Email Again

I think it’s time to revisit email. revealed the demand in the market for a better mail client. But I think more can be done and a venture scale company can be built around email, particularly corporate email.

Microsoft Exchange dominates the corporate email market with greater than 60% market share. But that seemingly unshakeable grasp is showing weakness because of the lack of innovation in the core product, powerful mobile app distribution channels and the BYOD/consumerization of IT waves.

It has been proven that you don’t have to sell to IT anymore. You can sell directly to the consumer who happens to work in a business and flood the business with your software without the IT team knowing about it.

Through my days at OneBox and Zimbra until now, I’ve built a deep passion for email. If I were to start Zimbra now, this is how I would approach the market:

First, build a beautifully designed mobile email client that talks EWS/AS to Exchange and is available on iOS and Android.

Second, develop an email client with a built in social feed for all those people on the same domain as a left shelf. One tap to post your location so you can tell your co-workers you are traveling or working from home. One tap to share the latest news on a sales call. The right shelf is an attachments and files browser combining Dropbox and Box files with email attachments.

Third, enable full text indexing of all emails in the cloud so it’s easy to search for everything. i.e. bring a Gmail like experience to exchange of fast and effective searching.

Fourth, embed gesture based shortcuts within the mobile client. Unlike keyboard, a smartphone has a much more sophisticated input system – the touch screen. Users could configure gestures not just for simple actions like delete and spam but more complex actions. For example, a single tap responds to a message with the answer “Yes” and a double tap will reply with “No.” A three finger tap might add an appointment to the calendar; something else would add a map of your current location to the body of a mail. And a pinch might ask the app to read your calendar, figure out who you are meeting with at this hour, emails everyone on the invite with “I am running late!”

Fifth, automatically generate a whitelist for your inbox to limit junk. Everything whitelisted is prioritized and the rest is put into another folder. The whitelist is created from implicit signals when you use the app. Every email recipient from your account is automatically whilelisted, as are CC’ed people, and everyone in calendar invites. Also, imagine a one button unsubscribe within the app to quickly triage junk.

Last, to-dos and notes should be integrated into my inbox and appear like emails. Alongside the compose button for email, there should be text box to quickly create a task. Every task appears in my inbox like an email. Emails, Tasks and Notes have a subject, a body and attachments (optionally). I think a fully searchable and mobile mail product can store notes and tasks the same way it stores email. It’s a matter of UI to surface it right. Deletion is the same as completion of tasks. A note to self is the same as an email without a sender and a recipient.

The business model is self-evident: pursue a direct to consumer, bottoms up freemium approach with a top-down sale to IT.

Ideas are dime a dozen… execution is everything. If there is a world class team going after this area, I would love to be part of the journey.