Reminding people about the problems with email is a bit like saying that waiting in line is frustrating or traffic lights are a pain in the ass — nobody has forgotten or somehow failed to notice how horrible any of those things are. Like lines and traffic lights, email is often considered inefficient, frustrating, and, if someone’s feeling particularly hateful towards their inbox, one of the worst aspects of today’s technological world. Unfortunately, none of those things have shown any signs of changing in the near future.
That hasn’t stopped startup after startup from trying to “kill” or “improve” email, however. For now we’re going to focus on Wrike, a project management software maker that has brought its email-changing plugin to the Mac’s default email application, the unimaginatively-named Mail app. Previously available as an Outlook or Gmail plugin, the Mail plugin is the company’s first Mac-native product.
Wrike counts around 2,500 companies, like McDonald’s, Holiday Inn, and CBS, as its customers. Founder and CEO Andrew Filev says that the company introduced the Mail plugin because around 20 percent of its customers are running OS X, and the operating system doesn’t offer a good way to interface with Outlook or (to a lesser extent) Gmail. Now that won’t matter quite as much.
So, what does Wrike do? Essentially, it tries to solve the flooded-inbox problem by transforming email from a static, non-interactive piece of content into a dynamic container for all kinds of data.
As an example: Rather than sending and receiving a half-dozen emails to and from a former colleague, if both of us are using Wrike, one email can play host to all of our messages. The same amount of information is being transmitted, but in a non-obtrusive way that doesn’t make that “unread” count rise any higher.
Instead of replacing email, then, Wrike’s goal is to supplement and modernize the existing solution. ”Rather than fighting email, which at this point is useless,” Filev says, “we thought ‘Well, email is kind of a necessary evil, but let’s turn a lemon into lemonade.’”
The company has, in Filev’s words, “hijacked 2012″ into the decades-old email format by introducing avatars, collaboration, and other modern features, like the one-message chat mentioned earlier, to the plain-Jane email thread.
The approach seems to be working. Filev says that the company is growing steadily, and has around 50 employees to build a product used by thousands of companies around the world. Wrike is also profitable, and has been for some time.
Wrike got to profitability by eschewing the typical “we don’t need to charge for our product!” Valley philosophy and selling its product from the beginning. ”In the business to business market, if you’re creating value, people should be willing to pay for it,” Filev says. ”People should put their money where their mouth is.” This sentiment echoes one from Blueprint Health’s demo day, where healthcare-related startups weren’t afraid to talk about how they were going to make money, who they were going to make it from, and how much they have — and hopefully will — make in the future.
In other words, the company is set, and could run off of its current revenue for the foreseeable future. That hasn’t stopped Filev from considering a new funding round, however. Though there’s “nothing definite” yet, he was meeting with VCs last week to discuss the (potential) new round, which would be used to fuel faster expansion.
“We don’t want any disruptive changes,” Filev says. “We want to accelerate what we’re already doing.” There’s something ironic about a guy running a company that’s trying to “fix” email — a noted problem that people have been begging to be disrupted – in Silicon Valley, where “disruption” is the name of the game, saying that he’d rather have his company focus on evolution over revolution.