Next-Gen Email Platform Nilas (Previously Inbox) Grabs $8 Million, Preps Its Own Email Client


Image Credits:

Nilas, the startup founded by Dropbox and MIT alums, previously known as Inbox and focused on offering developers a better API for building email client applications, has raised $8 million in Series A funding, the company announced this morning. The round was led by Formation 8, and included participation from prior investors Fuel Capital, SV Angel, Data Collective, Great Oaks and others.

The startup had earlier disclosed some of its investors, but had kept the funding specifics under wraps as it worked towards its Series A.

As a part of the new round, Formation 8’s Joe Lonsdale is joining the company’s board. To date, Nilas has raised $10 million in outside funding.

According to company co-founder Michael Grinich, the rebranding to “Nilas” from “Inbox” came about because the team wants to make it clear that its products aren’t only about email – they’re about your personal data.

“Email is this enormous database of your life online, that you only see a small part of. It’s like an iceberg in that way,” he says. “The word ‘nilas’ actually means “young sea ice” that will grow into icebergs.”

Nilas launched in 2014 around the same time as Google introduced its new Gmail API, which offered developers a more modern way to build email applications that access Gmail. But Gmail’s API is limited to Google’s own email platform, naturally, while Nilas works with other email systems, including Yahoo, iCloud and even Microsoft Exchange.

Before Nilas, developers interested in building email applications would have to work with older protocols like IMAP, even if they were building an app that wasn’t designed to be a full email client – like an app that lets you snooze messages, or one that lets you send emails on behalf of an end user, for example.

Grinich, previously of Dropbox and Nest, had long been interested in solving this problem for developers, having even written his thesis on email tools while back at MIT. With Inbox, now Nilas, the goal has been to fixed the “underlying plumbing” for developers, so they could focus on just building out the unique features of their own applications. Along with Christine Spang, an early Linux kernel engineer at Ksplice (bought by Oracle), they created Nilas.

After launching last summer, Nilas rolled out a hosted version of its service so developers wouldn’t have to worry with syncing and storing mail data themselves. The service also offers full support Microsoft’s ActiveSync, including contacts and calendar, allowing Nilas to target the enterprise markets.

At that time, the company also launched open source “scaffolds” for developers to build new apps on top of, which were available in two formats: HTML5 and iOS.

The company is currently declining to say how many developers signed up to use its API, but did note that a majority of companies choose the hosted cloud infrastructure for their production apps.

“Our infrastructure is already built to scale, and includes enterprise support. Plus, with our new pricing announced today, it’s cheaper than trying to run the Sync Engine yourself,” notes Grinich. The company is now offering freemium pricing, with unlimited API requests that’s free up to 10 accounts, then a pay-as-you-grow plan that scales at 79 cents monthly per syncing account.



A New Nilas-Powered Email Client App In The Works

Today, the company is going a step further – it announced this morning that it’s building its own email client application aimed at end users. In development for several months, the client application represents a new avenue for the business, which before was solely focused on serving its developer customers, not email users directly.

This client, built with JavaScript, is not available at present, but Nilas offered a preview on its blog, describing the service as something that would “feel native” on Windows, Mac and Linux. “It should have real windows, its own icon, and the ability to run in the background or offline,” the post says. And it should be extensible by the end user, the company notes.

Additionally, the email client took advantage of Atom, a “hackable” text editor GitHub built.

“Atom is actually a web app, powered by a new desktop app framework that combines NodeJS and Chromium. This foundation allows the entire app to be written in JavaScript, with native access to the file system, full network IO, and a wide array of NodeJS modules,” the post explains. “Unlike other projects offering a desktop environment for JavaScript, Atom’s core includes tight system integration, clear documentation, and many little details that push it through the uncanny valley.”

The team at Nilas forked Atom to create the mail client, and is also using other technologies including React for speed and performance, and Flux to aid in extensibility.

Grinich says the team always thought about building its own client, but it took some time to find an architecture and design for the app that suited their larger goals. “I think this is actually the 5th or 6th client we’ve built. Things like this take a lot of iteration to get right,” he says. “We’re really excited about building on the Atom project with ReactJS.”

The email client will also be monetized, likely on a freemium model and ad-free.

The company also says that over the next few months, it will be detailing more about the architecture of its new client, and developers can stay informed by joining the Nilas mailing list.

In addition to the continued product development and growth, the new funding will also aid in hiring more engineers and designers.

More TechCrunch

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares