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Front: The $1.3B Startup Slackifying Email (sacra.com)
160 points by bdr 44 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 132 comments

> Front is like Slack for your email, except instead of creating another distracting, noisy, always-on tool, Front allows users to spin up ephemeral chats within email threads themselves.

That's the exact opposite of what I'd want. Most small businesses have the same email problem that I always feel like I do. Too many requests come in via email and it's hard to track, discuss, resolve, and (at a later date) reference all that info.

This is what I wanted on MS365:

- Forward an email to a special address. Ex: ryan29@todo.example.com (the TODO address for ryan29@example.com).

- Use Power Automate to create a Teams channel for the email.

- Use Power Automate to post some cards to the channel; one to (optionally) create a Planner Task, one to resolve the topic.

- Notify @ryan29 about the new topic.

- I deal with the topic. If it's long lived or complex, I create a Task. If I need input, I @mention others that can help. If it's simple 5-15 minute thing, I do the work and click the link to resolve the topic.

- When the topic is closed (by link or by closing the related task), the Teams channel is archived and the original email thread gets a reply saying it's done with a link to the Teams channel.

That way all conversation about the task is consolidated into Teams, long lived tasks are tracked via Planner, email stays relatively clean from internal communication, and I don't waste a bunch of time dealing with some 3rd party's idea of optimal workflows or value adds.

The issues I had were that Teams, Planner, etc. have limits on the number of channels / tasks and Power Automate / Teams lacked some functionality that would make it really streamlined.

However, I was close enough after a few hours of playing around that I can't believe something like "adding Slack chat to email threads" is a $1 billion problem.

I provide oversight and technical reviews for a 10 person team. I also have a boss above me who needs information from me. E-mail was getting incredibly inefficient for me when everyone starting working from home earlier this year. I lost oversight and missed tasks. I was getting 25-50 emails a day that required some type of response or action from me.

I switched my team over Teams and asked them to create a card in the planner tasks if they needed something from me - instead of emailing me. That was much easier for me to keep track of everything. E-mail is good for communicating a thought, I don't find it good for tracking tasks - particularly tasks that have a deadline.

I'm an old guy now but this just sounds like a standard ticket system. What's the big deal?

Maybe ticketing systems have gotten better, but I've never used one where I didn't feel like I was "spending time" dealing with the ticket system. As of right now, I end up with discussions spread across email, SMS, phone, and an issue tracking system (Redmine).

I think the main reason that happens is that I get delegated work and it often starts via email; "Please deal with this.", "Can we do this?", etc.. Based on my experience, that type of delegation is common for owner operated small businesses. Most of those small business owners don't want to create a ticket, assign it, set a due date, and track it when they're used to something as efficient as forwarding an email and expecting the recipient to understand the implied "do this" that comes along with it.

Plus, a forwarded email saying "Can we do this?" doesn't make sense as a ticket when sometimes the answer is going to be a 15 second "No." Other times it might be "Yes, but..." after 30 minutes of research and additional conversation. That warrants some type of tracking or ticket because you're going to need that info if it turns into a billable job.

So as the delegate, I want to be able to decide an existing thread of communication warrants conversion to a trackable conversation or issue. In addition to that, I want to be able to take future out-of-band communication and move it in-band by associating it with an existing conversation, ticket, topic, or whatever you want to call it. For example, if a customer emails someone with extra info or questions, it would be useful to forward the whole thread into an existing Teams Channel.

I mostly deal with small businesses and very often it's the owner interacting with a customer and delegating to employees via whatever means is appropriate. It usually doesn't make sense for the business owner to manage a ticket tracking system because that's extra work they don't want to / can't waste time on. It makes way more sense for the delegate to manage tasks / communication instead of the delegator IMO.

I've looked at Trello, Asana, Basecamp, etc. and I'm always left with the feeling "now you're going to have 2 jobs." They're designed for 100% buy-in, someone has to be the person that manages that stuff, and any out-of-band communication is a pain to bring in-band so you spend your time copying conversations into the system.

> As of right now, I end up with discussions spread across email, SMS, phone, and an issue tracking system (Redmine).

That's likely going to stay that way, because there are people on both ends, not machines. They'll write an FB messenger note about "coming with us to lunch?, oh, btw, we found an interesting bug in xyz, you really need to frobnicate the belzebubs"; And then they'll send you an SMS while driving (because their in-car system is older), "oh, and the original fix doesn't fix the bug".

This is a people problem, not a technical problem. It takes discipline, but at an old job I simply refused to respond to anything that wasn't filed in Jitterbug (ultra-low-ceremony issue tracking from the Samba project). And as a result, all was tracked properly.

