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Summary:

Engagio, which launched on Wednesday backed by seed funding from Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and other angel investors, pulls in comments and replies from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and a number of other social services and sites to create a one-stop social dashboard.

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Email is the bane of many people’s lives, but at least most users only have a single inbox to worry about. If you are trying to keep up with comments and other social input from blogs and Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, not to mention other social sites you use, it can be overwhelming. That’s the problem a startup called Engagio is trying to solve: The company’s “social dashboard” service, which has been in private beta for several months, launched officially on Wednesday, backed by seed funding from Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson and a number of other investors.

One of the interesting things about Engagio is that the service probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for blog comments — specifically, the comments section on Fred Wilson’s blog, where the Union Square partner spends a lot of time responding to questions and interacting with his readers, many of whom are startup founders or venture investors. Engagio founder and CEO William Mougayar is one of Wilson’s regular commenters, and the service was born last fall after a discussion about the difficulty of keeping track of comments across multiple blogs and other social services like Facebook.

“The idea came out of me participating on Fred’s blog and other blogs, and how the experience was very fragmented — I had to go to multiple places to check for replies, and I wanted to be able to track that kind of thing so I could see who I was interacting with,” Mougayar said in an interview before the Engagio launch. The founder, who at the time was involved in another startup called Eqentia, said Wilson suggested he do something about it. “He said to make it like Gmail, but for the social web,” Mougayar recalls. “A social inbox.”

Eight weeks after the idea came up, the startup had a product ready for testing, and Wilson announced the beta on his blog in Dec. 2011. The service has gone from just 20 users to more than 3,000 before the official launch, Mougayar said, and has raised $540,000 in seed funding to help scale the company to the next level — which includes adding servers and staff, but also adding support for more social services. In addition to Wilson and Rho Canada, the seed funding came from venture funds such as Extreme Venture Partners and Bullpen Ventures, as well as individual angels including Mike Yavonditte, the CEO of New York–based startup Hashable.

Engagio currently allows users to connect to their accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr, as well as Google+, the Disqus blog-commenting service (which Union Square Ventures is an investor in) and other services such as Foursquare, as well as web forums, including Hacker News. Engagio pulls in any comments, replies, messages and other updates and displays them in a single inbox — and can post any responses back to those services as well. Mougayar said the company is planning to add support for other social services, including the Q&A site Quora and forums run by StackExchange.

Mougayar said that while there has been a lot of backlash recently about blog comments and what some see as a lack of value in them — with some bloggers and sites defending their decision to turn off comments altogether — he believes that commenting, when done well, is “probably the most significant social gesture you can make today, more valuable than sharing or liking or linking.” Relationships that develop with bloggers and even other commenters around discussions on a site can be very valuable, the Engagio founder said, and his connection to Wilson is a perfect example.

After playing around with Engagio during the beta, I can say that it is definitely useful to see all of my social interactions in a single place, and it is much better to have them organized together instead of getting email notifications from Facebook and Twitter in my regular email inbox. The only concern I can see is that Engagio’s inbox could become just as overwhelming as my traditional email, but that could be because I belong to so many different social platforms — and the service does allow users to mute specific contacts or hide services if they become too noisy.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Randy Robertson

  1. The fun question is how would anyone monetize this service?

    I can see a few ways:
    1) Charge for the service. (I don’t think that most users would feel that the value add the service offers is worth paying a fee to access.)
    2) Advertise to users. (I don’t really think this is a business model. It doubt that money generated via advertising would be enough to pay the bills.)
    3) Harvest demographic data from linked accounts. (I recoil at the thought.)

    This doesn’t sound like it is a business. It sounds more like a feature waiting for a product.

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    1. William Mougayar Wednesday, February 15, 2012

      Hi Physical,
      Well, we have thought of 4 ways to monetize, and your choice are close, but not exact. This will be revealed in the future. For now, we’re focused on building the user base and providing value.

      Perhaps I’m biased, but this is a lot more than a feature. Typically, features are much smaller in scope and can be replicated inside other products. If you are using it, feel free to email me directly, and I’ll make it a personal challenge to win your vote.

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    2. I think your right…and we are building the product with a much more feature rich service that will include a transparent revenue model where everyone wins

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  2. Engagio is great, I make a point to check it twice a day. My only issue is that it seems to lag behind my email notification by a few hours. It makes hard to do ‘real time’ comment exchanges.

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  3. MyLife.com is free and it is much better. You can also search and find new connections across networks all in one place and see who’s searching for you. We have 60m members.

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