Q&A with PowerInbox founder and CEO Matt Thazhmon about unifying email and social networking
PowerInbox offers a service that integrates social networks with email clients. The Cambridge, Massachusetts–based company was founded in 2010 and recently closed a $1.1 million seed funding round.
SUB: Please explain what PowerInbox is, and the value proposition you offer to users of social networks.
Thazhmon: PowerInbox turns each email into an app platform (short intro video: http://vimeo.com/powerinbox/intro). At present, we have apps for Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Google+. The value proposition for users of these services is that when they open emails from these services they can interact with the service right inside the email.
SUB: How does the technology behind PowerInbox work?
Thazhmon: On the server side, developers create apps and specify what emails their apps are compatible with. On the client side, PowerInbox extends your email client to allow you to run apps inside email.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Thazhmon: I guess technically the legacy email systems are our competition because they offer ways to do similar functionality, however it only works inside each email system. So for example, Outlook has had add-in functionality for about 10 years now, but these add-ins only work inside Outlook.
SUB: What do you offer that differentiates PowerInbox from your competitors or from companies with similar offerings?
Thazhmon: Our big differentiation is that as a developer, you write a PowerApp once and it works in Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and (soon) Outlook. As a company, our goal is to get PowerInbox working across all email. Email is universal and we believe that email apps should be universal.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind PowerInbox? Was there an “aha” moment, or was it longer in developing?
Thazhmon: When I was in management at my previous company, I was just very frustrated with how much time I spent in email. I am always trying to make things efficient and email was this black hole of time that seemed unoptimizable. I soon realized that it was because when email was created 40 years ago, it was modeled on snail mail. However email hasn’t changed much since then, but the world has. Our (tech) world is more real time, social, collaborative and app platform centric and we want our email to be the same. But it seemed like everyone had abandoned email to work on replacements for email. That’s when I decided that I would work on the future of email because no one else is.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Thazhmon: Founded last year—quite simple, our accountant filed the paperwork to create the company.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building PowerInbox?
Thazhmon: Well, every email client is different, so we have had to do a lot of work to get PowerInbox working on each one. It’s hard, but that is the value we provide to developers and consumers.
SUB: You recently raised $1.1 million in seed funding—how do you plan to use the funds?
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise new funding?
Thazhmon: For us, we were fortunate to find investors who believed in our vision for the future of email. So not sure if it was timing, but more shared vision.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Thazhmon: No, we are well funded with a good runway.
SUB: Where do you hope to see PowerInbox in a year from now?
Thazhmon: We are a platform company, so we hope to see PowerInbox on many more email platforms and with many apps for our platform.
PowerInbox – www.powerinbox.com