Now that people have phones that take pictures and whatsapp, they take screenshots and send them to me, and I have no better workflow to offer, so I do accept those issues as well.

I suspect no piece of infrastructure will be the ultimate thing. What you described above will likely make a difference only if it can only receive SMS, WhatsApp, FB Messenger, and somehow do it without requiring your users to call/message/email a different address.

The least capable ticketing system you can get away with is the best ticketing system.

We're just repeating the all the mistakes of prior CRM and ERP horror stories. Those were cautionary tales, not guidebooks.

Eww, Power Automate or Flow to me is the worst of office modern software. I don't want to click together workflows on a slow website. I don't think any problem will ever be solved by this.

Is there a secret to this? Does an app exist, are there logs in cases of errors? What am I missing about this?

Creating sensible workflows is actually work and there is no import/export to other tenants as far as I know. I recommend it to people that want to have a negative experience with "the cloud".

Didn't take a look, but what theoretically could be nice is somehow lacking. Maybe it got better, wasn't interested for some time now.

It can be nice for very simple things and I would love to have a good workflow engine.

> That way all conversation about the task is consolidated into Teams

You can get any ticket system from around 2005 and it will be much, much better. At least you can actually access the data. Haven't looked into the Teams API, but I somehow don't want to honestly.

It reminds me of Frontpage...

There is a very very narrow area where the ability to create ephemeral chats around email threads is useful: agencies and consultancies. The ability to discuss a client email, workshop a response, and delegate response authority to someone else is a huge game changer for the client services industry. Buuuuuut, there aren't enough agencies out there to justify a $1.3B price tag.

Are you sure about that? With a global audience?

> Forward an email to a special address. Ex: ryan29@todo.example.com (the TODO address for ryan29@example.com).

This should be possible with ryan29+todo@example.com though .. in conjunction with filtering. I use this for bookmarking and some basic categorisation.

Yes, there are many ways email could be used to assign tasks. The way I said, the way you said, by dragging it into a folder. It doesn't really matter how it works in detail as long as the general concept is there; people want to assign work to me via email and they don't want anything more difficult / time consuming than forwarding an email.

Call me old-school, but I still don't buy into these "revenue multiple" nonsense. Traditional valuation metrics like PER, EV/EBITDA, DCF etc. all tie back in one way or another to the cashflow-generating potential of a company.

Revenue multiples have, at best, only tenuous relationship to cashflow. If you sell $10 notes for $1, in theory you can have infinite revenue.

I wish investors would just stop pretending tech valuation these days have anything to do with financials, which is actually fine.

Maybe it is time we shift what we think the equity market is about. Nowadays its less a place to go looking for returns and more one-giant-PATREON where you buy a stake just because you are a fan.

I've done a DCF of a tech SaaS S-1 to test at the advice of a friend who is a PM in tech at a hedge fund.

It still seems like magic, and even more so then, but it penciled. Sponsor got in with the last pre-IPO round (think like a Wellington/Fidelity who essentially buys their IPO allocation by entering slightly early) at $3.5B, IPO was $4.5B, and Friday night post dinner w/ redbull DCF spit out ~~$5.0B to $6.5B. After a few months it trended up to that Enterprise Value. The mind is simply not good at understanding compounding at 70% (or whatever) free cash flow conversion. Not having COGS or working capital or CAPEX is magical.

That being said it’s insanely hard to move from a “things might be worth 10x EBITDA” to “things might be worth 10x revenue”. It’s like using different parts of the brain (left vs right) or quantum physics versus more traditional physics: there’s some magical stuff that’s probably rules based with underlying structure underneath that just doesn’t make sense.

Just one anecdotal example.

How do you explain Tesla’s 1200 PE ratio despite its COGS, working capital and CAPEX?

Easy. The market is frequently irrational. Unfortunately the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent so...

It wasn’t Tesla. Sorry, don’t trade. Enterprise B2B SaaS. :)

>> Revenue multiples have, at best, only tenuous relationship to cashflow. If you sell $10 notes for $1, in theory you can have infinite revenue.

Sure, but revenue multiples are specific to a business or product type. A consulting company's revenue multiple might be 2x or 3x. A cloud-based SaaS with no hands-on setup might be 10x. A HelloFresh/BlueApron business might be, say, 7x. For some types of businesses, I wouldn't even pay 1x. If an investor is applying the wrong multiple to a business, they wont be around for long.

A 7x revenue multiple < 15x ebitda multiple with 50+% free cash flows. That’s that most old school investors can’t seem to understand. Weird. Basic math.

old school investing approaches would’ve lost you a lot of money in the 2020 market.

