Recently a founder of one of the StartMate teams told me: “I don’t have Facebook”. I told the team, I can’t help you until I see his friend request on Facebook. Was I too harsh? I don’t think so. There are a few reasons why I think having a strong online presence and being digitally approachable are important for entrepreneurs.
Understanding the market
If my start-up targets consumers in their 20’s and I’m not intimately familiar with Facebook’s API and how Facebook is used and works, how can I design for my audience, who spend more time on Facebook than any other site? Start-ups fail, unless they don’t. I want to optimize my chance of not failing in all dimensions of my start-up. Having and using a Facebook account is super easy. As a start-up founder I have no excuse for not having a Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter account.
People will Google me. For me the worst outcome would be that they don’t find anything! If I Google someone and can’t find anything, I assume one of two things: They have hidden their online presence, so I wonder what they have to hide. OR they don’t have an online presence, so they don’t understand the internet. For plenty of people this is not an issue, but as an entrepreneur, this is something you can’t afford.
Things I would have missed without putting myself out there? I’ve been contacted out of the blue by journalist for articles that helped my business, by investors, by CEO’s of businesses in a similar space, by potential employees. etc. Without networking and openness my previous company Tjoos would not have been as big as it was (thanks Geoff for telling us about oDesk), I would not have known about the Citrix Startup Accelerator, which invested in ZeroMail, I would not have met the hundreds of great and inspiring people I’ve met along the way. A Facebook account isn’t the only thing you need, but it starts there… no Facebook account, being paranoid of publishing your email address, protected Twitter updates to me are not only the first steps toward missing opportunities, but also signs of personality traits that will not help entrepreneurs succeed.
My phone number, email address, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc are all over the web. I don’t get bombarded with prank calls, email spam, etc. In fact, people are too lazy to even do a Google search. Instead they send me a message on LinkedIn to ask for my contact details. I’m just not that important. Basically, nobody cares. So if you’re an entrepreneur and you protect your email address like it affects national security or you’ve completely locked down your Facebook so people can’t even send you friend requests… do yourself a favor, get over yourself, accept that nobody cares, relax, share and open yourself up to more opportunities.
While working on ZeroMail I come across most new startups in the email space. I’ve been keeping a list and figured, why keep it for myself, I might just as well share it.
Cloud Email Clients
http://zeromail.com (web, Gmail) – Email Done Right, personal assistant sorts out your email, 24/7
http://mail-pilot.com/ Adding some task management to your inbox
https://unifiedinbox.com/ – Inbox for teams, combining social media and email
Mobile Email Clients
http://www.mailboxapp.com – (Gmail, iPhone) Minimalist email app (acquired by DropBox)
http://sparrowmailapp.com (Mac, Gmail, IMAP?) – Minimalist desktop client (acquired by Google)
Desktop Email Clients
http://mailplaneapp.com (Mac, Gmail) – Gmail inside a desktop app, adding some extra features
http://postbox-inc.com (Windows, Mac, Gmail, IMAP, POP3) – Powerful desktop email client
http://www.inbox2.com (Windows) – Open sourced desktop client
http://www.emailtray.com/ (Windows, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, IMAP, POP3) – Multiple accounts and priority ranking
Concept Email Clients
http://personamail.info/ (Mac) – Concept email client
http://www.boomeranggmail.com/ (Gmail, Outlook) – Delayed sending and track replies
http://www.rightinbox.com/ (Gmail) – Delayed sending
http://grexit.com/ – Shared folders for Google Apps
http://wishery.com/ – Sales and marketing features for Gmail
http://powerinbox.com/ – Rich apps inside your emails
http://www.fuser.com/ – Browser plug-in to check and action your email and social updates
http://www.otherinbox.com/ (saas, Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL) – Filters your incoming email and creates daily summaries
http://www.sanebox.com/ (saas, Gmail, IMAP) – Filters your email on priority
http://www.boxbe.com/ – Bounce email from people you don’t know, unless they verify
http://www.mermailer.com/ – Filters your incoming email and creates summaries
http://www.zigmail.com/ – Filters your incoming email and creates daily summaries
http://glider.io – Filter out newsletters and notifications
