The startup graveyard is littered with the virtual carcasses of products that have tried reinventing email and have either failed or shut down. But that isn’t stopping Rahul Vohra and his startup Superhuman from developing another email service to win over Gmail’s 1 billion-plus users.
To be clear, Superhuman hasn’t even officially launched yet. But according to sources familiar with the matter, the startup recently raised $10 million in a Series A round of funding valuing the company at $50 million. While that valuation pales in comparison to a business like Uber, which is currently valued at a jaw-dropping $62.5 billion, $50 million remains a lot for a business that hasn’t even released its product to the masses and isn’t, well, a business yet.
Sign up on Superhuman’s site to be an early user, and you receive an automated email from Vohra requesting feedback on ways to improve the email experience. (“I’d love your help so we can build the best possible email experience for you,” part of Vohra’s note reads.)
Much of that valuation apparently has to do with Vohra himself, who finished his undergraduate studies at University of Cambridge in 2005 and whose previous email product Rapportive — an email add-on that showed users additional information about the people they’re messaging pulled from social networks — was reportedly acquired by LinkedIn in 2012 for nearly $15 million.
Vohra did not immediately respond to Yahoo Finance’s request for comment.
Superhuman promises a slew of features, including follow-up reminders, information about people pulled from social networks, the ability to rescind emails users send out, alerts when a recipient has read a message, artificial intelligence that “detects and highlights” high-priority messages, and the ability to schedule when exactly emails go out.
Superhuman’s other alleged standout feature? Speed.
“The creator of Gmail, Paul Buchheit, had a rule: every interaction should be faster than 100 ms [milliseconds],” reads Superhuman’s website. “Why? Because 100 ms is the threshold where interactions feel instantaneous. So for a time, Gmail was great. But now, it is painfully slow.”
Regardless of the features it has, Superhuman will enter an extremely competitive space whenever it officially launches. Over 1 billion people worldwide use Gmail alone, Google (GOOG) announced earlier this year. And numerous startups have attempted to revolutionize email in some way or form before petering out or getting acquired and shuttered.
The mobile email app Mailbox launched to much fanfare in February 2013 before Dropbox reportedly scooped up the app for $100 million and eventually shut it down this February. Google acquired another promising service Sparrow in 2012 before pulling the plug three years later. And enterprise mail app Tipbit, closed down operations at the end of 2015, with former CEO Gordon Mangione describing the enterprise email business to Geekwire as “incredibly difficult.”
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