Many have tried to do away with it, but email refuses to die … although in the process it might be (figuratively speaking) killing some of us with the workload it brings on to triage and use it. A startup called Sedna has built a system to help with that — specifically for enterprise and other business customers — by “reading” the text of emails and chats, and automatically actioning items within them so that you don’t have to. Today, it’s announcing funding of $34 million to expand its work.
The funding, a Series B, is being led by Insight Partners, with Stride.VC, Chalfen Ventures and the SAP.iO fund (part of SAP) also participating. The funding will be used to continue building out more data science around Sedna’s core functionality, with the aim of moving into a wider set of verticals over time. Currently its main business is in the area of supply chain players, with Glencore, Norden and Bunge among its customers. Other customers in areas like finance include the neobank Starling. London-based Sedna is not disclosing valuation.
Bill Dobie, Sedna’s CEO and founder originally from Vancouver but now in London, said the idea for the company was hatched out of his own experience.
“I spent years building software to help users be more productive, but no matter what we built we never really reduced people’s workload,” he said. The reason: The millstone that is called email, with its endless, unsolicited, inbound messages, some of which (just enough not to ignore) might be important. “What really struck me was how long it spent to move items out of and into email,” he said of the “to-do’s” that arose out of there.
Out of that, Sedna was built to “read” emails and give them more context and direction. Its system removes duplicates of action items and essentially increases the strike rate when it comes people’s inboxes: What’s in there is more likely to be what you really need to see. And it does so at a very quick speed.
“Our main value is the sheer scale at which we operate,” Dobie said. “We read millions or even billions of messages in subsecond response times.” Indeed, while many of us are not getting “millions” of emails, there is a world of messaging out there that needs reading beyond that. Think, for example, of the volume of data that will be coming down the pike from IoT-based diagnostics.
“Smart” inboxes have definitely become a thing for consumers — although arguably none work as well as you wish they did. What’s notable about Sedna has been how it’s tuned its particular algorithms to specific verticals, letting them get smarter around the kind of content and work practices in particular organizations.
Right now the work is driven by an API framework, with elements of “low code” formatting to let people shape their own Sedna experiences. The aim will be to make that even easier over time. An API-driven framework right now, some low code we’re heading into, but mostly its SAP or shipping or a trading system that understands the transaction underway, then Sedna uses a decision tree to categorize.
Another area where Sedna might grow is in how it handles the information that it ingests. Currently, the company’s tech can be interconnected by a customer to then hand off certain work to RPA systems, as well as to specific humans. There is an obvious route to developing some of the second stage of software there — or alternatively, it’s a sign of how something like Sedna might get snapped up or copied by one of the big RPA players.
“Bill started reimagining email where it was most broken and therefore hardest to fix — large teams managing huge volumes and complicated processes,” said Rebecca Liu-Doyle, principal at Insight Partners, in a statement. “Today, Sedna’s power is in its ability to introduce immense speed, simplicity and delight to any inbox experience, regardless of scale or complexity. We are excited to partner with the Sedna team as they continue to make digital communication more intelligent for teams in global supply chain and beyond.” Liu-Doyle is joining the board with this round.
SAP is a strategic investor in this round, as Sedna potentially helps its customers be more productive while using SAP systems. “SAP continues to partner with SEDNA to deliver value to SAP customers. The ability to turn complex information into simpler intelligent collaboration has been a growing priority for many SAP customers,” said Stefan Sauer, global transport solutions lead at SAP, in a statement.