Mailbird is an email client for Windows that lets users manage all of their email accounts from one place, providing unified communication to thousands of businesses worldwide. In this interview, co-founder & CEO Andrea Loubier discusses the challenges that users have with email and the technologies that help overcome them.
Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?
We launched Mailbird in April 2012 as “The Sparrow for Windows.” Back then, Sparrow was an email client that helped people manage their Gmail accounts from a native software application, but it wasn’t available for Windows. It was very clear that the windows market was very much underserved when it came to email management tools. That was the initial notion that led us to start the company. When Google acquired this company, it was a pivotal point for us in deciding to push forward, as it validated the need for an improved email experience for desktop, as opposed to web-based applications.
Mailbird has iterated and pivoted many times over the last decade, and evolved into an email management company that focuses on user well-being when it comes to the experience of managing emails. We all know that email and email management can elicit a lot of negative experiences and emotions when managing the clutter of emails that flood multiple inboxes. We are here to eliminate that by delivering an incredible user experience that is positive, intuitive, and feels awesome.
People come to us to manage multiple email accounts from various providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc., or privately-owned domains. Mailbird also integrates with other communication and productivity apps, like Slack for chats and Asana for task management, Dropbox for seamless file sharing, and more.
Right now, we’re looking to bring the same experience that we brought to Windows to become fully cross-platform. This will be available soon, and we’re really excited about it.
Here’s a brief introduction to what you get when you sign up to Mailbird:
What are some of the pains that people have with email, and how does Mailbird relieve them?
Most people come to us when they’re using a web-based application or multiple web applications, or were previously using other native clients like Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook.
Our customers value the ability to see all their communications in one place without having to navigate in and out of different email applications or accounts. This unified experience saves a lot of time that really adds up in the long run.
When you compare the user experience across different email applications, we have a clear advantage. Our customers come to us because they like the experience we offer. Mailbird is simple, beautiful, stress-free, and brings ease to email management. This is the foundation of our core values as an email company, serving the best solutions to enable our customers to build a healthy relationship with email. How does your platform interact with third-party apps?
For example, one of the applications that we’ve integrated is Dropbox. Dropbox has its own operating window inside Mailbird as an add-on, and you can turn it on or off. If you think about our use cases with email, a significant activity is dealing with file sharing and exchanging information, images, media files, etc. Sometimes those files can be pretty dense and heavy, so email might not be the best platform to share them. Dropbox is excellent for that. With our addon, you can share a link by dragging and dropping files from an email being composed into Dropbox and from Dropbox to an email, making it really simple to share and manage files from one place.
Another great thing that many of our customers engage with is our WhatsApp integration. Alongside email, chat applications are the next layer of technology support for communication. Email is suitable for certain things, but chat offers faster, more responsive communication.
Let’s say you and I are emailing back and forth right now, but I need to quickly check in with you to schedule an event that we need to coordinate. Email might not be the right platform for us but maybe chat is. So I can have WhatsApp in one channel view, and I can have Mailbird for email messages in another view, all on one screen and in one application.
Some argue that email technology is old-fashioned. What are your thoughts?
I love this topic because I’ve had so many discussions around it. This conversation is anchored in most of my discussions around email and Mailbird.
I can see why there’s a point of email feeling like it’s old school. If you think about it, it’s very much a utility tool. It’s a very reliable tool and it’s probably the most significant invention since the invention of the internet. It just made communication so much more efficient, especially for businesses, where you previously had to wait two weeks when sending formal letters via the postal service.
We’ve done a lot of research and analysis around this, with existing customers as well as prospects. New shiny applications are always popping up when it comes to communication, and each of them is doing something slightly different. One might claim to work without email, but what people don’t realize is that all of these tools are built on the email infrastructure.
With most web-based applications, you usually get notifications via email. You can adjust the settings to get notifications only within the app, but if you lose your password, they will likely send you a password recovery email. What people don’t realize is that email is a core infrastructure that just works. It’s reliable because it’s been tested against time year after year since its inception, and it gets the job done.
