TechCrunch20 (or 40) had tons of impressive companies present, but the one the really jumped off the page for me was Xobni. They have created a new email platform that creates significant value without asking anything more from users. That’s a killer combination.
VentureBeat has a great write-up where this snippet that got me interested:
The sidebar profile gives you an overview a person’s email habits (for example, when they are most likely up and doing their most correspondence, according to past usage), their phone numbers, how they rank in terms of frequency of correspondence, past conversations (in threaded form), and files exchanged.
When I read that, I thought about Google Reader’s Trends reporting where I can learn about where my time is being spent reading RSS feeds. The Trends reporting has been extraordinarily valuable for me by pointing out feeds that were taking up a disproportionate amount of my time without providing equivalent value. After purging a few of those, I made room for some new feeds that have more than made up for the loss.
The power in Trends is I didn’t have to do anything to create the data. Simply using the application generated the trends that became actionable in aggregate.
So, how can this be done with email? First of all, why hasn’t it been done already? I can’t think of an email program to date that allows me to view reports on who’s sending me the most emails, who sends me the most email I delete without reading? Who sends me the most email that I respond to?
This is the type of reporting that would help me make better use of email. For example, if I noticed that I never bother to read frequent flier updates from airlines, maybe I’d get around to unsubscribing from them? It would probably become glaringly obvious that I should if I saw a report showing that I’ve deleted 90%+ or them without opening them.
Enter Xobni, a Boston based Y Combinator funded company that appears to be tackling this very problem. They’ve figured out a way to provide trend reporting, rank your email relationships, generate threaded conversations, pull data such as phone numbers form email signatures so you don’t have to actively update your address book, among other giant leaps in email management.
The software currently runs as a sidebar within Outlook, providing a much needed enhancement to the popular email client. I’m not an Outlook user, but for that crowd, this should be a hugely popular add-on.
My hope is that Xobni raised the bar for all email providers with the launch of this new form of email processing. Surely Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft will add similar features to their web based email platforms over time.