Not All E-Mails Are Created Equal; SaneBox Knows the Difference

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applying a global set of rules to everybody. With our approach, it’s much more personalized. We study your personal e-mail behavior and what you do specifically with each message, and base our algorithms on that.”

The only downside to this approach is that SaneBox’s service is extremely data- and infrastructure-intensive, which is why the startup can’t offer a free version of its service. Leonov says the company isn’t a big fan of free as a price, anyway. “Free services need to monetize somehow, and that usually involves screwing the user,” he says. “Our philosophy has been to offer something of value and charge money for it.”

It’s working so far. After the initial free trial period, which lasts two weeks, 25 percent of users pay up, Leonov says. That’s an astronomical conversion rate compared to most online services. And the more e-mail people get every day, the more desperate they are for something like SaneBox. “If you get 60 or more e-mails a day the conversion rate goes up to 52 percent,” Leonov says.

My free trial expires Monday, and for this sample of one, the conversion rate will be 100 percent. I’d guess that SaneBox is saving me 30 minutes a day, mostly because I can delete the messages in @SaneLater in one fell swoop. But more importantly, my inbox just seems more manageable when it’s not peppered with low-priority messages. As Leonov says, “It’s not just about time saved. It’s also about the mental anguish of dealing with an overflowing inbox.”

One of the reasons people stress out about their inboxes, Leonov believes, is that they make the mistake of thinking that every message is equally important. “Every e-mail client gives the same amount of real estate to every e-mail, so you are trained to think that all of them are the same,” he notes. “But they are not. E-mail is just like any other work: it needs to be prioritized.” And that’s how SaneBox might help all of us stay sane.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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