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Would You Pay $30 a Month To Check Your Email?

The year is 2019, and the brainy engineers of Silicon Valley are hunkered down, working on transformative, next-generation technologies like self-driving cars, digital currencies and quantum computing. Meanwhile, the buzziest start-up in San Francisco is … an expensive email app? From a report: A few months ago, I started hearing about something called Superhuman. It’s an invitation-only service that costs $30 a month and promises “the fastest email experience ever made.” Marc Andreessen, the influential venture capitalist, reportedly swore by it, as did tech bigwigs like Patrick and John Collison, the founders of Stripe. The app was rumored to have a waiting list of more than 100,000 people. “We have the who’s who of Silicon Valley at this point,” Superhuman’s founder, Rahul Vohra, told me in an interview. The waiting list is actually 180,000 people long, he said, and some people are getting desperate. He showed me a photo of a gluten-free cake sent to Superhuman’s office by a person who was hoping to score an invitation. “We have insane levels of virality that haven’t been seen since Dropbox or Slack,” Mr. Vohra added.

Last month, Superhuman raised a $33 million investment round, led by Mr. Andreessen’s firm, Andreessen Horowitz. That valued the company at roughly $260 million — a steep valuation for an app with fewer than 15,000 customers, but one apparently justified by the company’s trajectory and its support among fans, which borders on evangelical. […] Signing up for Superhuman is not easy. First, you fill out a long questionnaire about your email habits and work flow. Then, if you’re approved for access, there’s a mandatory session in which a representative gives you a videoconference tutorial. In my case, Mr. Vohra spent a full hour teaching me how to use the app’s features. Superhuman, which plugs into your existing email account, works with only Gmail and Google G Suite addresses for now, but the company plans to expand to other providers soon. Some of the app’s features — such as ones that let users undo sending, track when their emails are opened and automatically pull up a contact’s LinkedIn profile — are available in other third-party email plug-ins. But there are bells and whistles that I hadn’t seen before.

Like “instant intro,” which moves the sender of an introductory email to bcc, saving you from having to manually re-enter that person’s address. Or the scheduling feature, which sees that you’re typing “next Tuesday” and automatically pulls up your calendar for that day. Superhuman promises to help V.I.P.s get through their inboxes twice as fast. Partly, that’s because every command has a keyboard shortcut, so a busy power broker never has to waste precious seconds reaching for the mouse. And partly it’s because the app itself is built for speed — it stores information locally in a user’s browser rather than retrieving it from Google’s servers, which cuts down on the time required to surf between emails. Further reading: Superhuman is Spying on You.


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