Contur Launches “Virtual Assistant for Email” to Help Reach Inbox Zero

Los Angeles-based Contur launched its email management tool in private beta today, hoping to successfully take a stab at the email headache for professionals. The Windows desktop app takes a Getting Things Done approach to the issue by framing each email as a task and adding it to a project folder, while adding a tasks list and other tools to increase workflow management. The company is part of startup accelerator StartEngine‘s latest class, and will be presenting at its demo day tomorrow.

The company started out of the frustrations the co-founders had managing their own inboxes at work. “We started with wanting to tackle the amount of information that comes into our inbox to figure out how we could use technology to organize email contextually based on what tasks you’re working on,” cofounder Herry Lian commented in an interview.

Contur is designed for users who get over 100 emails per day and need a way to get through their inbox while also not getting distracted from projects and tasks. The app integrates with a user’s Gmail, and once integrated gives users access to a dashboard with their inbox, a to-do list, sidebar with attachments, and a smart inbox organizer. The organizer learns about a user’s preferences based on which emails have been read, which folder they’re put into, and what tasks they related to.

The goal is to eliminate the need for labeling, tagging, and sorting an inbox manually. “We target people who get over a 100 emails every day, and they do spend time organizing them and our research shows they spend 10-12 hours a week doing so. There simply isn’t a better way out,” Lian added.

Contur is free for now since the company wants to build up a base of early users, and then they plan to add a monthly subscription fee of between $5-10. The company’s primary goal is to have the product tested and working well before targeting enterprise and SMB clients.

The email overload and inbox disorganization problem is one that has been tackled by several companies, including email plugin Sanebox, which announced Salesforce integration yesterday and added integration with Dropbox earlier this year. Another competitor is Boomerang, which allows Gmail users to schedule when emails should be sent, when they would like to read a particular email and provides follow-up reminders based on a variety of different rules and settings.

But Contur’s app is used outside a user’s existing inbox, and Lian said where Contur hopes to stand apart is by being more than just a filter for important and unimportant emails, but go one step further. By being able to learn and organize based on certain keywords Lian said it can act as a task or project enhancer that will group incoming emails by what is most relevant to the user at that given time, ultimately trying to become a “virtual assistant for email.”

While it will only be available for Windows desktop at launch, the company plans to launch a Mac desktop app shortly. It also only integrates with Gmail, but Lian said they’re planning to add other providers. The company will also be looking to raise funding, with plans to launch mobile and tablet apps. With plans to expand to different platforms and email services, as well as adding integration with third-party services like Evernote, Dropbox and Box, Contur could become a viable alternative to a crowded inbox. But with several companies, plug-ins and apps trying to cure the email headache, it will need to set itself apart from the pack.



Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan is a Senior Writer and Analyst at BetaKit. A marketing graduate with honors, Humayun's work experience spans the fields of consumer behaviour with noted contributions in an academic paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and market research consulting having coordinated projects for a major financial services client at Decode Inc. More recently he was involved in business strategy as a Business Analyst for an equipment rental outlet and prior in the National Marketing Department at Ernst & Young LLP. He is passionate about emerging and disrupting technology and its ability to transform and create entirely new industries.

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