Startups

Email will be with us until the universe dies, so these startups are working to make it better

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Email, email startups
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Ah, email. Why did you send my friend’s birthday party invite to my spam folder? Why do you make it so easy to archive an email when I don’t even know what that means? Why are you … blue now … Gmail?

Email is a necessary evil. So whenever I hear about startups looking to innovate on the decades-old communication tech, I’m instantly intrigued considering the huge number of potential areas of improvement. Plus, talk about a large TAM!

Startups have taken note. Boomerang launched its email productivity software in 2010, and since its 2014 launch, Superhuman has raised $108 million to help users get through their inbox faster. Trying to build a better email mousetrap isn’t exactly a novel concept, but it could be big business.

I recently received pitches from two new upstarts, both of which launched their email innovations in the last year, that really piqued my interest. Let’s meet them.

Gated

Gated was founded in 2020 as an additional layer atop existing email services that aim to help you keep your inbox focused. It does so by scanning a user’s inbox and compiling a list of which email addresses they’ve reached out to or responded to. If anyone tries to email a user who isn’t on their list, they will receive an automatic reply with a request to donate to a charity of the user’s choice if they want the email to make it to their inbox.

Andy Mowat, the founder and CEO of Gated, got the idea a few years ago when he was getting bombarded with sales pitch emails. He started replying to some saying if the sender donated to his favorite charity, the Wounded Warrior Project, he would get back to them. It worked, and he realized he had an idea worth exploring further.

“We are helping users of email take back control,” Mowat said. “We are not changing people’s email too much. It’s easy and simple.”

Users get to customize their automatic reply emails, which are called “challenger” emails, and can send inbound interest somewhere else if email isn’t the best approach, Mowat said. He added that Precursor Ventures founder Charles Hudson customized his reply email with a link to a form so founders won’t get lost in his inbox when trying to pitch him. Hudson’s firm participated in Gated’s $3.3 million seed round in March.

It’s worth noting that this system isn’t a spam filter — the software doesn’t read the content of emails and just pays attention to the sender in question and whether the user replies. The list of approved senders is fully customizable by the user and can be changed at any time.

The startup officially launched its services in April and has seen 40% to 50% monthly customer growth since, Mowat said.

“We save you time, but we really save you interruptions to your attention,” Mowat said. “We take email from people you don’t know out of your inbox and move it to a side email. When you wake up in the morning, you will have 30% to 40% less email.”

Gated is currently free to its users and operates off of donations from senders.

EtherMail

Another new startup tackling email is actually looking to bring the form of communication where it hasn’t been much before: web3.

EtherMail looks to create email addresses linked to people’s crypto wallets as a way to improve communication on the blockchain while still providing the level of pseudo-anonymity web3 loves that Web 2.0 can’t really provide.

“Right now in the industry, you can see a bunch of users and companies building their new launches and platforms, NFTs are changing hands, it’s hard for people to keep updating their emails and hard for companies to keep an up-to-date email address list,” Shant Kevonian, a co-founder, CEO and CTO, told TechCrunch.

Kevonian added that people have tried to tackle this decentralized communication through WhatsApp groups in the past, but they can get unruly, and on the flip side sometimes web3 companies can’t reach their users because they don’t know who they are.

EtherMail just launched its beta program this month and recently closed on $3 million in seed funding.

In the future, the company hopes to expand into offering tokens for using the email service and other features, including payment capabilities.

While Gated and EtherMail approach email differently — and on different webs? — they largely have the same goal at the end of the day: using email to make communication better, not worse.

Hopefully we’ll see more startups throwing their hats into this ring. Please. Asking for myself.

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