Sure, there have been plenty of attempts at re-thinking e-mail on mobile devices. But that’s no reason not to try, try again.
A pretty experienced team of founders who have sold companies to or been acqui-hired by both Amazon and Zynga are tackling e-mail with a new mobile app called WeMail.
Having been part of one of Y Combinator’s earliest classes, the pair, Philip and Gerald Yuen, have raised $1 million in funding from many of the programs more successful alums including Twitch co-founders Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, Parse and Scribd co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, Flurry founder Sean Byrnes and Reddit and Hipmunk co-founder Steve Huffman
Philip Yuen says the app has a number of flourishes that make handling e-mail easier on mobile phones. Ever the data-driven guy, Yuen and his team ran side-by-side tests and argue that WeMail helps people get through their messages with 80 percent fewer screen scrolls and 33 percent fewer taps to get to a specific e-mail.
“Our philosophy is that we don’t want to teach anybody anything new,” Philip said, arguing that other apps force users to learn new behaviors. “You immediately get the benefits.”
WeMail groups all conversations by sender, which Yuen says cuts down the size of the average inbox by more than two-thirds. The app also supports creating e-mails by voice messaging (sort of like Tencent’s WeChat). You can reply to any e-mail with a voice message that’s up to 20 seconds long. It’s a more messaging-like functionality.
They’ve also built their own internal infrastructure to send messages directly. So if you have WeMail users on both sides, the message should appear more quickly than with a regular piece of e-mail. One feature, which you can also turn off, lets you see when recipients are in the process of writing back. Again, that’s in line with WeMail’s messaging-like design.
They’ve streamlined search, so that when you pick up results, you won’t have to click through to see the content of the message. There’s an added snippet that will show you how the word you looked for is referenced.
Then attachments between you and another person are all grouped together. So all of the PDFs and photos you’ve exchanged with a receiver form a kind of shared, social folder.
Both Yuens are pretty experienced after working together for years (and, of course, being brothers). They started a company called TextPayMe, that they then parlayed into an acquisition at Amazon, where Philip worked on mobile commerce products. Then Philip later became a director of products at Zynga out of Seattle while Gerald worked as a designer. Both of them left these positions to do WeMail.