Old school would have never dreamed that the Fed would pump the market to prop up securities.

Off-topic: Does Apple allow you to self host & use on your website their San Francisco font?

It appears this site is using San Francisco.


I read their licence agreement recently, and you can only use San Francisco for mockups/screenshots demonstrating app/iOS functionality.

Nope, but I definitely have!

thanks for the heads up, we will get this fixed

3% CMGR is 42.6% a year, which is slower than Asanas trailing 12 months of growth (48.74%) and only a bit faster than Smartsheet (36.88%), which are trading at 15.9 and 13.7 projected 2021 revenue respectively. At $38m in ARR that means that at 1.3bn you'd be paying 24x 2021 revenue, which seems a bit expensive compared to Asana (obviously a different product, but similar buyers, market, cost structure, and monetization)

Disclaimer: I work on Emailio (https://emailio.com), a YC company that is a direct competitor to Front. We help you build healthy email habits.

Slack is detrimental to team communication in several ways, and bringing it to email is a mistake imho. Slack combines the stress and urgency of text messaging with the importance of email. Your Slack becomes a Facebook or Twitter feed - another infinite feed that addicts you to some level. Since it's a chat, the conversations are shallow and disorganized. For example, search never worked properly in Slack for me. Furthermore, synchronous communication has proven poor for wellness and work-life balance.

I know Slack just got acquired and its the hot new thing but email is great as it is - its our ways of using it that need to change.

I haven't looked too deeply into emailio or front, but the solution to me looks a lot more like a mix of reddit and discourse (community/forum) than anything else. I'd love to see something that looks and feels like a forum than IM/chat. Systems like Slack are great for quick collaboration, but not ideal for persisting and disseminating information across diverse/large teams and organizations. I want to go to my messaging platform and see the topics that have been started and the discussions within them. This reduces all of the banter and chatter that endlessly goes one each day that just adds to the noise. I can go on and on, but maybe someday I'll get to see what I'm envisioning come to life.

The best workplace communication tool I used was effectively just a Usenet newsreader. Ie, topic-based threaded shared email. With a good client that shows eg the number of new messages on a thread, or only unreads etc, ie standard email stuff, nothing else comes close IMO to that for efficiency and clarity.

I'd add in IM for quick 1-to-1 chats but that's all.

Usenet doesn't actually have threading. It's just a hueristic hack generated by clients.

That sounds really cool. As a kid I built my own PHP forum system and have great memories from early internet forums. Bringing that to workspace is a really interesting idea. One of my fundamental problems with Slack and any new method of communication is, if you already use email daily do you really want another feed that you have to check? So, combining the workspace forum as a Subreddit or a Discord server, services which people perhaps already use, is a perfect solution! We may try this for Emailio's employees down the line by making a private subreddit. Thanks for the idea!

I Ctrl-F'ed for Twist, made by the team at Todoist, but couldn't find it.

It has a way to go, but I found it the right mix of persistent, long-form discussion and decision making using Threads, and sync communication using Messages. It's the best of both worlds, if you can educate a team to use it properly.

I really wish we could self host Twist. I’d happily pay up for their license.

We have been using http://twist.com for several months and it sounds very close to what you described. You create a thread with a title and a message and replies are threaded.

Is Zulip Chat close to what you have in mind?

I just looked it up briefly and I like the idea of topics, but I think there could be too many and it could become messy quickly. Certainly on the right track though.

It doesn't capture the original questions, but good organizations use a self-hosted internal wiki for this.

FYI - your home page doesn't load properly for users with (e.g. nextdns.io) tracker blocking.

On your point, slack has brought fluidity and lightheartedness to our internal comms. IMHO less demanding than "chat apps" and way better than email chains for internal comms.

Looks totally broken for me. No styles at all and everything is misaligned.

I have NextDNS disabled and still doesn't load properly

> Furthermore, asynchronous communication has proven poor for wellness and worklife balance.

I think you meant "synchronous" here ;)

Can you elaborate? Slack's async feed used to ping me every 5 min and distract me from coding. I also found myself having OCD about going through each and every message that was sent to all channels - very low ROI obsession. I like the slightly higher barrier of having to send emails and refresh your email inbox :)

EDIT - thanks to everyone correcting me on the sync vs async! I fixed it in the original comment.

Synchronous communication typically means something that demands your attention as soon as something is sent. Asynchronous communication is something that typically handled whenever you're ready for it. To put it in programming terms, synchronous communication "blocks" until you deal with it, where as asynchronous doesn't require you to deal with it until you're ready to.



This, and ten times.

