Interview With fbFund Winner NutshellMail

Last week we got the opportunity to speak with the team behind NutshellMail, a recent fbFund winner. NutshellMail enables users to manage all of their social network email accounts through one system. I took the time to sign up last week and I have to admit that the service is pretty slick. I actually don’t use multiple social networks to manage my contacts (although I still occasionally log in to LinkedIn), but many users have distributed contacts across many networks making this product extremely useful. Check out my interview with founders Mark Schmulen and David Lyman below.

AllFacebook: What is NutshellMail and how did the company get started?

NutshellMail: NutshellMail is a free service that simplifies the way you manage all your social networks and email accounts through the inbox you use the most. It works by consolidating activity from all your accounts into a single email digest delivered on your schedule.

Despite the popularity of new communication platforms (social networks, Twitter, im, etc…), email still remains the killer application. It is the tool we use most throughout the day and the application we use to manage not only our email, but also our calendars, contacts and tasks. NutshellMail was designed to address the one major deficit that most email clients do not support–how to manage your social networks (and even email accounts you do not want to integrate via POP3 or IMAP; ie: your BECN mail accounts).

However, we did not want to create a new email client because most people are comfortable with the clients they have been using for years. We also did not want to create a destination website because it is difficult to change user behavior. We created NutshellMail to serve as an add-on to any email client you already use. We also designed it as a push-based software as a service so that users do not have to install software and can passively manage all their activity through the place where they spend most of their computing time — the email inbox.

What is your position at NutshellMail?

NutshellMail: David Lyman and I are the co-founders. We don’t like titles, but I our legal documents identify me as CEO and David is COO. In addition, we have three fantastic developers on our team (David Neubauer, Scott Mury and Aaron Baxter).

You are a recent finalist in the latest fbFund. What was that process like for you?

The process was seamless. Compared to other competitions we have applied for, the fbFund team was very organized and quick to respond to questions. It was also a lot of fun. Rather than simply submitting a dry application and executive summary, the fbFund team was focused on the people behind the idea. They asked us to create a three minute video that not only highlighted our application but also our team dynamic. Many successful investors will tell you that they invest in both the people and the idea. The fbFund team took this to heart.

AllFacebook: Have you found users to be overwhelmed with the number of emails they receive on a daily basis from social networks?

NutshellMail: Absolutely. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, most Internet users maintain 3 or more email accounts and belong to at least 2 social networks. Recognizing that email still remains the common thread that connects users to their online lives, most social networks send one-off email alerts to keep users updated on new activity and to entice users to log into their accounts. However, given the constant flow of activity across multiple accounts, these one-off alerts have become a distraction and often create additional email clutter. As a consequence, many users ignore or disable these alerts.

NutshellMail has simplified this process by consolidating activity from multiple accounts into a single digest delivered to our users when and where they want them. NutshellMail is not only a productivity tool that helps to reduce email clutter, but it also offers interactive features so that users can update their status, retrieve messages, and reply to friends updates through email.

AllFacebook: What is the primary value that you offer to the social networks who’s platforms you integrate with?

NutshellMail: As mentioned, the existing notification process is not only ineffective, but it also adds to the information overload problem. The average open rate for a social networking alert is around 10-20%, which is a significant problem for social networks that rely on page impressions to generate revenue. According to Pew, only 36% of adult social networking users log into their accounts on a daily basis. In addition, many social networks suffer from high attrition rates and a significant drop off rate after a few weeks of use.

By simplifying the way users manage and access their social networks and secondary email accounts, NutshellMail benefits both its end users and supported service providers. NutshellMail users receive an average of three digests a day, open their digests 40% of the time and click into their online accounts at least once a day. We believe that NutshellMail can influence user behavior, driving incremental traffic to our supported providers’ sites and improving user retention and engagement rates.

AllFacebook: Is NutshellMail a freemium business model? If not, how do you plan on monetizing your service?

NutshellMail: NutshellMail is a free service and will eventually monetize by placing contextually relevant ads within the email digests. However, these ads will be placed on the right hand side of the digest so as not to deprecate the user experience. We also believe it important to place high-quality and relevant ads that our users will actually want to see. We are also working on several mobile applications that users can download for a small fee.

AllFacebook: Anything else you’d like to add?

NutshellMail: I would like to highlight that NutshellMail is more than just a personal productivity tool. We have added several features to facilitate sharing and communication amongst users. For example, our Facebook implementation enables users to update their status and reply to friends’ newsfeed via email. Our Twitter implementation not only alerts users of new followers, quitters, @replies and direct messages, but it also enables users to post tweets, reply, retweet, follow and unfollow users via email. We have also added search phrase tracking and will soon enable users to create twitter groups so that they never miss a tweet from their favorite tweeple. Once we complete this implementation, NutshellMail’s twitter capabilities will match that of TweetDeck but from within the email environment.

At the end of the day, we recognize that most users want to be part of the social networking conversation but do not want it to take over their lives. NutshellMail enables its users to keep track of their online activity and participate in the conversation, but on their terms and from within the application they use the most–email.