How to Reconnect at the the Right Time: Entrepreneur’s Personal Project Evolves into an E-mail Reminder Service

3/18/10Follow @xconomy

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serve several different functions. Users who want to remind themselves to reconnect with someone after a certain period of time without the person knowing of the reminder can add the FollowUp address to the BCC (blind carbon copy) line. But some e-mail recipients like knowing that their correspondents have designated a specific date for a follow-up, in which case adding the FollowUp address in the CC line of an email is helpful, Keller says. (He’s since removed the tool’s feature of automatically deleting reminders once someone replies, though.)

FollowUp sends a reminder instantly notifying you of your future plans to follow up (a feature you can choose to turn off), and sends you another e-mail on the day or time you specified. Users can opt to “snooze” these alerts and delay them to another time.

By addressing a new message to FollowUp directly (in the main recipient line), users can turn the tool into a personal to-do-list creator. If a user has an important e-mail that she can’t respond to immediately, she can simply forward it to a dated FollowUp address in the same fashion. This aspect of the tool works particularly well for people who look at their inboxes as personal assistants, datebooks, or task lists, Keller says. (One of our own does, to an extent. Check out Wade’s column on the subject.)

“It’s flexible,” says Keller. “It fits everyone’s general pattern to some degree.” On the weekends and when he can squeeze in the time, Keller is working on transforming the FollowUp home page, which he described as “rudimentary,” to make it more elegant and user-friendly. He also hopes to create a “gadget” for FollowUp on Gmail.

On the surface, it might seem like all of the e-mail reminders might add to the noise of an already crowded inbox. The tool offers some solutions that problem, though. It aggregates all the tasks users set into a calendar that appears on a user’s page on the FollowUp website. FollowUp can also be programmed to insert tasks into RSS feeds or personal calendars on applications such as iCal or Google.

As for the exact business model for the tool, Keller is working on that. If the FollowUp user base grows substantially, he’s considering using ads in the reminder e-mails. But he’s more inclined to explore paid subscription models.

“I didn’t want to be another startup in that relies on ads; I’m just growing it to get a ton of users then figuring it out later,” Keller says. He’s toying with several subscriptions models, such as free 60-day trials, or “freemium” models, with users getting a certain volume of usage or features for free, and then paying to upgrade to a more sophisticated version. If he does end up charging for usage, he’s thinking the fees might be around $5 a month.

“I want to think that I could build a service with enough value that people would be willing to pay a bit of money for it,” he says.

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  • cmgh

    Very cool! First thought is “where has this been all of my (email) life?” I would also like to see this work in both directions..for incoming emails as well as outgoing emails…e.g. remind me to follow up on incoming requests as well as when someone does not respond to my request.

    I suggest the 60 free trial to get people hooked before charging.

  • cattledogit

    For Outlook users, Sperry Software Follow-up Reminders add-in reminds you only if someone you email doesn’t respond: http://www.sperrysoftware.com/Outlook/Follow-Up-Reminder.asp