In my part of the world people will cringe and frown if they heard I am not using WhatsApp. I can understand them, I'd probably do the same thing if I heard someone does not use email. Personally I have trouble and probably mild OCD just to check every emails in my few email accounts, imagine going through all the Whatsapp groups messages. I'd rather voluntarily go to hard labour rather than reading the WhatsApp group messages.

What we need is an email++ with asynchronous nature of email and the convenient but not the intensity of WhatsApp, if that makes sense. Google Wave probably come close but it came earlier than expected and gone as soon as it arrived. Perhaps someone can utilize CRDT/Automerge to make it even better than Wave by going local-first.

I’m confused as well. FWIW, I always disable notifications, have a filter on my email for “you missed this message” emails to go to a separate inbox, only use slack/matter most in the browser, and only open it a few times a day.

I have trained my colleagues and boss to never expect a response right away. We’re also forced to use Skype at work which is a plague because people are lazy and will call about anything and everything without thinking it through. So same thing there, I’ve disabled all sounds, filter notification emails away, set my self to busy all the time, and never answer calls when they come in except it it was agreed upon beforehand (so, like a meeting)

I try and force these incurable skypers to send an email instead: it forces them to really think their stuff through, organize it in a more structured way, and takes me two minutes to answer instead of having a 15 min call that is all over the place.

And I don’t get interrupted while trying to visualize complex things in my head.

> I try and force these incurable skypers to send an email instead: it forces them to really think their stuff through, organize it in a more structured way, and takes me two minutes to answer instead of having a 15 min call that is all over the place.

This is a great way to handle people who jump straight to "let's just do a call, it'll be easier [for me]"

For people who are like this, I will often just say I'm not available for a call for a few hours, and ask them to send me a written message in Slack instead. Most of the time, I am able to just help them async on Slack instead of spending 30min-1hr (x2 since we're both in it) in a call.

In my mental scheme slack is mostly synchronous (people expect a reply, there's a @here thingy to ping everyone, etc) whereas e-mail is asynchronous (people don't expect an immediate reply).

You said "asynchronous communication is detrimental to your health". Since asynchronous=email, I read "email is detrimental to your health". I thought you meant the contrary (slack is detrimental to your health -> synchronous communication is detrimental to your health) so I though it was a mistake.

Wasn't it?

Maybe Teams doesn't work as well for other people as it does for us, but the problem seems to not exist for us on Teams. There's a few things that (accidentally or on purpose) make it work:

Threads/Conversations are the only way to talk in normal team channels. This means that messages are automatically grouped on topic and you can ignore the ones you don't care about. I have never worked with a Slack team that used threads effectively and so you regularly end up reading a load of stuff you don't care about to find the stuff you do care about.

Separation between a Team channel and a chat channel. Chat channels are more like normal Slack conversations - they end up being fairly synchronous. The Team channel is where the more asynchronous stuff goes. We have a strong project convention (almost a rule) to use use a Team channel if more than 2 people are involved. It helps visibility and means that conversations default to async. But if I write a direct message to someone then it's because I want to interrupt and get an answer and so they get pinged.

This means I get pinged a few times a day about things I need (as SW Lead) to deal with, and the rest of the time I can just catch up on threads when I'm waiting for a compilation.

Companies are still launching with iOS/Mac only? Very Silicon Valley of you. Ignoring Windows and Android is just silly these days.

I don't really like Silicon Valley's mentality either, but no need for judgment. I totally feel you, and for us as a very small company we had the choice of either a) building a great native iOS/Mac app or b) Electron that runs everywhere but is ultimately a poor experience. We want to build a sustainable business not fueled by VC money, so our bandwidth is very limited. We decided to go the native route and work with the platforms we are experts on. There's some great Windows/Android clients though!

Fair enough, it's great to have polished apps. But I was going to "request access" until I saw that your service won't be supporting any of the devices I use, so there's one potential customer down the drain. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.

For context, my company (https://prestodoctor.com) has spent tens of thousands of dollars on Front licenses, so I'm not just some random nay-sayer :-)

I am very sorry about that. I will make sure the website clearly states that it's only for Apple devices for now!

I mean I also question the assumption that electron will lead to a poor experience. I'm sure you know the examples everyone cites.

I can't imagine working in a company without any chat tool at all. For me it doesn't matter if it's Slack, Teams, IRC or even Skype but we need something.

Agreed. I see a lot of communication moving into dropbox paper documents, instead of better communication tooling.

Slackifying e-mail sounds like a nightmare to me. Email is about perfect for what it was designed. I check it when I want to check it, few Times a day. We (as humanity) really give up more and more of our most precious resources: attention and deep focus.

