Acompli, a company building a mobile email application which functions as an all-in-one productivity app for iPhone, has raised $ 7.3 million in Series A funding – a sizable investment that points to the scale of the problem the startup is aiming to solve. The round was led by Redpoint Ventures, and includes participation from Harrison Metal and Felicis Ventures. The app itself is due out on the iTunes App Store in Q2 2014, though the company is accepting early sign-ups now.
Founded in April 2013, Acompli is led by Javier Soltero (CEO), previously CEO and co-founder of Hyperic; CTO, SaaS and Application Services at VMware; and most recently, Entrepreneur in Residence at Redpoint Ventures.
Soltero is joined by co-founders J.J. Zhuang (CTO) and Kevin Henrikson (VP of Engineering), also of VMware as well as Yahoo by way of its Zimbra acquisition.
Though the Acompli app is not yet available for testing, we recently were able to see a demo of the app in action, and came away fairly impressed. Acompli has been designed with the needs of the mobile professional, not the casual email user, in mind, and it’s easy to imagine that many individuals would be willing to pay (and eventually businesses, too) for the conveniences it offers.
But Acompli’s business model will be freemium-based, we understand. That is – free to end users, with a plan to sell value-added services to businesses in the future.
How Acompli Is Different Than Your Usual Mobile Email Client
There are a number of features Acompli offers which make it a richer experience than the default Mail app on iPhone, including a fast, predictive search interface and smarter contacts to make email compositions quicker and easier. This is because Acompli, like another email app I’ve been using, (CloudMagic, a pivot from a universal search app), speeds up interactions by serving data from its own servers, instead from the email providers’ own servers – like the Gmail servers, for example.
“Regarding how we do it faster, Acompli delivers messages down to the device using a secure protocol that optimizes the delivery of data based on the connectivity and state of the device,” explains Soltero. “Traditional email apps use protocols that are either not built for mobile clients (IMAP) or require expensive synchronization of state directly on the client (MS ActiveSync),” he says.
Though Acompli is handling delivering the email to the client, it encrypts all the data in transit, and doesn’t store passwords or credentials on the device, Soltero notes.
Plus, Acompli isn’t only focused on increasing the speed of writing and responding to emails, but also on all the other activities users tend to do when working with their emails.
These days, as Soltero explained to me during the demo, users tend to leave a lot of their email un-handled on mobile, preferring to deal with it when they’re back at their desktop or laptop computer. This is because managing many types of business emails on mobile is still too difficult.
This is especially true for things like trying to figure out a time for a meeting, which requires you to switch back and forth between your calendar app on mobile and your email client. Also, it can be difficult to surface other email conversations or files stored in various cloud services like Google Drive or Dropbox, for example.
Acompli builds in access to these sorts of common task within its own “email” application. At a high level, that means you can basically tap a button to send someone your calendar availability, or tap another button to access files that have been shared via email or stored in the cloud, then quickly attach those to a new message or a reply.
The thing that impressed me about Acompli – at least when it was shown to me, which of course isn’t quite the same thing as getting to test drive an app for yourself – was not just what the app is capable of doing, but the way those interfaces were designed. I didn’t feel like I would have needed a walkthrough or tutorial to get started with it – the functions seemed intuitively placed and kind of obvious. And that’s harder than it looks.
That being said, email is a complicated beast, which is why a number of companies try to just tackle one angle – like Mailbox did with triage. Everyone uses email differently and has their own unique list of requirements for an email app. So Acompli could build something that’s both fast and intelligent, and still not win over the masses at scale - that’s the risk building of trying to build a new email platform for mobile. That’s also why it’s exciting to watch these things get built, too.