Four Gmail startups to watch in Boston


When Google debuted Gmail on April 1, 2004, the fact that it was April Fools’ Day wasn’t the only reason people thought it may have been a joke.

As Time reported on Tuesday, the 10-year anniversary of Gmail, the email service’s “alleged storage capacity of 1GB—500 times what Microsoft’s Hotmail offered—seemed downright implausible” at first.

“When Google issued a press release date-stamped April 1, an awful lot of people briefly took it to be a really good hoax,” wrote Time’s Harry McCracken, adding that he was among them.

Gmail, of course, would go from a seemingly impossible idea to a dominant service in the years that followed. And today, the platform is so large that entire companies are being built around it, including Boston’s Yesware, which has grown to a staff of 40 on its plugin for salespeople that use Gmail.

See below for the four Boston-area tech startups with products for enhancing the use of Gmail.

When Yesware launched in 2010, going after Gmail users instead of the larger user base for Microsoft Outlook “was a very difficult strategic decision,” said founder and chief executive Matthew Bellows.

Matthew Bellows

Matthew Bellows

But after a conversation with Jeremy Allaire — a serial entrepreneur whose company, Brightcove, had just adopted Google Apps — Bellows says he came to believe Gmail would see major adoption among businesses over time. Today, Google says 5 million businesses use its suite of apps, including Gmail.

Gmail was also much easier to develop for than Office, Bellows said. “There are very few companies that have been built starting with Outlook as an extension,” he said.

Yesware does plan to eventually tackle Outlook, however, as it looks to continue expanding. The company has raised $18.5 million in funding from investors including Google Ventures, Foundry Group, and IDG Ventures.

Yesware. The company’s Gmail plugin allows salespeople to track whether their emails have been opened and whether email links have been clicked, with the goal of improving sales performance. The software also integrates with customer relationship management system Salesforce, and companies including Yelp, Zendesk, and Groupon pay to provide Yesware to their sales teams.

Backupify. The Cambridge company provides cloud backup for companies using Google Apps including Gmail, and says it has backed up 11 billion Gmails to date.

DocTrackr. The Cambridge startup, which offers software for securing sent documents, in December launched a service that allows users to encrypt attached PDFs on Gmail and also destroy Gmail emails that have already been sent.

Signals. Not a startup per se, but rather a team within Cambridge marketing software firm HubSpot; Signals launched last August and allows salespeople to track whether Gmail messages — as well as emails on Outlook and Apple Mail — have been opened.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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