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Post Rakuten Acquisition, Slice Buys Unroll․Me To Add Email List Control To Its Shopping App

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Slice, the shopping and package tracking app acquired by Rakuten earlier this year, has now made an acquisition of its own. It has bought Unroll.Me, an app that lets users roll up and manage mass-email subscriptions and unsubscribe to those that have tipped into the point of being useless spam.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, the companies tell me. Unroll.Me was a bootstrapped startup — no outside investors — and it had picked up 1.3 million users, which it calls “Rollers”, since first opening for business in 2011. That’s impressive growth, considering that it only had 100,000 subscribers in August 2013.

Unroll.Me is based in New York, and the two co-founders, Josh Rosenwald and Jojo Hedaya, are both joining Slice, which is run as a subsidiary of Rakuten.

It marks the third U.S.-based acquisition for Rakuten this year, after buying Slice in August and Ebates a month later for $1 billion. Put together, you can see that Rakuten is amassing an interesting group of e-commerce companies that are focused less on the direct purchasing and selling of goods, but services that improve the shopping experience both on Rakuten’s own properties and elsewhere. This gives the company potentially a strong grip on customer data, which could prove to be valuable in its own right in a market where this has become an increasing focus.

It also points to a growing maturity in the e-commerce market overall: people can buy things anywhere but what gives one site an edge over the other is the customer experience: making things run smoothly and giving people the ability to get discounts in the process. Unroll.Me, along with Slice and Ebates, all contribute to that bigger concept.

Rollers, Rosenwald tells me, “will experience no change in their service. It’s a popular and well-loved product, and we want to keep it that way.”

Unroll.Me is a free app that has up to now made money based on advertisements that run inside its app. For now that will remain the primary business model for the service.

But while the two services are to remain standalone for now, it’s like that we will see more integrations ahead.

“The opportunities for us to improve people’s lives by creating value from the information in email are limited only by our imaginations, so we see many avenues to grow the Unroll.me and Slice businesses jointly through the creation of new apps and experiences. We’ll have more new on this soon, stay tuned!” Rosenwald says.

Unroll.Me is a departure but also a complement for Slice. Up to now Slice concentrated on helping consolidate the shopping experience, bringing together both purchasing and shipment information from across different online retailers. Hut it has done so by focusing on analysing data that comes via email. That’s where its model meets that of Unroll.Me.

“Slice and Unroll.Me are attacking the same problem—our inboxes are so cluttered that it’s nearly impossible to find the information that’s important,” Scott Brady, chief executive officer at Slice, said in a statement. “We started with shopping, but we are not finished making email useful again.”

The main logic behind selling up was scale, Rosenwald tells me — a common refrain in the world of e-commerce.

“The Unroll.Me team created an amazing product that achieved mass popularity based almost entirely on people loving the experience and sharing it with their friends,” he says. “By joining the Slice team, we can continue to grow and improve the product even faster with additional resources as well as work with an expanded team of incredibly talented people.”

To date, Slice, which is based in Palo Alto, says it has processed over 175 million items with a purchase value of over $4 billion.