This MIT And Harvard Startup Is Making Writing Emails Easier And Effortless
Email is a necessary task for any role in Corporate America. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, roughly 28% of our time is spent “answering, writing, or responding to email.” A talent team filled with MIT and Harvard affiliates have built a nifty, Gmail-integrated tool that can help you draft your emails quicker.
Filip Twarowski, Lambert Chu, and Matthew Huggins came together to found EasyEmail, an email productivity tool powered by artificial intelligence. EasyEmail learns from your previous Gmail history to autocomplete sentences for you while your email is being drafted. When it comes to email, the biggest cost is time. There is a plethora of untapped value at stake within the email productivity space. McKinsey estimates that $900 billion to $1.3 trillion could be unlocked annually if these tools can make emails less time-consuming.
The immediate value of EasyEmail lies in its ability to save your time. For most of us, we answer nearly identical or similar questions from a sender. Seeing as you’ve already answered that same question in a past email from a different sender, it would be easier to have a response automatically suggested to you based on your previous email correspondence. As you type your email, EasyEmail digests the context of the email you’re responding to, and suggests potential phrases or sentences to quickly draft your email. This autocomplete feature, similar to a predictive text on a phone or code formatter in a development console, saves time in responding to repetitive questions over email. For the three co-founders, they know how critical it is to not lose precious time to email.
Twarowski, before becoming the CEO of EasyEmail, was a lead organizer of the MIT Fall Career Fair, MIT’s largest and fully student-run recruiting event for employers. He was receiving hundreds of emails daily from companies looking to fork over cash for a booth to woo MIT students to their companies. Most of the questions were the same — “How much does a booth cost? What are the different perks that come with each tier? Who do I make the check out to?”
He knew there had to be a better way to respond to these emails containing the same questions. Twarowski had a problem that needed a solution. He spoke with his close friend and now CTO, Chu about the issue and what they could do to solve it. Chu, also burnt out from responding to emails with repetitive questions, was eager to team up with Twarowski to create a permanent, effective solution. They also decided to bring on Huggins, their Chief Science Officer, after he was sold on their vision. The three had started working on a solution that was originally called Point.
Point was the precursor to EasyEmail. Point used a combination of humans and AI to draft emails for you quickly. Going through MIT’s Sandbox Program, Fuse, and The Martin Trust Center’s NYC Summer Startup Studio helped the team rapidly iterate and develop their product. One major issue they ran into in early iterations of Point was privacy. Having humans-in-the-loop meant someone was looking at what you wrote in your email. If your information was confidential or on a need-to-know-basis, then having other humans looking at it was a non-starter.
The team knew that this was a critical issue in their design path to a stable product. After much deliberation, they decided to remove the human element from the drafting process, and rely solely on artificial intelligence to draft emails going forward. Also, the team rebranded from Point to EasyEmail. Users responded to the removal of humans in drafting emails positively. The team currently has roughly seventy users and claims to gain ten to twenty people everyday. Yet, they face stiff competition.
The closest competitors would be Google Inbox’s Smart Reply and Wordzen. The former contender only suggests short responses to an email you’ve received. The latter rival has human editors standing by 24/7 to format and polish your email to your specifications. For users that care for privacy, Wordzen’s approach may deter them from using the service. For users that care about complete drafts, Inbox’s suggestion is only a start, which may not be enough for some. Still, since EasyEmail is just in the beginning stages of its development, their machine learning algorithm may produce suggestions and autocomplete features may not be close to what users need to quickly draft emails.
However, EasyEmail’s greatest potential could lie in its ability to scale. If the startup can effectively solve the problem of repetitive emails from one sender to one receiver, then it could be used in managing responses from receivers of emails from large mailing lists. These responses are likely to contain similar questions that could easily have automated replies via EasyEmail’s autocomplete capabilities. EasyEmail could become an integral tool in managing large-scale email marketing campaigns. There are always challenges to scaling a product, but the three co-founders are building a team to meet those problems head-on.
EasyEmail has grown its team to eight people, adding: Alex Iansiti, a Harvard freshman who is their front-end software engineer, Cristina Aggazzotti, who is a 5th-year Harvard PhD in Computational Linguistics, specializing in natural language processing, and Przemek Kuczynski, Krzysztof Cybulski, Piotrek Antosiuk, Poland-based back-end software developers.
Time has been and will always be a crucial factor when it comes to our communications. Their hope is to build EasyEmail into more than just a tool save time in writing emails, but to ultimately boost your productivity in the workplace.
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Originally published at www.forbes.com on February 28, 2018.