When you simply state the idea of having one place where all forms of contact — email, Facebook, Twitter, text and others — end up in one place for reading and responding to, it sounds an eminently sensible thing to do.
But there’s a pretty good reason nobody’s managed to pull this off, and all the more reason that NZ-originated, globally-created Unified Inbox is ever so slowly bringing its product to market.
‘It’s an incredibly hard thing to do,’ says UiB founder and CEO Toby Ruckert, whose international team first set out four years ago to create such a beast.
‘There’s a huge amount of functionality and product layers that has to be built in,’ especially so that different channels can be opened and responded to in other channels. Think answering a Facebook query while within a mobile phone email application for example.
‘At this stage we’ve written 1.6 million lines of code, which in total are equivalent to 25 man years of development,’ Ruckert says.
Dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s of UiB is one reason the privately funded venture has kept its head down, only late last year releasing a free beta version for self-selecting potential and real users to help iron out bugs.
That soft launch has been extremely useful he says, and as well as soon looking for public funding through the issue of convertible notes (prior to seeking Series A funding within the next year), UiB will be launched as a paid for item in the next couple of months.
UiB also has more than 2000 signed up customers from 72 countries, and has been deep in discussions with channel partners such as ISP’s (internet service providers), telcos, shopping cart/e-commerce service providers and others about integrating it into their systems.
Unified Inbox comes at a time where the ‘pain’ of reading and responding to all the different forms of communications available to people is reaching ever higher proportions Ruckert says.
He quotes a study showing interruptions from communications costs U.S.A productivity $900 billion a year.
‘If someone is working and thinking productively, and they’re interrupted to check say an email, it takes them 10 minutes to get back to the same level, the same train of thought,’ he says.
‘Unified Inbox can enable its user to have no one, or five only say, be able to interrupt.’
UiB’s most valuable feature in a sense is its ability to address ‘overload’, and users being able to ‘communicate in their own time whenever they feel ready for it.’
The start of UiB’s global charge will also be spearheaded when Ruckert speaks at June CommunicAsia conference in Singapore with a speech named ‘2012 — The Year of Overload’.
The company’s reputational stock also received a recent boost with the announcement that it had achieved #11 in the USA Business Insider 2012 Startup Competition. Over 200 companies put their names up for consideration in this annual event.
After years of lying low and writing those 1.6m lines of code, Ruckert and UiB can see some light, and hopefully much revenue, at the end of the tunnel.
At a time where simplification is becoming one of the big new trends Ruckert and UiB might just be a right product right now!