Three former Google employees have unveiled a new start-up named Fluent, which aims to change the way people use email, after becoming frustrated with Google’s US-centric mindset.
Fluent was founded by Cameron Adams, Dhanji Prasanna and Jochen Bekmann, all of whom used to work for Google in Sydney.
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Fluent is a web-based email client, which turns each user’s inbox into a Facebook-like stream that allows them to view conversation threads, attachments and mail from multiple accounts.
The service only works with users’ existing Gmail accounts, but there are plans to expand it to other webmail services at a later date. It is currently in a closed beta period.
According to Adams, email services are “not being pushed forward anymore”.
“We think that email has sort of stagnated and got into these set patterns of people using it,” he says.
Adams says Fluent users will be able to sort through their emails 20% faster than they do now.
“Rather than having to receive a message, look at the subject, click on it, read the conversation, and then decide what to do, we present you with the information you need,” he says.
Other features of Fluent include letting users quickly browse attachments in a slideshow format, the ability to search for emails as they type, and the ability to pinpoint emails on a timeline.
It also allows users access to multiple email accounts under one log-in.
“The market that we’re going for initially is sort of independent professionals and small businesses that tend to have personal accounts [and] maybe several work accounts,” Adams says.
“It’s quite important for them to be able to check their multiple accounts at the same time.”
Adams says he left Google towards the end of July last year because the company’s design culture was “still maturing and finding its feet”.
Previously, Adams had been working on the Google Wave project, which was cancelled in August 2010. He says he didn’t feel as if he was making much of a contribution to Google’s projects.
“They value engineers a lot more highly than designers and often you’re just there to make things look pretty… Particularly out in Sydney, I think it’s quite hard to have an effect,” he says.
“Sydney tends to sort of have a satellite office effect where you get smaller projects and there is less involvement in the whole lifecycle of product development.”
According to Adams, working in Sydney made it difficult to “stay in the minds of the people over in Mountain View”.
Adams says Prasanna and Behmann, both of whom also worked on Google Wave, encountered similar problems.
“When we did our work, we’d take it over to them and they’d be like, ‘Yeah that’s cool but we can’t do anything with it’,” he says.