Earlier today, Kevin Henrikson and his old buddies over at KickoffLabs hosted an intimate live YouTube webinar sharing the story of Acompli. Kevin, who currently leads engineering for Outlook Mobile over at Microsoft, was, until recently, Co-Founder and head of engineering at Acompli before the acquisition. And before that, he was an entrepreneur-in-residence for Redpoint Ventures.
Kevin starts his story with, “we knew from Zimbra, coming and trying to sell email servers against Exchange, that Exchange was just the dominate force and all the money of enterprise, the global 2000’s all used Exchange generally speaking; so we knew if the if we were going to build an email client, and sitting at Redpoint, we’re on Exchange at our kind of work while using Yahoo or Gmail for our personal mail. Having an email client that could combined all of that and have a modern UI was something we thought would be interesting.”
This theory had them break down the reasons why most people weren’t doing a lot of email on their phones. “…like the simplest email is hard. It’s hard to type out a long response on your phone,” he mentions. Kevin also highlights why people find the workflow of emailing on mobile phones so frustrating. From the broken searches in email clients to the scattered nature of email and corresponding apps. Items like calendar being a separate app apart from mail or alarms or alerts led Acompli to try and tackle this mismanagement of mobile productivity.
Another mission Acompli set out to achieve was to help blur the lines between your work apps and personal apps. With the introduction of the apps stores, the divide between what people consider their work life and professional life became murky. Kevin and his team saw this trend and decided that email should follow. Kevin believed people in enterprise would start forcing IT and enterprise to incorporate the tools they use in their personal life more, as they use more personal devices and apps.
The rest of the session goes on to hit on how the Acompli team used invites, ad testing on Facebook rather than AdWords, the gamification of their product, as well as strategic interviews with iOS/Android specific tech blogs to push the app forward. Kevin also mentions how they carefully implemented a beta as well ad how they were able to escape the ‘free to play’ mentality of apps in app stores. Lastly, he discusses how his team utilized word of mouth sitting at bus stations to eventually hiring a marketing/PR firm to push them finally over the hump; Kevin is very candid as to how this start-up became a boon in the iOS/Android platforms.
While the specific details about the Microsoft acquisition are light, the webinar is chalked with useful information for anyone interested in their start up or the mindset of current small tech companies making headlines these days.