Shortmail secures $750K for email, simplified

Ronny Kerr · July 11, 2011 · Short URL:

Email is an old, broken system, and 410 Labs wants to fix it with brevity

Inbox (423).

That’s never a pretty sight. Anyone whose work involves use of an email account knows the pain and misery of dealing with emails all day. Sometimes it seems that my only real job is keeping the deluge of emails at bay--reading, replying, starring for later. It’s madness.

Many have tried (and none have succeeded?) at fixing the email problem, but here’s a new take: inspired by the brevity of Twitter, Shortmail limits messages to 500 characters.

And the service is already going viral. In its first week, it garnered over 10,000 new registrations. It’ll probably little surprise then to hear that virality has led to some new funding.

The creator of Shortmail, 410 Labs, announced Monday that it has closed $750,000 in Series A funding from True Ventures, 500 Startups, Fortify Ventures, the Maryland Venture Fund. Additionally, several angel investors and entrepreneurs participated, including Tim O'Shaughnessy (CEO and co-founder of LivingSocial), Abdur Chowdhury (chief scientist at Twitter), Jeff Ganek, Mark Walsh, Tom Loveland, Greg Cangialosi and Paul Silber.

As you’d expect, Shortmail works a lot like email, except it has that 500-character limitation. The idea is that conciseness will help clean up and simplify the experience of email:

“We found that it is long enough to allow people to express a complex idea, but not so long as things get wordy. We think it will emerge as a standard length for ‘short’ email.”

“We reached the conclusion that while length may not be the primary problem with email, the positive benefits and new capabilities associated with limiting length to 500 characters would be immense. Think about Shortmail’s length limitation in this way: What becomes possible when messages are more concise? Twitter’s length-limited messaging has transformed public discourse. We believe we can transform interpersonal communications, which has seen little innovation in 40 years."

When you mail someone’s regular email account, Shortmail includes a signature explaining that the sender will only be able to receive messages with under 500 characters.

Length isn’t the only limitation. Shortmail doesn’t support attachments, because “[we] think in general that they're worth deprecating,” according to 410 Labs co-founder Dave Troy.

Right now, only Twitter users can sign up, and they’re all guaranteed the same handle that they have on Twitter. So my address is kerrronny [at] shortmail [dot] com.

410 Labs, founded by Dave Troy and Matt Koll and based in Baltimore, builds productivity tools for communication. Besides Shortmail, there’s Replyz, a Q&A site that harnesses the power of the Twitter stream to collect answers to your questions, and Mailstrom, which produces analytics based on your emails.

Clearly a lot of investors agree with Troy and Koll’s company tagline: “We build cool stuff.” While Shortmail might have a long, hard fight in revolutionizing email, something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot from the two entrepreneurs, whether Shortmail reaches a wide audience or not.

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