Ankesh Kumar was at soccer game when someone came up to him and asked if he wanted a free t-shirt for signing up for the team's newsletter. Yea!, he exclaimed.
Monday morning in the office he gets an email from the soccer team (before gmail tabs). He thinks to himself. I was interested in signing up for the email at the soccer game but nows not a good time. Do marketing emails even belong in my inbox? And Socialmail was formed...
Evolution of the Web App
Why do marketing emails not belong in the inbox?
The inbox was designed to be a two-way communication tool. Marketers in a sense hacked email to send out one-way advertising.
If not in the inbox then where?
A web app was developed to display emails in a pinterest style grid. Instead of subject lines driving clicks, users could see the content right away. V1 gave users a socialmail email address which they would use in subscribing to emails.
From a UX perspective there were many frictional points until a user had content in their social mail account.
Socialmail began creating a database of the most popular newsletters, so that new socialmail users can have access to email content immediately. We used a variety of techniques, scraping the web and manually organizing the content.
A massive database of email content was growing. While experimenting in a variety of user acquisition tactics we decided to open the content publicaly. We optimized the site for SEO, individual emails became public web pages with their subject line as the long tail. Brands had their own pages. The content was now discoverable via Google and our organic traffic sky rocketed.
To keep the growth, we set out to organize the world's marketing emails... by signing up for each and every one of them and putting them on Socialmail.
To keep competitors out of our space, we patented our technology.
Okay great... we have people finding email content online and were able to monitize some of the traffic. It's minimal and not a long term solution.
How do we get people to use Socialmail instead of their email for marketing content?
A clean your inbox tool is created. Users can sync their email with Socialmail and select which senders they would like to receive in Socialmail instead of their email. This is basically the same functionality as Unroll.Me which happened to come out around the same time.
We had numerous success factors but in the end were not able to break cash flow positive. Gathering the world's emails takes quite a bit of space and server costs were adding up. Eventually the project was shut down.
During one notable varial attempt we teamed up with Jerry Rice to show how happy one can be with "No more junkmail in your inbox."
I'd like to thank the following people in making this project a success.
Ankesh Kumar - More of a mentor then a boss. So much learned from this amazing entrepeneur. A strong visionary who is able to navigate through the challenges by creating creative solutions and staying true to the ultimate vision.
Vivek Tyagi - If there was one developer for the job.. he would be it. A true full-stack, if I don't know, I will tomorrow. Won't take no for answer kind of guy. Always amazing working with you!