WeMail makes email more like instant messaging
The number of startups that have tried to reimagine email for mobile now seems almost as large as the number of unread emails many people probably have in their email apps. Mailbox, Boxer, Inbox, Tipbit, Cannonball. It goes on and on.
At first blush, WeMail, a new email app available only on Android for now, feels like just another name to add to that list. “What we noticed is that email today was no different than email 10 years ago,” Phil Yuen, cofounder of WeMail, said in an interview earlier this month. If that statement sounds familiar, it’s because that’s pretty much what every email app founder says.
What makes WeMail stand out from the bunch, however, is the execution: Rather than organize emails by categories, WeMail organizes messages by people.
When you look at your inbox in the app, you’ll see messages organized in the standard reverse chronological order, but bundled together by sender. If you tap on the down arrow next to the subject line of message, you’ll see a drop down of other recent emails from that sender. If you open up the email to respond, you’ll see an interface that looks and feels more like instant messaging than email.
“We want to organize your email in a way that makes sense on your mobile phone,” Yuen says. “And that to us is organizing it around the sender.”
In addition to the novel inbox layout, WeMail lets you quickly respond to emails by recording and sending short voice messages and search through your inbox by people or attachments. If both the sending and the receiver are using the app, the recipient can actually see when the response email is being typed out — just like with messaging apps.
The Seattle-based startup announced Tuesday that it has raised more than $1 million in funding from a batch of notable investors, including the founders of Twitch, Scribd, Flurry and Reddit — several of whom met Yuen while at the first Y Combinator startup group in 2005. Yuen and his cofounder (and brother) Gerald sold their two previous startups to Amazon and Zynga.
“Email is like the worst thing in my life. It’s like I’ve given them permission to put something on my to do list without even verifying it,” says Steve Huffman, cofounder of Reddit, and one of the investors in WeMail. “Email is like a DoS against human productivity.”
The hope for WeMail, according to the founders and investors, is that it will take some of the pain out of email by organizing it better, rather than trying to change user behavior.
“I was a huge fan of Mailbox when it first launched, but you quickly realize that what it wants to do is force you to change behavior,” Yuen says of the much buzzed about app that was eventually acquired by Dropbox. “They are trying to teach me long swipes, short swipes… but the moment I stop doing that, it actually offers zero benefit to me. We are trying to give you all the benefit without changing your behavior.”
Apple and Google have adopted some of the features pioneered by other email startups in recent months. Yuen doesn’t want to see that happen to WeMail, but he does see a bright side there. “I would be disappointed, but as an email user, I rejoice for email users around the world for that happening,” he says.
Perhaps some traction for startups like WeMail is just what it takes for the bigger players in the email space to finally get the message.
Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/11/18/wemail/