promote failure in safe ways, as I mentioned above, so we can test as many opportunities as possible. Thus we can quickly recognize those that work and those that don’t, in order to invest deeply in those that work well.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Much of my success earlier in my career was due to my ability to rely on myself and move very quickly. However, as my business grew and I had more employees, I realized that I needed to slow down some to collaborate with my teams and better leverage their skills and abilities. Over time, that has allowed me and my businesses to go much faster together.
To be clear, it’s not something I would say I have “overcome,” but I would say I am now aware of my propensity to move quickly on my own. As a result, I can better recognize when it’s occurring and then choose to either let it continue or not, as the situation dictates.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I often lament as I scramble to remember a password, find my car keys or find my frequent flyer information that life doesn’t have a Single Sign On (SSO) for all we do and all those people and businesses we interact with. Of course, there are large obstacles and security concerns to creating a SSO for life. But the vision of freeing my mind of passwords, where my wallet or keys are, or any of the myriad of other items we lose daily is liberating.
I hope someone executes this business idea soon and I am the first customer!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Buying food for the dogs at the animal shelter near our house. My wife and I went and fed them. Have you ever opened a bag of food in front of 15 dogs? Their faces are worth millions.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
As an entrepreneur in the email space, I’m biased, but nothing works better for me than email. It’s more than a communication tool; it is a task management system.
Checking my email is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. Whenever I see a new message, I glance at it to see if it’s something important and if I have to take any action. If I don’t, I mark it as read and also, archive non-essential communication. Otherwise, my response is as prompt as my schedule allows it, but I try to reply right away. Postponing is self-sabotaging.
Any unread messages in my inbox are indicators of things I need to do or follow-up on. As a fan of Inbox Zero, that ensures I’ll return to those tasks if I didn’t get the chance when I got them.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
You can’t go wrong with the “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. Word for word, it’s incredible food for thought and great wisdom. If you could only take away one thing it would be this: “Put an end once for all to this discussion of what a good man should be, and be one.”
What is your favorite quote?
It could very well be the one above. Another one that comes to mind is this: “When things change inside you, things change around you.” You can take that to the bank.
• If you’re into email marketing, make sure your list is up to date. Bounces and spam complaints will cause you to land in spam and waste money.
• Night owls can be successful, too. Go ahead and work on that project if your energy is up at 10 p.m.
• Your stamina, talent, and knowledge will get your business off the ground, but what will make it thrive is your team. Build a strong team and take good care of it.
• In business, fail often, fail quickly, and fail cheaply.
• Take criticism as an opportunity to improve yourself.