To say “slackifying” is offensive to Front.

I HATE Slack. For me, it turns into a gross “pinging you” and overall is insanely annoying to be in channels and check back on information. Or, finding files or using search is Hell. Not to mention their insanely painful login experience. I am looking forward to its death at CRM.

Front is the real deal. Hands down the greatest productivity software I’ve used in YEARS. If you haven’t used it check it out. If you collaborate with a small team it will change your life.

It’s nothing like Slack...

Edit: To clarify some more. Slack and Front are for different mindsets.

Front is best when you are a project/assignment driven person. Slack is best when you are just a drone on a project/channel (if that makes sense...).

Slack also is great when the conversation is heavily one sided. Boss bugging employee. Or, someone who doesn’t know what they are doing has lots of questions for someone who knows what they are doing during a task. Which is fine and has a use.

Thinking about it, CRM should have bought Front instead. Their CRM/people integration is getting incredibly good especially as a support desk suite beyond “email”. The Slack sale is one of the greatest heist I’ve ever seen.

Looking forward to Front eating Outlook and Team’s lunch next

> Slack is best when you are just a drone on a project/channel (if that makes sense...).

> Slack also is great when the conversation is heavily one sided.

Honestly, that seems extremely unfair to me. It feels like you're using it wrong. In my experience, Slack is for conversations. The groups I'm in use it for tossing out random thoughts/questions... and people participate as they choose.

If you're using in a way where people are constantly pinging you demanding your attention, then you should change that. That's no different than being in a large office and everyone else feeling free to just walk over to you and tap you on the shoulder every time they want something. If _that_ was happening, it would be something you should fix, too.

Eh, I still disagree.

Chat is definitely needed and important but nothing ever gets lost really by “tossing out random questions” in Front.

I would rethink twice how you are communicating in the work place. I find that messy and then forces people to juggle back “oh, yeah what did you Slack me about this the other day”. The most annoying people on Slack don’t realize they are annoying.

Either way to each it’s own. Check out Front and stay open minded to how you communicate in work place

Came into this thread with a very negative mindset - but am persuaded by your comment, will check it out

Slack is gussied up IRC and a productivity drain. Front is awesome and transformed my business.

I don't get this. I looked at the Front landing page and it mentions communications with customers. Not a tool I have a use for.

I'm not a big fan of Slack, but it is the best of the chat apps, and I do see a need for team chat for collaboration.

The real reason email has problems is that it intermingles messages from real human beings and ones from computers, in a way that Facebook messenger and Twitter to a lesser extent do not.

It’s a little puzzling to me why Gmail does not simply separate machine generated from human originated email.

This is what their Promotions tab intends to do.

I've had fewer and fewer emails end up in Promotions. Apparently the initial settings were far too effective, so they had to be turned down in order for promotional emails to actually see eyeballs.

I mean you still use Front as email... except you can invite users to threads and assign them to other people and it makes doing anything with a team so much more manageable instead of forwarding things around and being unsure if they have already been handled.

Isn’t that just forwarding and cc’ing? I’ll often have long threads where multiple chains will be going within it with different parties brought in.

Not to sound like the Dropbox comment from back in the day, but cc’ing and forwarding are just the basics when it comes to email.

Jeff Bezos probably loves Front for this reason (anyone who has ever received an infamous "?" cc: email from Bezos will understand what I mean by this comment).

Yes but it works way better than forwarding and cc’ing. It’s like how they should have been.

Deep focus is very precious and really requires immersing oneself in the topic - oftentimes far away from a screen or blinky lights. Rich Hickey has a great quote about hammocks: when you're in one, nobody can tell you're not sleeping.

I've had this conversation multiple times with my colleagues. One of them always argue that WhateverIsTheNewThingThatsGoingToReplaceEmail will replace email, this time for real; I argue that 10 years from now, email will still be a thing, and all these services will likely be not.

It's been at least 4-5 years of the first time we had it. I never update the "10" part.

I was using email in the 1980s and still am (still plain text even) so I'd say you are right!

Shameless plug: If anyone is interested in an email client that helps you build healthy email habits, I work on Emailio (https://emailio.com), a YC company that helps you do just that. HN users who sign up can email me martin@emailio.com for free lifetime beta access.

Exactly this.

I said this before, but I hate the direction the workspace is going. Interruption driven work seems to become the new normal.

I am surprised there is no mention of Google Wave, the promising technology that did all of this, but died due to an unfortunate release/invite process.

