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WeMail Turns Mobile Email Into Chat

WeMail, a new mobile app, orders email by sender. Its email conversations look like chat threads.


WeMail, a new mobile app that makes your inbox look like chat, is betting it will make the task of going through your inbox less hateful.

Instead of organizing messages by subject lines like typical email inboxes, WeMail rearranges them according to sender, like chat threads.

The idea is to tidy up and trim down the inbox. It’s a bet that you’ll find who you’re talking to is a better way to organize things than what you’re talking about.

WeMail is the latest email interface rethink for mobile, adding to a long list that includes Sparrow (which Google bought), Mailbox (Dropbox bought) and most recently Google Inbox, its own alternative to standard mobile Gmail. WeMail is available for Android today and supports most webmail providers; iOS is coming soon.

WeMail is made by a Seattle-based team of four led by Philip and Gerald Yuen. The two brothers were in the first-ever Y Combinator batch and sold the mobile payments startup they created during the program, TextPayMe, to Amazon. Then they created a social game monetization startup called CupidsPlay and sold that to Zynga.

Its $1 million in seed funding comes almost entirely from Y Combinator alums, including Twitch co-founders Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, Scribd and Parse co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, and Reddit and Hipmunk co-founder Steve Huffman.

Besides sender ordering, WeMail’s features include a quick way to record and send voice messages, inbox compression, smart search that highlights attachments, and sorting of social and promotional email. This treatment of email like messaging isn’t entirely novel; some other people who have tried it include Facebook and an app called Hop.

Sure, there’s lots of competition, but WeMail is all about simple tweaks, said Philip Yuen in an interview. “There’s nothing to learn, no swipes or snoozes,” he said. Yuen wants WeMail to be a mainstream tool rather than something aimed at business users or catering to devotees of “inbox zero.”

Huffman and Yuen were quick to bash Google’s new attempt at mobile email, Inbox, saying it was overdesigned and unintuitive. “It was just red, blue and green chaos on my screen to me,” Huffman said.

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