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Mailman’s new Gmail assistant aims to tame your inbox

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A new startup, Mailman, recently launched an email assistant that helps Gmail users to get better control over their inbox. Unlike many email startups, which require users to switch to a new platform or even adopt a new email address, Mailman works along with your existing Gmail account to do things like block annoying emails, batch email delivery, configure VIPs who can bypass filters and even silence your inbox for a period of time.

Image Credits: Mailman

The service is the latest in a long line of email startups that have arrived over the years, promising an upgraded email experience — the most recent being Basecamp’s Hey, a new app offering a hosted email service with an expanded set of tools to declutter your inbox.

But many people don’t want to switch to a new email platform or client app, and they don’t generally want to adopt a new email address. They just want to tame their existing inbox. That’s where Mailman comes in.

The service works by authenticating with your Google account, where you give it permission to manage mailbox labels as well as basic email settings (like moving mail to a snoozed folder). You also give Mailman the ability to view and modify but not delete email.

That latter permission is worth noting and considering carefully. Anyone with sensitive information in their inbox may not want to grant a third party access to manage their email inbox. But arguably, any truly sensitive material shouldn’t be moving over email to begin with, as any security expert would tell you.

For what it’s worth, Mailman says it doesn’t store any data that’s not directly used by the customer in the Mailman interface and it doesn’t monetize your email data — the way that Gmail itself does. It also claims to only read the timestamp, sender’s address and subject line, not the body of your emails, when it assists you in managing your inbox. Mailman additionally claims to encrypt the data it stores in its database, on servers located in the U.S., Canada and India. And it’s GDPR-compliant — meaning you can delete all your data permanently with a click of a button.

Regardless, you’ll have to weigh the risks with the potential benefits of using any email add-on, due to its need to gain inbox access in order to function.

If you choose to proceed and Mailman is granted access to manage your inbox, you can then opt to use any of its features to stem the flow of email.

One of the biggest issues with email is that it continually arrives throughout the day, as soon as emails are sent. That means you end up responding to emails on the sender’s schedule instead of your own.

Mailman introduces a couple of options to address this problem.

If you would like to carve out some email-free time to work without being bothered by incoming email, you can set up a Do Not Disturb schedule that holds back your email during the window you specify.

Image Credits: Mailman

Another feature lets you choose to receive emails in batches at a set number of times per day, or at specific times you configure. In this case, Mailman holds back the emails from your inbox until these delivery slots — allowing you to set times where you’ll work on email, instead of allowing email to pull your focus throughout the day.

Image Credits: Mailman

The service also lets you prioritize important email and block others. You can add senders, domains and even keywords to a “VIP” list that lets those emails bypass filters so you always see urgent emails. This could help you ensure that you don’t miss critical emails from your boss or an important client, for example, even as you use other tools to tame your inbox.

Image Credits: Mailman

Unimportant emails, meanwhile, can be blocked automatically as Mailman can block newsletters, notifications and emails from senders you’ve never interacted with before. It doesn’t delete these emails, however. Instead, you’ll receive a daily digest that lets you choose how to treat those emails in the future — whether they should be automatically blocked from now on, for example, or immediately sent through.

Over time, this can help train Mailman to ensure you’re getting your important email with fewer distractions.

You don’t have to use all the tools Mailman provides — you can pick and choose those you need while leaving others off, the company notes. And because all the filtering is being done within the Gmail service itself, you can continue to use whichever email client you prefer.

The startup was founded by serial entrepreneur Mohit Mamoria, now Mailman CEO, and Andrew Wilkinson, MetaLab’s founder who now invests and partners with startups through Tiny. Mailman is incubating under Tiny’s umbrella, where it gets help with marketing, UX and early customer acquisition, among other things.

Explains Mamoria, he and Wilkinson were both in search of different ways to tame their inbox. Mamoria had built a script called Duggo to do it. When he saw a tweet asking about inbox tools from Wilkinson (below), he reached out.

The two decided to collaborate and ended up launching Mailman into beta August 2020, where it has already gained just under 3,000 users. As of last week, Mailman became available to the public. It was announced via a Product Hunt post where it was endorsed by a number of fellow entrepreneurs and founders. Some have also contributed testimonials to the Mailman website.