https://www.philterit.com/ (Chrome sidebar) – Group your email by brand icons
http://www.awayfind.com/ – Get notifications about important and urgent emails
http://www.unsubscribe.com/ – One click unsubscribe
http://repliesapp.com/ (Mac) – Canned responses customer service app
http://courteous.ly/ (Gmail) – Show others how much your email load is
http://kwaga.com/ or http://writethat.name/ – Keeping your address book up to date by scanning signatures
http://toutapp.com – Track email deliveries and opens
http://www.wisestamp.com – Create email signatures
http://nutshellmail.com/ – Sends email summaries of your social network activity
http://www.taskforceapp.com/ – Turn emails into tasks
http://www.activeinboxhq.com/ – Plug-in that adds features to Gmail
http://www.0boxer.com/ – Adds game mechanics to doing your email, giving you points for replying and archiving
http://shortmail.com/ – Limit the size of incoming and outgoing emails to 500 characters
http://micromobs.com/ – You forward a group discussion to Micromobs and they make it look good
https://www.findbigmail.com/ – Find large emails in your gmail
http://www.followup.cc/ – Get followup reminders
http://www.followupthen.com/ – Get followup reminder by sending email to email@example.com, etc
http://tray.io/ – Turns email into actions
https://www.cueup.com/ – Organize your emails that are event/date related on your mobile
http://www.tripit.com/ – Organize your flight, hotel and rental car confirmation emails
https://www.slice.com/ – Organize your receipts
http://context.io/ – Email API to create email applications
http://fluent.io (web, Gmail) – Email like a stream – Shut down
http://www.zenbe.com/mail_shutdown – Acquired by Facebook and shutdown
http://www.threadsy.com/ (Web) – Combines email and social media (acquired by Facebook, part sold to PeopleBrowsr)
http://liaise.com/ – Plug-in to outlook that automatically creates tasks while you type your emails
Which ones did I miss?
The search for a co-founder has been an interesting experience. Personally I feel that with ZEROmail we’re solving a huge problem with a massive market that isn’t very crowded. It seems that because email isn’t very “sexy” like group buying or social networking few startups focus in this area. The popularity of add-on apps like OtherInbox, Xobni and Rapportive clearly shows the potential in this market. It quite amazing to hear about the effort that email power-users go through to create “systems” within their existing clients to keep their email manageable. This is clearly not a nice-to-have. I believe that this is what many have been waiting for, with credit card in hand…
But what use is a good idea without a good team, right? Well, I bring 28 years of coding experience + the experience of having co-founded, grown and exited a successful startup to the table. In the last few years of running StartupCamps, Katrin has been the one of the most impressive designers I’ve come across, with 6 years of commercial experience and most of all an ability to get stuff done… quickly. So I think it’s safe to say that we have a team that knows how to execute well.
On top of all that, this is not just an idea… I already use ZEROmail as my primary email client.
While the 2 of us can probably build the system at least until open beta, things would move a lot faster with an extra coder on board. So we’ve been looking and from where I’m sitting I don’t understand why coders aren’t lining up to get on board… Maybe it’s not “sexy” enough… Maybe this highlights a problem with the Australian startup scene. Plenty of ideas people that are ready to come on board, not many coders. Maybe I just haven’t been able to reach the right people yet.
Anyway, time to widen the search… We’re happy co-founders from anywhere, as long as they are willing to relocate to Sydney… The way I see it, a lot of talent has moved to Silicon Valley, time to bring some back to Australia…
And since you’ve read this far, why not help us out and either send the following to your network or give some suggestions in the comments on where we could post this!
ZEROmail looking for technical co-founders
Email used to be fun. We’d get emails, respond to them, and all was good. Now we get heaps of emails every day and spend way too much time dealing with them. At the same time, email clients have hardly changed in the last 20 years. It’s time to reinvent this tool, to bring it into this day and age. This is the goal of ZEROmail!
We’re looking for great hackers that can (eventually) work full-time on ZEROmail in Sydney. We’re happy to talk to people from anywhere as long as you’re willing to relocate to Sydney. All founders have the same equity arrangement (in short, equity share is based on hours worked).
We are currently in closed beta and we’re aiming to open up the beta in 6-8 weeks. Code is in python, web framework is Tornado, database is Postgresql.
