Inky takes a different approach to the future of email

It’s rare that you find people who actually enjoy checking or using their email, but the recent launch of sleek new apps like Mailbox might reinvigorate the fairly staid technology. Could email be getting cool again?

The entrepreneurs behind the email app Inky think that email could indeed be cool, but CEO David Baggett said it will take a more tech-centric approach than what most popular apps are doing to really tackle the core of email, addressing some of the trickier things like attachments that keep it from being truly easy to use.

A good number of apps like Mailbox, Mailstrom, and Gander, just to name a few, are tackling email management by improving the ways that we sort or deal with a huge email influx or the inability to take action on the emails that arrive. While email overload is a huge part of what makes it overwhelming for most people, most of those apps sit like filters or layers on top of whatever email service you use — like Gmail — and don’t actually dig deep into the platform itself. Inky, a desktop client for email, is taking a more technical approach and hoping that bet pays off, Baggett said.

“Because it’s hard, you see two distinct approaches. One is to build a layer on top of existing mail platforms and make a new UI. What’s nice about that is you don’t have to solve any of the actual mail problems: all of that’s done for you by Google or Microsoft,” Baggett said. “You can paint your house another color but it’s not going to change the energy efficiency of the whole house.”

Inky is a desktop app that lets you pull all of your mail clients onto one simple screen that has much more white space and fewer controls than you might be used to. The app shows which accounts have unread emails (you can pull in any IMAP or POP account), sorts mail by the importance of the sender based on frequency of communication and social signals, and divides up your mail by type (social media, daily deals, etc.). You can reply and sort emails from all linked accounts within the Inky app. But Baggett has big plans for where Inky is headed, and is still expecting improvements to the service.

If you’re an avid user of Gmail’s filters and folders, you might not see as much value to Inky’s controls right now. But Baggett points out that setting up Gmail filters is not something that everyone wants to do, and providing a simple approach is a good way to reach a wide variety of users.

Baggett is no stranger to tackling tricky problems. He previously founded ITA Software, technology that provided flight search software, that was eventually acquired by Google for $700 million.

“I thought to myself, ‘What’s the biggest thing I could potentially do?'” He discounted browsers, search, and operating systems, but thought email could have potential. “I thought mail is really interesting because most people are really unhappy with their mail.”

So Baggett launched Inky, and was pleased to discover that while it’s stiill growing, he already has a strong following. The app doesn’t have a mobile version yet (which was a big downside that would keep me from using it right now) but Baggett argued that desktop computers are still where most people do the heavy lifting when it comes to email — few are spending a lot of time composing on their phones, which seems true.

“We started with desktop because it’s where people have the highest expectations in terms of features and feature set. If you can convert someone from Gmail or Apple mail to your mail client than you have an MVP mail client,” he said.

inky inbox screenshot