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At a time when communication is (in theory) easier than ever, the overwhelming number of ways to connect means checking them all out can be a full-time job.

Email, text, Facebook, other social networks, blogs, web apps, even something as ‘old-fashioned’ as a fax, all have to be found at different sites or places.

Managing this overload is a worldwide problem. The American economy alone loses over US$1 trillion a year because of information overload (see story here)

But, beavering away on Waiheke Island, with its team spread as far afield as San Francisco, London, Romania, India and Germany, is the company that is about to launch ‘Unified Inbox’, a service with the strapline, ‘simply communicate’. The company’s website, along with the option of trialling a beta version, is available here.

Its CEO, Toby Ruckert is a Kiwi-domiciled German, who has an extensive IT and mobile communications background, after studying music at the University of Stuttgart.

Ruckert, along with his Co-Founder Markus Lehnert, who experienced the overload problem first hand in the corporate and financing world while working as an investment banker and as the head of M&A at one of Europe's largest software companies, always wanted to have just one place for everything communication related. Such a site, accessible on the web, via tablet or mobile apps and assisting in managing all messages and conversations centrally in one unified inbox could be a true game changer in solving the massive overload problem which is predicted to reach a tipping point in 2012 (see article here.

The product is currently in a beta form, and available for free at its website, prior to official business-to-business and business-to-consumer launch early this year. In a bit of a play to its NZ-centricness, Unified Inbox offers extended long term trial periods for Kiwi start ups and entrepreneurs for free.

“We’ve spent a massive amount of time and money, but most especially energy on the project over the past three years,” says Ruckert. “We've taken our time, studied many user interfaces and user behaviour, such as how people interact with social media and digital communication in general and while we've seen many potential competitors come and go during this time, we could not find a similar service offering the same breadth or depth of product features.”

Ruckert says it is probable that Unified Inbox will have a snowball effect amongst its users. “Once you're used to having all your communication centrally in one place and see how convenient that is, you really don't want to go back.” he says, something that could hold the potential to make it go viral in the consumer space.

Contrary to popular belief that great startups are still mostly born in Silicon Valley, Ruckert believes that New Zealand entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity in creating leading solutions in the communication space.

“Being at the bottom of the world has in no way hindered, in fact has probably helped the development of Unified Inbox,” says Ruckert.

“We're a truly international team and because of the remoteness of New Zealand, we've been forced to reinvent our communication processes and collaboration techniques repeatedly. After having refined them so that their effects on productivity and efficiency has reached a high level of satisfaction for all in our own team, we take their essence and add them in the form of a feature in Unified Inbox. We’ve been able to fly under the radar of the bigger operators, and can’t wait to take it to the world.”

Ruckert also wrote a passionate blog post about his experiences and starting up in New Zealand as a young entrepreneur which can be found here:
The team at Unified Inbox is committed to providing a solution that retains personal control for every user, and is a single platform to operate on, while simultaneously allowing them to be on multiple platforms he says.

“The reason we can do this, and none of the big players can, is that we are independent information brokers,” Ruckert says. “Our loyalty is to our users, their privacy and their freedom and to empower them, simplify their lives and (if they so desire) to put them everywhere at the same time.”

Under the proposed business model, users will have a free account option that allows up to three platforms to be connected. If users require more platforms, then they’ll have the option of paying.

Ruckert is confident that the loss of productivity from individuals constantly having to check multiple platforms for new messages, means there are monetary and time saving benefits for users from the premium service. The fact that a number of early users have already signed up for a paid service means Unified Inbox is confident the go to market version will find a strong demand.

In other words, for a clearly recognised pain point, Unified Inbox is a potent pill. It has scalability and weightlessness – and is ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Kinda wish I’d been clever enough to think of it really!

Making a play for one place for everything

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