410 Labs, home to products like Shortmail and Replyz, was trying to fly under the radar when it first launched Mailstrom, a new email service aimed at helping those who consistently receive large numbers of email messages daily achieve “inbox zero,” so to speak. But those plans were soon thwarted, when the company was surprised by unsolicited bloggers’ reviews, followed by sudden, rapid growth.
Over the past 30 days, the service grew 525 percent, now reaching over 412 million emails in storage. It has helped its user base of some 35,000 (before its official debut, mind you) remove around 115 million messages from their collective inboxes. And over 20 million new messages are being cleared from users inboxes per week.
Explains 410 Labs’ CEO David Troy, the company had made the Mailstrom product public after a year of active development, but had specifically refrained from making a formal announcement while they continued to do user surveying, general testing, and making tweaks to the product. But the blog posts, while positive, forced the company to go live a little earlier than expected.
“We’ve spent the past four to five weeks adding additional server capacity and creating better queuing mechanisms – similar to what the Mailbox guys went through with their scaling growth,” Troy explains. “We didn’t want a big rush of traffic until we were ready for it,” he says, “but it came when it came, and it was organic…so it was good.”
So what’s the big draw here? The company promises to help users cut through the clutter of their email inbox, in order to achieve that mystical state of “inbox zero.” In some ways, it is similar to the recently acquired Mailbox application, as both companies want to help their users get to the mail that matters faster. But Mailbox was designed as a mobile-first company, and Mailstrom is a web application. Also – and this is important – Mailstrom is not trying to replace users’ inboxes by functioning as another email client.
“We didn’t want to say ‘this is the new email environment which you must use,'” says Troy. ” It’s a power tool. It’s more like a machete which you can use to whack through the stuff that’s in the way of seeing what’s really important. Then you can use your normal tool set as you wish,” he explains.
The service, which currently supports Gmail/Google Apps, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft Outlook.com/Hotmail, Aol (disclosure: TechCrunch parent), and other IMAP-enabled email services, instead presents a different view of your inbox which lets you sort and sift through your mail in a variety of ways.
You can view messages by Sender or Size, group them by Subject or Time; you can click to see only messages and notifications from social services like Facebook and Twitter, for example, or those from retailers. You can filter for newsletters, ads, and you can quickly unsubscribe from mailing lists. You can also quickly set up rules as to how to deal with all of the above, to keep your inbox even more cleared out in the future. (LifeHacker has a very detailed “how to” for more on all this, so we’ll avoid the nitty-gritty details).
Of course, some of the things that Mailstrom does today can already be handled by Gmail or others’ own built-in feature sets, but with a perhaps less intuitive set of tools.
“What we’ve done is exposed and made easy a set of processes that a lot of people maybe could do but they haven’t really thought to do it,” says Troy, “or the tools to do it are a little bit clunky or a little bit hard.” He notes that even among Mailstrom’s core user base, where people are receiving a large amount of email, not everyone even knows basic things like what the Gmail “Archive” button does, much less how to dig and use Gmail’s filtering capabilities.
That we now need a third-party to help us better deal with our inbox, sadly, speaks to the stalled innovation taking place within some of these larger email services today. Why shouldn’t an email machete be a feature within our preferred email program by now? (Microsoft’s Outlook.com, with its “Sweep” functionality, deserves some credit for understanding what’s it’s like to need to rapidly move emails out of the inbox with a click. But even that’s doesn’t come close to the functionality promised by Mailstrom.)
For Those Who Get A Lot Of Emails
That being said, this service is not for everyone.
“We’re not ideal for people who have 17 emails in their inbox. That’s not who this is for. It’s for people who, on a routine basis, get 50-plus emails a day that require attention,” says Troy. And by that he means, 50 personal emails – the stuff that’s left after removing all the cruft. Like many entrepreneurs, Troy built the product from personal need, getting hundreds of emails per day himself.
The company plans to charge for the service in the future, but it’s free for now. The prices will be reasonable, from what we hear. However, to really scale this thing, 410 Labs’ needs more than subscription revenue. That’s why the startup is nearly the close of its next round of funding, technically a Series B. The startup had raised an A round in 2011, which was really more of seed round. Investors in the previous included True Ventures, 500 Startups, Fortify.vc, and others.
Baltimore-based 410 Labs is now a team of 5 full-time, including serial entrepreneur Troy and co-founder Matt Koll, an early search pioneer. The next round will help the company hire and scale, but Troy claims the plan is not to quickly flip the company in some sort of “acqui-hire” deal. “We don’t want to go work for Google or Dropbox or something,” he says. “We think this is an important problem, and not one people are thinking imaginatively enough about today.”
Mailstrom is now taking sign-ups here, and currently there’s no queue. (That will likely change following this post as the service gets hit with clicks from readers.)