Let’s face it: Many of us live on our smartphones. We use them for mail, reading documents, checking our Twitter feed, for entertainment. We use them to run our lives and one of the biggest issues about that dependency is how hard it is to find what you need in the course of your day.
That’s the problem Gord Mangione, the former Microsoft exec in charge of SQL Server before moving on to XenSource and Citrix, is attacking with Tipbit, his Seattle-based startup that’s emerging from stealth this week. For Mangione, the tipping point was search. He could never find what he needed on his device — not on his current iPhone and not on the Blackberry he used before. That inability to find what he wanted fast led inexorably to Tipbit, which has about $2 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Partners and employees.
“Data is locked in different apps and the amount of email I can store locally is insufficient. All I do on my phone is read mail, delete the messages I don’t care about and wait to get to my ‘real’ machine to do anything useful in business,” Mangione said in a recent interview. The problem now is that the smartphone has become that “real” machine. And it’s of limited utility because, in Mangione’s words, “search remains terrible and I’m constantly switching between apps to find what I want. Why is the calendar, contacts and email all separate on an iPhone? Why can’t it all be in a single app?”
He’s hoping that Tipbit will be that single aggregation point to serve up what you need about your next meeting, your last email, quickly and unobtrusively. Users can keep using Gmail but have to allow Tipbit on grant it read-only access (via OAuth authentication) to their various LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other accounts. From all that information, Tipbit creates a private index in the cloud, accessible only by you.
“To make this work we have to index –but not store — your email,” Mangione said. Once that’s done, you can, with a single swipe option, bring up all the relevant information for an upcoming event. If you’re about to meet with Bill Gates, for example, you can pull up all the messages relevant to that meeting, what he’s been tweeting about, what his LinkedIn profile says, Google searches about him, all in one place.
“Back at Microsoft before we met with press, PR would hand us a backgrounder with all the information about that reporter — what they covered, what they last wrote etc. This is the same idea,” Mangione said.
Right now, Tipbit is for iPhone only and folks can use it for free — without fear of ads. The idea is once folks start using Tipbit in a business context, to start charging the company for that use.
About two months ago, the company decided to go “hardcore on mobile only,” Mangione said because that’s where the action is.
He cited figures that showed that two years ago 55 percent of all messages were read on a desktop machine. Fast forward to last month when 23 percent of all messages opened were read on iPhones alone. And less than 20 percent were read on Microsoft Outlook.
There are other tools out there to help make sense of the iPhone firehose. Sunrise, for example, just updated its iOS calendar app to integrate Foursquare, Crunchbase and other site info, but the idea behind the more business-focused Tipbit is to bring in calendar, news, email and other data all into one place.