The conversation should shift towards looking at how we interact and engage with email and the habits we’ve formed around email, rather than just dismissing email altogether because it’s “old school” or outdated. That being said, so many different things are going on with email already, and many new technologies are surfacing. For example, you’ll see many tech companies trying to find shortcuts and ways to speed up email communication. So I think all of those things are under works, but the reason why these types of companies are still coming up is that email is tried and tested. It is simply a reliable technology.
Let’s look at our actual statistics and data that we conducted through several qualitative surveys with different customer segments. The assumption is that the younger generation, millennials and younger, will not be using email in the future. So we did several surveys with this particular demographic, based on age alone. We were surprised to see that the number one communication tool used within that demographic remains email.
When you’re in school, you get your university email address, so that tool is already presented for you. You probably had another email account before that as well. And then, let’s say you enter the job market and what usually happens is you have to have an email account for your work. In a way, email is a legacy tool that follows us throughout our different chapters in life. In business, email is the typical and chosen form of communication.
We found that even though chat applications started to have uptake and increased usage, email is still the number one form of communication, chat is number two, and phone calls are number three.
Lately, we’ve seen many developments around privacy, both from the regulatory side and from industry giants. How is this going to affect your business or industry?
That’s a great question because it’s an increasingly growing concern. Generally, as technology advances quickly, everyone is more concerned about privacy and ensuring that their identities are safe and secure. Many companies focus specifically on that, with email add-ons to help people have this sense of privacy and security.
It’s important to differentiate that many privacy and security elements come from the email server-side, or the email providers.
Mailbird is an email client. We support different email providers such as Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or privately owned domains. Still, all of the privacy features are usually on the email provider side, because they are the ones that collect and process the data.
Mailbird doesn’t do any of that. We don’t collect any data, and we maintain the privacy of our customers. It’s definitely an important topic of discussion right now. Email service providers hold the key to solving privacy and security concerns around email.
Which trends or technologies do you find to be intriguing these days around your line of work?
I find it exciting to see some of the developments with AI. One of the major psychological stressors that comes up time and time again when checking email is that it takes a lot of time. In some scenarios, it’s probably better to pick up a phone and have a conversation than trying to have a long, drawn-out discussion via email. The primary trend with AI and machine learning for email aims to reduce the time spent on email. For example, when you’re typing something in Gmail, it auto-detects what the rest of the sentence might be. AI also enables you to ensure communication is well crafted, and will anticipate what you want to communicate based on the context. It’s insane!
Another element that induces decision-making fatigue when managing emails is the sorting of emails. Using AI, they can automatically segment what folder or what category an email should fall into. When you check your inbox, you can then focus on priority emails and hide promotional emails altogether. Cutting out microseconds in actions and decision making with email communication is everything, and AI will support this progression and advancement in the future of email as a core communication platform.
There is a lot of focus on eliminating distraction, and that’s one of the key initiatives that I’m excited about with the evolution of AI within the space of communication technology.
Of course, some negative implications are already surfacing from our daily habits with communication technology. You constantly hear about statistical inferences in studies, pointing out the dopamine fix you get every time you tackle one email or check your inbox or receive an anticipated message. It will be interesting to watch and potentially try out different experiments with AI to see how we can help people better manage their time and have a much more relaxing, yet effective experience with email management.
How do you envision the future of email?
The future of email is going to be exciting. You can already see it happening with all of these additional tools being developed upon the infrastructure of email.
When we look at the future of email, the first thing we should look at is differentiating where and when to use email. Considering the impact of the pandemic over the last year and a half, and the massive shift towards remote work, the reliance on these technologies became even more significant.
So, I hope and look forward to seeing it evolve in a way that helps people find work-life balance and better manage their communications. I also hope to see tools that support the elimination of decision-making fatigue that comes with email. I hope to see things slow down, yet become more efficient.
Right now, we’re looking at a lot of behavioral science on the interactions that come between humans and technology. That’s what we are focusing on right now as we continue to build across-platform Mailbird solution. It will be interesting to see how it evolves because it’s changing faster than eve. Nex, we will expand our services to more markets by making Mailbird available for Mac. Traditionally, we’ve always been a Windows-focused email solution, given that this is the market segment that was most underserved. We are thrilled to bring our services and solutions to new markets, to serve the world of email users and help people build a healthy relationship with email.