Javier Soltero is a battle-scarred veteran of entrepreneurship. After facing a near-death experience, he nurtured his startup, Hyperic, a cloud management platform to good health. He eventually found a buyer, Springsource, which itself ended up being gobbled up by VMware, where he spent a few years in the trenches, helping the company figure out cloud, analytics and their relationship with the enterprise (a wonky way of saying corporations.) A year ago, he had enough of the IT-buyer-focused enterprise world. He quit VMware and went on to join Redpoint Ventures as an entrepreneur in residence — with one mission: to figure out his next company.
Redpoint is also home for Satish Dharamraj, co-founder of Zimbra, an email platform that was acquired by Yahoo and later sold to VMware in 2010, which in turn sold it to Telligent when it changed strategy. To say Satish hangs in the company of email people would be an understatement. JJ Zhuang (CTO) and Kevin Henrikson (VP of engineering) are two such guys. And when Soltero met them, the conversation quickly turned into a crazy idea — a new email platform that is built for the touch- and gesture-driven mobile world.
That idea became Acompli, a nine-month old San Francisco-based company that today announced it has raised $7.3 million in funds from Redpoint Ventures, Harrison Metal and Felicis Ventures. The company also announced that it will launch its free-to-consumer iOS application sometime in the second quarter of 2014.
“It seemed like such a crazy and contrarian idea,” Soltero said in an interview. “But no-one has done anything with mobile business email and frankly Blackberry is leaving that market behind.” With a growing trend of people bringing their own mobile devices to work and increasing numbers of folks looking to leave their laptops behind, Soltero’s contrarian bet has enough merit. But still, we all know that chasing email riches can be a chimera. Email is a bane and a boon and it keeps growing. Email and its sheer size and scope keeps attracting founders – young and old – who are lured by the potential riches. Unfortunately, few find gold at the end of the rainbow.
That doesn’t deter Soltero and his co-founders. “The app wants to have no more than one action for you to do what you need to do,” he boasted. Acompli’s idea of mobile business email involves a client (and a service) that integrates access to files (attachments) and making scheduling seamless with some quick touch and non-textual gestures. As long as you use either Exchange (and a big portion of the business world does use Microsoft’s Exchange) or Google’s Gmail, you will be able to use this client.
Soltero is betting that, just as Skype and Box sneaked their way into the business world as consumer-first applications, Acompli too will find its way in. “We will charge corporations who want to manage accounts on our platform,” he added. It is pretty much the same business model that helped Blackberry and Good Technology become part of the corporate email landscape.
“Email is the gateway to get into the business world,” Soltero said. It is also the portal to nowhere. Still, given his track record of finding gold in a dustbowl, one should be loath to bet against him.