April 16, 2013
I’ve known Ryan Nichols, the CEO and co-founder of Tylr Mobile, for a number of years now – he has an impressive record of picking great problem areas and executing upon them in short order – I first came across him at Appirio and we later talked when he took on the role of business development at Podio which was, in mere months, acquired by Citrix. Nichols contacted me recently to talk about his new startup, and explain to me the problem they’re trying to solve.
Their product, Tylr Mobile, is an enterprise mobile platform that seeks to connect existing, well utilized but ultimately siloed tools into one process-savvy mobile application. The theory behind the company’s first product, WorkinBox, is that today’s main mobile application is email – which, despite its ubiquity, is a poor tool given the fact that it lacks context, is incredibly noisy and is siloed with poor interaction with the systems of record an enterprise uses. WorkinBox is focused on helping salespeople tie their two main applications, email and CRM, into one seamless, context-rich and agile experience.
I was given a sneak preview of the product and I have to say it’s user experience is exquisite. The experience is not unlike Mailbox, the smash hit email app that Dropbox acquired recently – but a UI, no matte how beautiful it looks, doesn’t make a difference if the core proposition for the product is unsound.
Unsurprisingly given Nichol’s background and experience, WorkinBox makes total sense. The idea is to connect the emails related to particular opportunities, accounts and contacts, and deliver them in one integrated screen that allows users to take actions and track progress between email and their CRM. Say an email comes in from a prospect asking for a soft copy of a recent presentation, WorkinBox has all the communications relating to that opportunity in one window so the salesperson can find the particular file, attach it to a reply and, most importantly, have the opportunity updated within Salesforce. No more replying to emails with a “I’ll find it when I’m in the office” or worse, no more being unable to communicate with customers in a timely manner, WorkinBox captures the history, communication streams and context behind a relationship. It’s application convergence delivered in a logical manner.
To an extent WorkinBox begs some core questions about the assumption that more and more communication is happening off email. This is, to an extent a realistic viewpoint but also somewhat limited. If WorkinBox had the ability to capture customer communications from channels other than email (SMS, voice, Twitter for example) it would more nicely fit in with the multi channel message that social protagonists are articulating. The reality however is that business is still done via email – it’s the way that the overwhelming majority of communication occurs. But therein lies the rub. The overwhelming majority of communication happens via email, and within Outlook – convincing salespeople to ditch their regular modes of working for a new way of looking at the world will be hard. I suspect that the company realizes this and is considering how their approach towards integrated email and CRM would play in a desktop application world – perhaps an Outlook plugin for those who are forever wedded to the staple app of salespeople?
WorkinBox is launching today at the demo conference and is being released as an iPhone app – one assumes that other platforms won’t be far behind. The concept, and the execution thus far is highly compelling – it strikes me that, once again, Nichols may have picked a winner – this is the sort of product that would find a very happy home under Salesforce itself – I’d not be surprised if the company didn’t snap them up rapidly.