When I want to find a number to actually call someone on the phone and I know it’s in an email signature somewhere, I generally search for that person’s email address in Gmail and find the number that way. Morse, a Toronto-based startup launching its product today, automates that process and makes it an invisible background service that combs your inbox for phone numbers and automatically syncs them with your existing contact information.
To get Morse working, you need a Gmail account for now, since that’s obviously a large market and one that offers relatively easy access to outside developers. Once you authorize Morse to do its thing, the service begins scanning your inbox to seek out contact information (beginning with phone numbers for now). It then takes that info and merges it with your existing contact records, filling in the gaps you were likely too busy or lazy to complete yourself. By setting up contact syncing on your mobile devices, tablets and computers, you can ensure that this newly mined info is then propagated to all your gadgets.
“I founded Morse because I’d always need to call a colleague, or a client as I’m running late, and would realize I’d never saved their data,” Morse founder Alex Blom explained in an interview. “I’d then spend 10 minutes scanning old e-mails trying to find where the phone number was mentioned. My habit of never manually saving data wasn’t going to change, so I needed a tool that did it for me”
There are other companies trying to automate mining useful data from inboxes, and providing contextual information right where users are doing the bulk of their communication. Rapportive is one perfect example, the Gmail extension that delivers contact pictures, job titles, links to social media profiles and more for email contacts, right in your inbox. That company was acquired by LinkedIn in February of this year.
“Mining the external social web for data is a huge task in itself, and [tools like Rapportive] do it well,” Blom said about the competition, explaining that Morse seeks to answer a different need. “I’m more focused on looking inward at data you as an individual are generating, vs. what others are putting online. I find the data sets are entirely different as a result, and both are rather complementary – I tend to find more private information, as cell numbers are not usually tweeted.”
While the service Morse provides is all added value for users, since it’s free, some might be hesitant to hand over access to their email inbox. But Blom stresses that no email message content info is stored, and that records of date and sender/receiver are kept only to help Morse’s information recognition engine do its work. The service uses a number of checks to ensure that it isn’t returning false positives, i.e., finding a number shared in an email for a third-party and attaching that to the sender, so it will look at multiple messages to ensure it’s picking up the right data. Also, since it works through oauth, Morse doesn’t have any passwords, and its access can be easily revoked by a user at any time.
Blom hopes to make Morse available to other platforms relatively quickly – he has previously built a CRM company, and knows that this would be a very valuable tool when integrated with ERP and sales systems. To date, Blom has bootstrapped the startup, but he says that will likely change as he looks to build out additional platform integrations that go beyond Gmail.