To some extent, you can use Gmail’s own filters to manage your inbox today, but they aren’t as user friendly. And email services don’t offer tools to configure batch deliveries or quiet times, leaving users to tend to silence their interruptions by snoozing push notifications on their devices instead. Because of email apps’ failure to innovate, new services like Hey, Superhuman and others have popped up, hoping to deliver a better experience for power users.

Mailman, like some rivals, generates revenue through subscriptions — it costs $10 per month or $96 per year. That’s more affordable than the newly popular email service Superhuman, which manages Gmail through its $30 per month client, but it has been called out as too expensive.

The co-founders believe that Mailman has the potential to reach a broader audience than other inbox-taming startups because it respects that users want to keep their existing email and client app.

“Almost everybody who has tried to solve the inbox overload has gone in the direction of building an email client,” explains Mamoria. “[Basecamp’s] Hey went a step further to build an email service altogether. What they miss is that changing email clients or services is easier said than done. It requires huge behavior change and is usually the biggest hurdle to cross for an average user,” he says.

Mailman is available today and exclusively works with Google accounts. It may roll out support to other email providers in the future, but nothing is currently planned in that area.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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iPhone zero-click Wi-Fi exploit is one of the most breathtaking hacks ever

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The screen on the iPhone 12 Pro Max

Enlarge / That’s a lot of screen. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Earlier this year, Apple patched one of the most breathtaking iPhone vulnerabilities ever: a memory corruption bug in the iOS kernel that gave attackers remote access to the entire device—over Wi-Fi, with no user interaction required at all. Oh, and exploits were wormable—meaning radio-proximity exploits could spread from one near-by device to another, once again, with no user interaction needed.

This Wi-Fi packet of death exploit was devised by Ian Beer, a researcher at Project Zero, Google’s vulnerability research arm. In a 30,000-word post published on Tuesday afternoon, Beer described the vulnerability and the proof-of-concept exploit he spent six months developing single handedly. Almost immediately, fellow security researchers took notice.

Beware of dodgy Wi-Fi packets

“This is a fantastic piece of work,” Chris Evans, a semi-retired security researcher and executive and the founder of Project Zero, said in an interview. “It really is pretty serious. The fact you don’t have to really interact with your phone for this to be set off on you is really quite scary. This attack is just you’re walking along, the phone is in your pocket, and over Wi-Fi someone just worms in with some dodgy Wi-Fi packets.”

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Cultured meat has been approved for consumers for the first time

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The first lab-grown, or cultured, meat product has been given the green light to be sold for human consumption. In the landmark approval, regulators in Singapore granted Just, a San Francisco–based startup, the right to sell cultured chicken—in the form of chicken nuggets—to the public. 

Just had been working with the regulators for the past two years and was formally granted approval on November 26. Singapore’s regulatory body assembled a panel of seven experts in food toxicology, bioinformatics, nutrition, epidemiology, public health policy, food science, and food technology to evaluate each stage of Just’s manufacturing process and make sure the chicken is safe to eat. “They didn’t just look at the final product; they looked at all the steps that led to that product,“ says Josh Tetrick, Just’s cofounder and CEO. “We were impressed with how thoughtful and rigorous they were.”  

An as-yet-unnamed restaurant in Singapore will soon be the first to have Just’s cultured chicken on the menu, but Tetrick says he plans to expand after that. “We’ll go from a single restaurant to five to 10 and then eventually into retail and then after that, outside Singapore,” he says. 

Most cultured meat is made in a similar way. Cells are taken from an animal, often via a biopsy or from an established animal cell line. These cells are then fed a nutrient broth and placed in a bioreactor, where they multiply until there are enough to harvest for use in meatballs or nuggets. A slew of startups have been founded using variations on this approach, in the belief that cultured meat will appeal to flexitarians—people who want to reduce the amount of meat they eat for ethical or environmental reasons, but don’t want to give it up entirely.

The budding industry has progressed a long way since a $330,000 burger was famously cooked on TV in 2013, driven by the idea that if it’s done right, meat could be produced with far lower greenhouse-gas emissions and zero animal suffering. But cost is still a hurdle: the high price of the growth factors required to develop the cells mean the price tags for pure cultured meat products are still measured in hundreds of dollars per pound, far too expensive to compete with regular meat. So Just’s first chicken products will be chicken “bites” that use cultured chicken cells mixed with plant protein—although Tetrick wouldn’t say in what proportion. “Chicken nuggets are already blended—this one wont be any different,” he says. The bites will be labeled as “cultured chicken” on the restaurant’s menu.

