Today’s Q&A Wednesday is with Joshua Baer of OtherInBox. The company has created a website product that allows you to manage the email you receive from companies you interact with. The company launched at the recent TechCrunch50 event. We’ve got 25 more beta accounts for our users.
Q: How did you get the original idea for OtherInbox?
Back at Carnegie Mellon, the computer system had a feature where I could add a plus “+” onto the end of my email address and any other text I wanted after it, and it would still come to my Inbox. If I created a folder with the same text as what came after the plus, messages would go into that folder automatically. So I created email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.
Soon after, I founded SKYLIST, one of the first Email Service Providers. SKYLIST helps some of the largest companies in the world to send their email marketing, including CNN, Disney, Microsoft, NASCAR, NBC and Sony. In 1998 I authored a technical standard to help consumers unsubscribe from email newsletters and groups that has been adopted by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and thousands of other companies. A few years later I founded UnsubCentral, which helps email marketing companies to manage compliance with the national CAN-SPAM law.
Working with SKYLIST and UnsubCentral customers I gained a both deep and broad understanding of spam. I experienced the growth of spam from the perspective of person receiving email, a marketer sending email, and a network admin trying to block spam. I realized that some of the tricks I used back in college could be the foundation for a shifting the balance of power in the war against spam.
Q: How long have you been working on the website before your beta launch at the TechCrunch50?
I built the first prototype last fall, but I’ve been doing one version of this or another since I was in college at CMU. OtherInbox was officially incorporated in January 2008.
Q: Why start this company in Austin? Were you able to find enough talent here to implement your vision?
I came to Austin to work for Trilogy software and fell in love with the city. When Austin was recently rated the “most online” city in the country full of bloggers and early adopters, it only re-enforced that this was the perfect place to build our company.
OtherInbox is built on Ruby on Rails, a cutting-edge new programming environment for websites. Austin has a strong Ruby on Rails community and we’ve been able to attract a team of wicked smart developers who are passionate about stopping spam.
Fortunately, OtherInbox is a pretty easy place to attract great workers – it’s a fun startup environment with a sexy consumer product that everyone can understand. We’ve got a great office downtown, competitive pay, great benefits, stock options and a sense of community that make this one of the best places to work in Austin. And we’re still hiring programmers, interns, product managers and more!
Q: You’ve secured some incredible angel investors. Tell us a little bit about who you have investing and advising OtherInbox?
Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve remained connected to pretty much every company that I’ve worked for or started. I incubated OtherInbox at Datran Media, the company that acquired my last 2 companies. Then I was fortunate to get Joe Liemandt of Trilogy Software’s support as an angel investor and advisor – and its Joe that brought me to Austin out of college. And I’m always glad to have my good friend Brett Hurt to turn to as an advisor.
Q: Where do you see OtherInbox going? Any hints on future OtherInbox functionality?
The number of people who use the internet for news, shopping and social networking is just going up. The amount of email we get from everything online and even some offline things is just going up. Many of us already have too much email now, and we’re just going to get more and more. Having unlimited email addresses helps with the spam problem, but there is much more to OtherInbox than spam protection.
Most of the email messages in your OtherInbox are sent by computers. Each email is an automated response to something you did or things other people did on the web – for example receipts, shipping notices, coupons, statements, newsletters, etc. Most of those email messages are formatted the same way. Wouldn’t it be great if a computer could do something smart with the emails sent by all these other computers and you didn’t have to deal with it?