So if you think you’ve got what it takes and are excited about joining a startup that will change the way we deal with email forever, send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) now! If not, please pass this on to any great hackers you know!
Some more info:
It’s been an interesting month for ZEROmail (previously Project Inbox ZERO). We started with a team of four, but unfortunately Stephen decided to focus on his honours this year (as planned) and James wasn’t a good team fit. Also, Katrin has been working only part-time on ZEROmail and we took last week off because my sister was visiting.
Despite this we made huge progress and two weeks ago we entered closed beta with around 40 users. How does it work? ZEROmail copies all mail in your inbox to our system and you can manage your inbox on ZEROmail parallel to your existing inbox (GMail or any IMAP email account). Initially ZEROmail will not make any changes to your original inbox. When you are happy with the way ZEROmail works you can choose to synchronize your inboxes and keep them in sync.
Features already implemented include filtering out notifications, groups and newsletters. All three got their own spot in our ZEROmail interface and are displayed differently. All newsletters can be read in one view (like Google Reader) and notifications are displayed similar to notifications in Facebook which saves you heaps of time and clicks in dealing with these. We’ve also implemented sender profiles. When selecting an email a profile of the sender appears next to it. It displays details from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gravatar, Profile pictures etc. if available. Personally I already use it as my primary mail client.
All code is written in Python and the webserver is Tornado. As a database we’re running PostgreSQL and all attachments are stored on Amazon S3. Even though 4 weeks ago I wrote my first line of Python it has proven to be quite a fast development environment. The only downside has been that it’s still a somewhat immature language with standard libraries that still have bugs/no proper unicode support/etc and other libraries simply being incomplete or not available at all.
Today is an exciting day for ZEROmail as both Katrin and myself will be working full-time on ZEROmail from now on; no distractions. We’re still looking for founders. In particular we’re looking for great hackers in Sydney that can (eventually) work full-time on ZEROmail. Any founder will have the same equity arrangement that Katrin and I have. Interested in making email better? Email me now!
Two weeks ago I put out a call for co-founders to join me in my quest to make email better. Unlike startups that are in stealth mode (which I normally refer to as fail mode) I decided to describe our plans in detail before we even started. The result? We got heaps of responses from people pointing out similar services and startups, giving advice and feedback on the idea. Thanks to everyone who commented as this saved us heaps of time!
More importantly… we’ve got a team!
James Boyden – James is an experienced coder with a background in NLP (Natural Language Processing) and 10+ years working experience in highly optimized C++ and Python.
Bart Jellema – I just try to keep up with the team… (28 years coding experience and having co-founded Tjoos help)
This Monday we officially start, but we’ve already had a few extremely productive nights of hacking. For the techies: Everything is written in Python, we use PostgreSQL as database and we use the Tornado web framework. At the speed we’re going we should be able to get our first beta out in about 2 weeks. Sign up for it!
P.S. If I sound a bit over-excited, it’s because I am…
Email used to be fun. Sometimes I got an email, I responded to it and all was good. Now I get 100 emails a day and spent way too much time dealing with the dreaded email. At the same time email clients have hardly changed in the last 20 years. We now have HTML emails (unfortunately) and threading (thanks gmail!). But that’s about it. It’s time to reinvent this tool to bring it into this day and age. This is the goal of Project Inbox ZERO.
Imagine an inbox that isn’t cluttered with facebook notifications and newsletters, but only has “real” emails and the other messages are converted into what they actually are: notifications and newsletters. Do you ever find yourself scrolling back through emails trying to find someones phone number? What if your email client was smart enough to automatically collect and organize this information from your emails? How nice would it be if you had all relevant information at your fingertips when you received an email from someone: Some photos, their latest twitter updates, what social sites they are on and whether you have connected yet.
Are reply and forward really the only 2 things we do with emails? What about things like: “Turn into todo item”, “Snooze”, “Enter this invoice into my accounting system”, “Send a canned response”, “This email is way too long, please summerize”, etc, etc
Personally I believe email clients are still stuck in the 80’s and it’s time to build an email client for this day and age. Let’s make email fun again! I’ve started development and I’m looking for co-founders that are as excited about this as I am to join Project Inbox ZERO. Interested? You should contact me now!
Sign up for the beta here!