Singapore’s decision could kick-start the first wave of regulatory approvals around the world.

“We are hoping and expecting that the US, China, and the EU will pick up the gauntlet that Singapore just threw down,” says Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that works in meat alternatives. “Nothing is more important for the climate than a shift away from industrial animal agriculture.”

While Just has beaten them to the punch, many big firms are already working with regulators to get their own products to market. This is not something to be rushed, Friedrich says: “It is critical for cultivated meat companies to be extra careful and to go beyond consumer expectation in ensuring consumer comfort with their products.”  

Memphis Meats, which counts Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and traditional meat manufacturer Tyson Foods among its many investors, has teamed up with a number of other firms, including Just and cultured-seafood makers BlueNalu and Finless Foods, to form a lobbying group that is working with US regulators to get their products approved.

The way that might actually happen was only hammered out relatively recently. In March 2019, it was announced that the FDA would regulate the early stages of the cultured-meat process, including cell banks and cell growth. The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will then take over at the cell harvesting stage and will inspect production facilities and approve labels used on cultured-meat products. In Europe, companies must apply for authorization and meet the European Union’s regulation on novel foods. The process is likely to take at least 18 months, and no cultured-meat company has yet applied.

Both Singapore and Israel have actively made themselves welcoming to startups in plant and cultured meat, Freidrich says. Governments should follow their lead and start treating this like initiatives in renewable energy and global health, he says.

“We need a space-race-type commitment toward making meat from plants or growing it from cells,” he says. “We need a Manhattan Project focused on remaking meat.”

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Longtime investor and operator Adam Nash says he just launched a new fintech startup

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Adam Nash, a Silicon Valley-born-and-bred operator and investor, is back at it again.

Today, on his personal blog, he announced that he has started a consumer fintech company that has already garnered initial funding from Ribbit Capital, along with other “friends and angels” who appear to have also pitched into the round, including Box CEO Aaron Levie, Mighty Networks founder Gina Bianchini, Superhuman founder Rahul Vohra, and Amy Chang, who sold her startup Accompany to Cisco in 2018.

Nash didn’t reveal many details in the post or later on Twitter, saying he’ll have more to say when the company is closer to launching. All we really know at this point is that he cofounded the company with Alejandro Crosa, an Argentinian software engineer who most recently spent five months at Slack but logged more than three years at both Twitter and LinkedIn before that.

Nash said on Twitter that the two met at LinkedIn, where Nash was himself VP of product management for four years beginning in 2007. It’s a good detail to know, considering that Nash has logged time at a wide variety of tech outfits over the years, making it hard to guess at whom he knows and from where.

A computer science graduate of Stanford, where he later nabbed a master’s degree, Nash began his career interning at NASA, HP, and Trilogy before landing his first big job as a software engineer at Apple in 1996 (when former PepsiCo exec, John Sculley, was briefly running the place).

After moving on to a bubble-era company that no longer exists, Nash tried his hand at VC for the first time, joining Atlas Venture as an associate. To get more operating experience, he then jumped to eBay, where he was a director; LinkedIn, where he met Crosa; then Greylock, where he spent just over a year as an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) before joining the wealth-management startup Wealthfront as its president and CEO, a job that the company’s original CEO and founder, Andy Rachleff, reclaimed in 2016.

Nash didn’t disappear from the scene. Instead, he rejoined Greylock as an EIR for another year before joining Dropbox shortly after it went public in 2018 as its VP of product and growth, leaving that post back in February to start his own thing, he said at the time.

That Nash would start a fintech company specifically isn’t surprising, considering his involvement with Wealthfront, as well as some of the personal investments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, for example, he wrote a check to LearnLux, a five-year-old, Boston-based educational startup that helps employees better understand their 401k, health savings accounts, and stock options. He is also an investor in Human Interest, a five-year-old, San Francisco-based startup that offers automated, paperless 401(k) plans.

Nash is also riding a very big wave.  According to Pitchbook, consumer fintech is on pace to attract a record amount of venture funding in 2020, at least in North America and Europe.

We’ll let you know more about what Nash is building as soon as he’s ready to share more. The little that Nash is saying publicly for now is that he and Crosa believe there is “still a lot more to do in consumer fintech, and that through software we can help bring purpose to the way people approach their financial lives.”

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