If you’re anything like me, your email inbox is probably inundated each day with work tasks, requests from colleagues, work emails from outside your company, and personal messages for things to take care of at home. With the average person getting around 150 emails per day, the to-do list can start to feel overwhelming.
But a new Chicago startup is out to make email task management much simpler by creating a tool that helps you organize projects without leaving your email account.
Tribe, founded in February and a member of the 2015 Techstars Chicago class, is like an “invisible personal assistant that lives in your inbox,” the company says, by creating a list of tasks based on the conversations you have over email.
Here’s how it works: Users can forward emails with tasks to Task@Tribe.do, and Tribe scans the email for what’s being asked for, the people involved, dates and times, and then automatically creates a task and assigns it out. You can follow up on the task, and track its progress until it becomes completed.
Users get an email every morning with tasks that still need completing, or they can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a list of their tasks immediately. CEO Henry Vasquez says the benefit of Tribe is that it doesn’t require you to download anything or sign into a third party platform, and the person you send a task to doesn’t need to sign up or be a regular Tribe user; everything lives directly in your inbox. Users just click Accept or Reject when a task is sent, and Mark Done once completed.
While several other task managers are available, Vasquez found that many people still use their email as a running list of things to do, and he wanted to create a service that built on top of that communication.
“[We thought], what is it about email that’s become this go-to solution? And it’s (because) everyone already uses it. You don’t have to ask someone to join a tool. You don’t have to set up something new.
“What if [Tribe] was a natural evolution of email?” he added. “We built a tool that works inside of email without requiring the other person to sign up.”
Tribe, with just three employees and at just seven months old, is the smallest and youngest of the 10 Techstars Chicago companies. Part of the reason Tribe was selected to the prestigious accelerator, Vasquez said, was the founders’ previous track record. CTO Sam Harris is a serial entrepreneur who has launched startups such as FindTraderIM.com and Speedbridge, and Vasquez was employee No. 1 and VP of Operations at Spartz Media, the viral content company that currently generates more than 50 million unique monthly visitors.
Vasquez said he has applied the lessons of virality he learned at Spartz to Tribe, and said that people who use Tribe on a regular basis are sharing the product with five other people.
“If you make it that easy to task people via email, then they’ll start tasking all kinds of random people,” he said. “And it has that potential to go viral.”
You might be thinking that Tribe is an ideal enterprise product–keeping employees in sync with upcoming projects and holding people accountable for deadlines. And while yes, a number of Tribe’s 1,200 users so far have been business clients, a surprising amount of users have been husbands, wives, and others trying to better organize their personal lives, Vasquez said.
“We went into this trying to solve a human problem first,” he said. “It was really more about how people collaborate one to one, and we were surprised by the consumer appeal … We’re just looking for busy people that have a lot on their plate and are getting things done. How they use it to organize their life could be very personal.”
Tribe is a free service and will remain that way until the startup reaches scale, Vasquez said. That means Tribe will rely heavily on venture backing to get off the ground, and the company is currently raising a round of funding. Future revenue models could include a subscription service or selling user data to service providers and other companies interested in what tasks people are completing.
Vasquez added that Techstars has been an invaluable resource for making connections and improving the product as the company prepares for demo day in October.
“Techstars is a true bootcamp,” he said. “The best thing about it is the quality and caliber of mentorship we get. Every day I’m constantly reminded how awesome it is to work with Troy (Henikoff) and Sam Yagan and Brian (Luerssen).”
Image courtesy of Tribe