I logged in to Wave using my hard-earned early-invite in excitement only to realize I couldn't communicate with non-wave gmail users :(

Sigh while email is not perfect it’s at least not centralized. Also unless they are posting rfcs to the IETF for an open protocol its just a proprietary trap/lockin.

This is about https://frontapp.com which I've never heard about before today.

Same here. I just heard about them yesterday, while browsing for interesting new startups in the "Who is Hiring" thread.

(Link for the curious: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25266584).

Thank you, I was going to ask the same question, what is Front? :)

This app is nothing unique or new, here's another in the same space:


BTW - the Change Log page for Missive is really neat. Features and bugfixes going all the way back to May 2016!


first time I hear of both Front and Missive. After browsing Front I felt like I was drowning in marketing, whereas missive just felt so clear and upfront in comparison. Also really liked their pixel blocking and refusal to use any![0] not very common in the industry.

We’re currently on Helpscout and quite happy. But have to admit I felt very tempted to switch to missive after visiting their page. And I didn’t even look for an alternative nor have any major issues with helpscout to begin with.

Anyone with firsthand experience of any of those tools that can compare?

[0] https://missiveapp.com/features/auto-block-read-trackers

Fyi - this blog post is a misssell and that's why the comments are so inflammatory.

Front is a competitor to Salesforce. And much nicer/simpler. It does that by creating a shared inbox. And it creates an entire workflow around that. Even though it's a shared inbox...who gets what.

It basically makes your support@ address better. I'm super unsure on why it's even being called as "slackifying email", because that's not what it does. I'm not sure what "ephemeral conversation" means...but Front treats a support email as a ticket. So your internal teams can comment on an email and discuss what action to take,etc.

Can people still passive-aggressively cc my boss on emails to me when they want me to drop everything to work on their special issue?

> Dear [sender], thanks for bringing this to my attention. Booleandilemma is actually busy on other work at the moment, and needs to be able to focus on that. Please send these requests to me, rather than to booleandilemma, and I will get take care of prioritising them. If we need to discuss this further I'd be happy to jump on a call with you.

> Thanks, and have a nice day

> Booleandilemma's boss

I guess we can dream :)

(But seriously, as a manager, this is what I'd likely try to do. I'd check with you first, to see how you felt about the situation, of course. Being CC'd is an invitation to get involved on behalf of my team)

Please tell me you're hiring! :)

But seriously, I find including someone's boss on the first email to them (I'd imagine to just prioritize the sender's task and make the recipient look bad if they don't follow through) is highly passive-aggressive. In general, my boss is concerned in what I accomplish for/with my team, and it sure would be nice to do whatever thing you're foisting upon me, but I'd just like to tell them to add it to the ever-elongating queue of other teams' requests. I've got my own job to do!

I'd also like to add that internships are all about learning the corporate world, right?

Well, way back when, as someone who likes to do a good job, but quickly (Personally, I just don't like a backlog of work,) as a bright-eyed intern, I learned very quickly not to ever 'be nice' to anyone not on your team.

It was 'just another internship-learning-experience,' but it sure opened my eyes to the two Iron Laws of corporations:

(1) If it breaks, and you touched it last, it's entirely your fault.

(2) [This was an extremely hard lesson to learn as a 'naturally helpful' kind of person:] If you help someone with something, it's your responsibility. Forever.

Needless to say, I learned quickly. I learned that corporations are more or less perversions of regular society where everyone tries to punt work off to whoever else seems most suitable or exploitable.

You can get back at them by cc'ing their boss when you respond. ;)

FWIW, I'll often cc my own boss when reaching out to someone in a different team, as I figure he can help with any coordination required. Hopefully that doesn't come off as passive aggressive but I guess it really depends.

Use bcc to avoid that problem.

I feel talking about DAUs is a little deceptive for enterprise software given that 'users' are essentially forced to not only use their employer's software stack, but use it daily

Companies have bought a lot of seats for software that employees didn’t actually adopt. Those customers are more likely to churn. Reporting DAU helps account for that possibility.

Missive is 1/3 the price of Front and offers the exact same product. Cancelled front yesterday.

We don't have to be so dismissive of ideas that clearly doesn't target our use cases. I can see why is this useful for a shared inbox such as customer support emails.

I LOVE Front. 'slackifying' is such a bad reduction. Cross-channel communication, multi-seat enterprise support, CRM and automation would be better buzzwords.

My experience:

I spent a good amount of time thinking of ideas and building a plugin for our clients/use case. I think the concept would be killer if we can execute and get our clients to scale.

THENNNNN FB changed their rules and now I can't use Front to message outside of 24 hours.

I wouldn't bet/invest FB won't block all access to Messenger api once tools like Front are just gaining traction and or they have time to copy the best features into their own messenger tool.

