Hey Dave - MG here from TechCrunch. As you may have heard, I completely quit email for the month of July. Email is the devil. And a bunch of people pointed me to Shortmail. Looks awesome. You guys officially launched a few weeks ago, right? How has the response been?
Yes, we heard about your experiment! We agree that email is in deep need of reinvention.
We launched Shortmail.com at the eComm conference in San Francisco on June 29th, and response so far has been amazing!
We seem to have touched on a nerve with people, and it's exciting to be getting so much feedback from people about how they'd like to see email updated.
So obviously, there's some Twitter inspiration here. But what's the actual idea behind 500 characters? Is it just a guess, or did you guys do some testing in terms of how long you thought "long" the longest emails should be?
Yeah, I was an early Twitter user (I wrote the first Twitter app, Twittervision.com) and gave a lot of thought to what Twitter's length restriction enabled.
I started thinking about Shortmail in 2009 with the idea, "If email had a length restriction, what would then become possible?" And it was hard to get that idea out of my head.
The number 500 actually came from our product Replyz.com, which uses that limit. We found it to be long enough to express a complex thought, and still be concise.
Also interesting is that you can have a public conversation (like this one) or a private one. What brought about the idea of public ones? Is that Twitter again?
For private Shortmails, anyone can email anyone else (using the service), right? It doesn't require a follow connection, like Twitter DMs? Was any thought given to that type of connection as a way to further filter incoming messages -- and kill inbox overload?
We realized that Facebook, Twitter, AIM, SMS, Wave, Buzz, and traditional email each have different characteristics, specifically around private vs. public and synchronous vs. asynchronous. We thought Public Email was innovative and something that was missing.
A Shortmail user can send messages to: a) ANY other email user, b) ANY Twitter user, c) ANY Shortmail user, and does not have a follow requirement (unlike DM's).
And yes, we're looking at integrating social graph data into the inbox.
First thing though, you're rolling out a slightly modified design as well, right? What else have you guys been working on? I would love a way to get notifications without having Shortmail open all of the time, obviously. Perhaps a mobile app?
Yes, we're iterating very quickly on the customer-facing pieces; we've been mostly focused on the underlying architecture so far.
We are working on better HTML5 mobile web support. We may create some mobile apps internally, but we'd love to hear from third parties who'd like to work with us on our API.
And we also thought it was really important that people be able to get Shortmail on the hundreds of millions of mobile IMAP and SMTP mail clients out there, and we support that today!
And to help with some of those improvements, you guys have raised a round of funding, right? Shortmail's parent company, 410 Labs, just closed a Series A, correct? Talk a bit about that? Who are the investors? What will the money go towards?
That's correct. We (founders Dave Troy and Matt Koll) funded our first year of operation, but we felt it was the right time to bring in some other investors who understood what we're trying to do and could add strategic value.
Our investors include True Ventures, 500 Startups, Abdur Chowdhury (Chief Scientist at Twitter), and Tim O'Shaughnessy (CEO, Living Social), Jeff Ganek (founder, Neustar) and several others.
It's an all-star lineup, and this $750K round will help us expand our team!
That's great -- congrats! One final thing, I'm interested for your thoughts on the broader movement against email recently. There's three.sentenc.es, Chris Anderson's Email Charter, AwayFind, and several other things. But many of those rely upon self-policing or add-ons to fix the current system. Shortmail, since it works with IMAP and SMTP but creates a very big new rule, seems a bit like a potential bridge of sorts. Make the case for why Shortmail will work in the email-hating world.
We spent a lot of time thinking about why people hate email, and my own frustration was a major motivator to create Shortmail.
Conventional email, imposes tremendous cognitive load, forcing the user to do a lot of tracking: of threads, relationships, and tasks. Shortmail is instead organized around people, and delivers a very different cognitive experience while still being interoperable with standard email.
People are desperate for innovation in email. We think Shortmail is the bridge!
Hey, thank you! We're just getting started and are really excited to have the opportunity to make a positive impact on email!
Let's do this again sometime soon!