SAM Email Could be the Next Frontier of Email

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SAM Email has been selected as a “Deal to Watch” by KingsCrowd. This distinction is reserved for deals selected into the top 10%-20% of our due diligence funnel. If you have questions regarding our deal diligence and selection methodology, please reach out to

The SAM Email founders are part of traditionally underrepresented groups in startup investing. 


We are all overwhelmed by our email inboxes. Professionals spend almost a third of their days reading and responding to email — an average of 120 messages per day. Even average consumers are inundated with electronic messages. Each day, almost 120 billion consumer marketing emails hit inboxes. The sheer volume of emails in the average inbox has given the “inbox zero” philosophy (maintaining zero unread emails) an aura of impossibility


Professional marketers are also frustrated by the difficult task of standing out in emails. Average click rates hover around two or three percent. That’s a low figure relative to the amount of time it takes a marketing team to design and send a compelling email. Plus, it can be difficult for marketers to connect emails to their actual websites or product in a way that invites a productive relationship with the consumer. 

Recipients and senders agree that email is broken. We’re relying on the same basic technology that was invented in the 1990s, interacting with static emails that are spiced up merely by a new background color or graphic. Might it be time for the email experience to be revamped?


SAM Email is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company reinventing the modern email experience. SAM’s technology allows enterprises to send dynamic emails that behave more like web apps. With this added functionality, recipients can click, type, and browse within the email itself. 


SAM was initially developed as an airline email solution and was funded by JetBlue Technology Ventures and EL AL Airlines. SAM’s flagship email product allows consumers to browse dynamically-updating seat maps, order meals and baggage, and receive boarding passes within the email window. All of this combines to minimize the endless litany of pages typically necessary to book a flight. 


SAM is still focused on revolutionizing email in the airline industry. The company launched a pilot with LATAM Airlines that generated impressive results: a 500% increase in click-through rate and a 40% increase in sales conversion. However, SAM Email is also broadening its focus to other industries. Hotels could benefit from dynamically-updating room options, and consumers could browse seat maps for concerts and events in much the same fashion as airline emails. Ultimately, SAM sees itself reinventing marketing emails in multiple verticals with dynamic web app content. 


SAM Email’s parent company, Airto, was founded in 2012. Form C filings only report financials from 2019, so it is unclear whether SAM has been in operation for more than one year. In any case, SAM generated $40,000 in revenue in 2019 (presumably from the LATAM pilot, the only clear source of revenue thus far) and spent almost $700,000, primarily on payroll and benefits. As previously described, SAM has raised money from a group of airline accelerators in addition to a $650,000 crowdfunding round in 2019.

The Team

SAM Email was founded by Shi Li and Duncan Sham. CEO Li is supposedly a serial entrepreneur with eight years of experience in the digital and airline industries. He purports to leverage relationships with major air carriers (IAG, JetBlue, EL AL Airlines, etc.) and other major players like Google and Walmart to expand SAM’s partnership potential. That being said, it is unclear how Li gained this experience or built these relationships. He previously founded a shuttered accelerator and doesn’t list any additional relevant professional experience. 


Sham, SAM’s Product Manager, is the creative lead and manager of product development. He previously worked in advertising and designed campaigns for large global brands, including Gap, Adidas, McDonalds, and many more. He previously served as a Senior Designer at Vault49, a creative studio. 


Li and Sham work alongside William Warbington, SAM’s VP of Engineering and R&D. Warbington is a travel professional with more than 15 years of experience in the U.S. Air Force and a large airline IT provider. Warbington is not a full-time employee of SAM Email, but apparently devotes the “majority of his time” to this venture. 

Growth Plan

SAM is currently focused on additional product development and securing partnerships with additional airlines and enterprises in other travel and e-commerce verticals. The company reports that a large portion of crowdfunded capital will be used to develop the product, with another portion earmarked for marketing activities to build the brand.

Why We Like it

  • Differentiated product in a lucrative space: There are a lot of major email marketing corporations out there, because most every modern company runs some sort of email marketing program. Mailchimp — one of the largest B2B SaaS email providers — generates $700 million in revenue each year. Clearly, corporations pay for an email marketing tool, and SAM Email’s product is unique within this space. While dynamic, web app-like emails are not a priority for every company in every vertical, many companies would benefit tremendously from a more engaging email experience. Widespread adoption in the ecommerce vertical alone could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for SAM.

  • Powerful corporate partnerships with major airlines: Before SAM extends its offering to new verticals, it plans to nail emails for the airline industry. The company is already well along this path, having received funding and resources from JetBlue and EL AL Airlines, plus a major pilot with LATAM Airlines. One of the most difficult early hurdles for a B2B SaaS startup is securing mega-contracts with huge enterprises. SAM seems to have partially tackled that obstacle already.

  • Patented intellectual property: SAM Email’s unique, dynamic email technology is patented, so the company owns valuable intellectual property that could prove an enticing factor in acquisition evaluations. If a major email provider wants to seriously revamp its email product, the easiest option may be to acquire SAM. That exit event could prove lucrative for investors.


SAM Email owns patents on genuinely compelling technology that does have the power to dramatically evolve how consumers interact with their emails. This highly differentiated product is playing in a lucrative space that is not particularly technologically advanced. Moreover, SAM has the corporate partnerships necessary to launch this email technology on a major stage. 


However, prospective investors should be wary of two red flags. First, SAM Email’s leadership team is relatively inexperienced in entrepreneurship and product development. CEO Shi Li seems to have relatively little professional experience. Co-founder and Product Manager Duncan Sham is undoubtedly a seasoned creative, but is perhaps unprepared to manage technical product development in B2B SaaS. Second, SAM Email’s valuation of $20 million is quite high relative to its $40,000 in revenue. The bulk of SAM’s $700,000 spending last year was in payroll and benefits, for a small team of three. Investors might consider whether the company’s leadership team is prepared to manage corporate finances. 


That being said, SAM Email’s compelling product makes a strong case for exit. The company could feasibly launch an IPO if it grew to be the dominant dynamic email provider for major enterprises across multiple verticals. Alternatively, the company’s patented technology could be a target for acquisition. For example, CM Group (the parent company of Campaign Monitor) acquired two email automation and personalization companies in 2018. These acquisitions indicate that the email marketing industry recognizes that early investment in technology may prove to be a differentiator. 


Frankly, all consumers should hope that SAM Email is widely adopted. We could all use a bit more excitement and functionality in our inboxes. SAM’s differentiated product, intellectual property, and corporate partnerships make that mission all the more likely to succeed. Therefore, SAM Email is a Deal to Watch. 

About: Katy Dolan

Katy is a marketing and research consultant to startups (including VC-backed companies, small businesses, and advocacy movements). With experience in tech, venture capital, politics, and non-profits, Katy partners with clients to strategize and execute compelling campaigns focused on user experience and empathetic narrative. Katy graduated cum laude from Harvard College with an AB in Sociology.

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