My experience with the Front plugin api is kind of not great and missing basic features that were in version 1 but not in 2, and 1 is not supported anymore. And I think the RxJS doesn't help and like if you have to 'hack' a settimeout anyways to get and cache the state then what's the point...

Isn't Slackifying email just Slack?

I really do not get the fundamental pitch from slack that they will replace email. They replaced IRC. It's nothing like email and I still use both.

The times I've seen a Slack transition, email usage fell by 80% or more. With my current employer, Slack is used for almost everything in team. Email has become more about conversations with external people. Except the ones that we interact with enough that they're now in our Slack.

At this point most my emails are automated responses from companies. Slack on the other hand is people, that suggests that people want conversations that are more nuanced that just back and forth. Email certainly has its place, but it's not right for groups of people talking to each other.

Work e-mails for me have always had a high noise to signal ratio. Daily reports that I can't opt out of, alerts, team e-mails. I only check my e-mail once a day now.

I don't like the randomization of that chat can bring, but being able to join and leave channels is much preferable to e-mail.

More annoying and adrenaline-driven than email, but also more plugin-friendly

Slack integratons are not full-featured but they're more flexible than what you can embed in an email, even with gmail's markup actions. There's no other 'inbox for interactive widgets'.

Folks who were around during the first dot-com boom might remember Zaplets, which tried to do this 20 years ago. https://www.forbes.com/forbes/2000/0612/6514218a.html

"Combine the Web, instant messaging and e-mail, and you get Zaplets...You also get a fistful of nifty features--from live chats and instant polls to real-time snapshots of your stock portfolio"

It was created by a company called FireDrop that raised $100 million and then suddenly flamed out. Bad timing, maybe, since this was around the time of the crash. I can't remember anyone I know ever receiving a Zaplet but they sure generated a lot of buzz.

I can imagine that there is something better than email for many people, but the problem is that people have optimized their lives and companies have optimized their processes around the fact that email is a key mode of communication.

So even if you knew what would be better for people than email in the long-run, it's not clear that it would be better for them in the short-run. And even if it is actually better for people in the short-run, you still have to convince them of this in order for them to try your new thing.

So to disrupt email you not only have to 'skate to where the puck is going', you also have to convince a bunch of other people to skate away from where the puck is now.

I wish people would treat including you on an email like @-mentioning them slack. It may be async, but it’s just as awful for signal to noise ratio.

I’m just about ready to give up on my inbox as a lost cause, and that’s my work inbox.

Yeah. Email makes me sad.

I've brought a tiny bit of sanity to my Outlook inbox [0] by using many, many rules. The goal is to move an email out of my Inbox and to a folder of my choosing on receipt. I hit about 80%. (And every week or so I update the rules to try to capture more of the 20%. But the goalposts constantly move.)

I then use a search folder to show "all unread messages", group the view by "in folder", and treat that as my inbox. (It still shows messages in the actual Inbox.)

I find this very useful in removing some of the cognitive load of email.


- 10 emails arrive in Inbox.

- Email 1 is about project x. You figure that out, switch mental context to project x, action it perhaps, move on.

- Email 2 is about project y. You figure that out, switch mental context to project y, file it, move on.

- etc.


- All (most) of the email regarding project x is filtered to the project x folder.

- When I choose to, I go there and do things.

- I never have to cognitively switch out of 'project x mode' until I choose to.

Setting up and maintaining the rules is a pain in the ass, and Outlook fights you at every turn. But for me it's 100% worth the effort.

[0]: Corporate environment, so it's not like I can use any of these funky cloud services. It's what I got.

This got me to download and try out outlook. Any tips for a noob trying to make my email more sane?

yeah signal-to-noise is key with these tools

The folks who do Fastmail built Topicbox (https://topicbox.com) a few years ago and I don't yet see how Front differs from that product. Basically, it brings the concept of conversation channels to inbox, while providing a permanent record of the chats that your newer employees can read to catch up on what happened before they arrived, or for compliance. I think their implementation is pretty slick.

I know this is beating a dead horse, but this whole messaging/email and social media business just seems like such a useless zero-sum game to me. I get that these companies become valuable, but I don't think they're adding much value to the world. Definitely not in proportion to their valuation. In video conferencing, there are at least some hard issues being solved to make that work, and it's improving over time.

"We value Front at $1.3B"

[closes tab]

I mean, seriously.

All these companies trying to innovate on email by making user interface tweaks should really re-adjust their priorities.

Email at its core is a protocol. That's great. But we haven't achieved widespread encryption within the network (e.g. gmail reads everyone's emails).

