SA’s Sortd seeks funding to better organise your email

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South African startup Sortd is looking to raise at least US$800,000, but ideally US$1 million, as it looks to accelerate the development of its “communication-centric organisation platform” at a more competitive working pace.

What on earth is a “communication-centric organisation platform”? Disrupt Africa caught up with Sortd co-founder Wayne Silbermann to find out.

“The first of our products is a Gmail app that transforms the Gmail interface into organised lists, allowing you to manage your email and your to do list in a single visually-organised workspace,” he said.  

“It helps you spend less time living in your inbox – a place that’s typically filled with other people’s needs – and more time getting the things that are important to you done.”

Sortd was launched after the founders – long-time entrepreneurs juggling numerous business focuses – finally lost patience with struggling to stay on top of their emails while focusing on their businesses.

“We couldn’t find an effective way to manage our priorities without email being an additional burden, so we built an early version of Sortd quite quickly to create one,” Silbermann said.

“Generally speaking, I believe that most people want to be organised. Most people also gravitate to email like it’s a drug addiction – myself included. A lot of what we do on a day-to-day basis starts and ends with email but we also have an agenda and goals.”

The aim of Sortd is to make it easy for users to plan, prioritise and align their communication habits with their goals.

“Since it lives inside email where I’m spending time already, I never lose sight of what’s important and it gives me the flexibility I need to manage my email and tasks the way I think – all in one place,” said Silbermann.

“Prioritising something important is as simple as dragging it to the top of my to do list. Our product team aims to reduce the number of steps that a person needs to take to get from “email” to “done” at every possible opportunity, making daily planning and communication habits effortless.”  

Sortd also has features like “Snooze” and “Reminders” that allow users to defer things that are not yet relevant.

The app was made available to the public in October 2014, with Silbermann saying though there are thousands of apps in the productivity space, the problem is that they are not focused on email and instant messaging.

“Having developed a very useful to do list web app that we were using to solve our own problem, we quickly found that so much of the stuff on our to do list was email-related,” he said. “We also realised that if we developed email features in our app it would mean managing your email in two places – and email is daunting enough as it is.”  

The team eventually came up with the idea of inserting planning and prioritising tools directly into the mainstream communication tools that people use every day. Though companies like Glip, Fleep, Handle, Flow and Mail Pilot are addressing the same need in the market, Silbermann said Sortd has an edge as, rather than trying to create a way to integrate an organiser with email, it took a fresh look at the problem and created a product from the ground up that naturally understands both worlds.

The startup has thus far been self-funded, but the co-founders are looking to raise funds this year to accelerate its growth, complete its expansion to other messaging platforms like Slack and WhatsApp, and to monetise the core product. Around US$800,000 would do the job, but Sortd ideally needs US$1 million to develop to its full capacity.

Silbermann said though Sortd is available in all markets, it has seen the strongest traction in the United States (US), something it plans to focus on.  

“We plan to focus on the US for business development because that’s where we expect we will find a lot of channel opportunities, given the number of enterprise technology businesses that are based there,” he said.  

“That said, our marketing efforts are not tied to any one location – we currently have customers in over 30 countries worldwide.”

Currently free to use, Sortd will eventually monetise by charging for sales, hiring and project management “Power Packs” that add advanced functionality to Sortd, making it much more useful to salespeople, recruiters and teams in general.

Silbermann said on the commercial front it has been difficult to find opportunities for growth and to raise funds for Sortd in the US while being based in South Africa.  

“While there’s some great innovation happening in the South African market, it’s not a well known or trusted hub of innovation from an international perspective. I think that’s changing slowly but it will take some time,” he said.

Yet the startup is excited about its future. Support for Outlook, collaboration tools, integrations with Evernote, Google Drive, Skype and WhatsApp, and the specialised “Power Packs” are all on the agenda.

“Apart from making Sortd much faster and easier to use, we are also currently working on a very interesting Slack product, which is going to stand out from almost every other Slack integration on the market,” Silbermann said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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