That's the user experience problem that needs solving. Everything else is just adding complexity to something that works well anyways.

> All these companies trying to innovate on email by making user interface tweaks should really re-adjust their priorities.

My thoughts exactly. Some of us remember Google's attempt ~10 years ago with Google Wave(I think that's what they called it) which had the exact same concept. Needless to say it failed miserably. Good idea in principle but it tried to solve a problem people didn't have. And even with the WFH shift due to the pandemic, I'd still argue that it's a problem few people have.

Also what I don't get is why companies are entering this uphill battle anyways. It's like trying to inovate on chairs, just because someone fell down once. But you can't fundamentally change the nature of chairs anymore. We've all agreed that they're useful. Doesn't mean that you can't invent a new type of chair!

Email as a tool is mature and well working. Nobody denies that there could be more useful tooks when colaborating online than email. But upgrading and hence replacing or taking away email makes no sense.

Why not develop something on the side if you're not interested in investing in protocol development.

I am a Front user, and I am happily paying for the features on top of the email protocol delivered by Front. I am on the other hand not willing to spend money on better encryption. So while this might seem like the important problem to solve, I am pretty confident the market is telling a different story.

I think you're right that the market will tell another story.

It's because as a person that makes decisions like a VC or CEO, it's easy to say yes to an integration with a company like Slack or Front, as the upcoming productivity increase of 1% may be directly atteibuted to it.

However, it's a shortsighted and unsustainable way of making business as Slack gets replaced by Front and Feont gets replaced by some post-front company.

If, in theory, they all focused on solving a human-rights issue like digital privacy, so many more people in markets could be permantently helped with.

> Front: The $1.3B Startup Slackifying Email

How does it help me if they have 1.3 Bn? Or are valued at 1.3 Bn?

Generally speaking, why would I care how much they're valued at? Shouldn't I care if they solve a problem for me?

Unless what they want is my investment money, not me as a customer. In which case I worry they don't solve any problems I have...

Some years ago Slack advertised itself as a tool to replace e-mail too..

Please leave email alone, it didn't hurt anyone.

Nice try, but this "$1.3B Startup" is nothing more than a glorified UI on top of email. I wonder how they will justify their valuation in this crowded market.

And this article at this timing (on the same day Slack was acquired) is clearly a marketing article for this company.

They should have just owned it and said "come use our service instead of slack, now that slack is acquired", instead of throwing around the cringe worthy hype words like "slackifying email"

I don't think I totally understand why Front paid Sacra to make this? Are they going public and are worried or....?

Salesforce bought Slack today. For a lot of money. So today is the day everyone talks to their investors about how much like Slack their product is.

So that explains the "Slackifying" monicker.

Wasn't Google Wave also "Slackifying" e-mail around a decade ago?

@dang it's clear many people are responding negatively to "slackifying email". it's clearly designed to ride the slack acquisition clickbait wave and detracts from the conversation. suggest "transforming team email" instead.

What is CMGR6? "growing 5% CMGR6 for a 35x multiple. "

Think we are reading the same article... CMGR - Compound Monthly Growth Rate. I can’t find anything on the 6 however. My interpretation was that is was projected from a 6 month time frame - but that’s just my guess!

>$49/$79 per user billed annually.

Seriously who pays for such a rudimentary product all that money. The pricing doesn't make any sense.

Customer support teams would, easily, to manage shared inboxes. Competition includes Salesforce Desk ($75/mo), HelpScout ($35/mo), Zendesk ($89), and so on.

And if Front's shooting for the broader business email market, well, you have Superhuman ($30/mo) at least closer to that price range.

Lets say you have an engineering employee with a base salary of 150k. His total cost to the company when you factor supporting roles is perhaps 300k. Assume this person needs to generate 2x that in value for the company, so lets say 600k a year. So that's 0.01% of the job he needs to do. If the tool is even somewhat useful that seems like a very fair price.

I am not sure how an engineering employee with a base salary of 150k would eventually cost 300k and why a customer should pay for that engineer to make 2x his pay for the investors gluing a couple of 3rd party APIs and making a dashboard.

Comments like these are a great reminder of how disconnected HN comment section can be from reality. That pricing is nothing.

At that price, if it helps close 1 incremental sale a month per seat it pays for itself.

> Slackified email



I was one of the earliest customers of Front and there is still so much more they can do. For any team that uses email, Front has so many nice features that don’t work or are hard to get working with other email clients.

For a small support or sales team I highly recommend it and I’m looking forward to their growth and hopefully future innovation. Happy to answer more about how we used it and why I love it as a product.

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