The idea of merging multiple media into one streamlined channel isn’t new. Chinese mega app WeChat dominates social media in the country by merging a lot of the functionalities of link-sharing, text posts and SMS/chat. Facebook is looking at that model as it rolls out Messenger to nip at the heels of WhatsApp. But none of them are dealing with large file shares or project management.
That’s where Fleep comes in.
Emerging from beta, the startup led by Skype engineering veterans out of Tallinn wants to integrate email and chat once and for all. Fleep is targeting businesses and other professional teams with a platform that promises to integrate all your existing email accounts and add a streamlined chat function to “enjoy a more efficient experience of written communications.”
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Co-Founder and CEO Henn Ruukel spent seven years at Skype running site operations. When Microsoft bought them out, that triggered an entrepreneurial streak Ruukel might not have known he had.
“The reason I came to the idea was out of frustration,” Ruukel told Geektime. “We used messenger functionality, which had several flaws in it but never became a strategic focus.”
Fleep wants to reduce the “noise” by integrating your email addresses: Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, you name it. That will create one inbox. From there, all your messages with particular people will merge into single conversation threads. The Fleep system maintains a daily list of tasks for teams and pin boards to the side of team messages. They will bring a user-centric model to a battlefield to cross swords with startup starlets like Slack, which segments users by teams and does not allow cross-team communication on its platform.
“We ourselves stopped using email apps one year ago. We started forwarding all our emails through Fleep,” Ruukel stated. “What we’re launching today is all our learnings from the last year. At the same time there’s never been a plan to become an email client but build a new messaging platform. There are several steps in it.”
Merging all your messenger accounts like phone numbers and emails
Ruukel compares what he wants to do to what phones and emails have: calling or writing to anyone regardless of what carrier or email service they’re using. Before streamlining all messages that might be going through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, emails are an easier place to start for integration.
Their business plan involves rolling out new features as paid services while everything available with their launch this week will remain free to new users. Those features at €1 a user per month will include up to 50 GB of storage, an unlimited number of integrations and conversations, access to an unlimited messaging history, and extra team management features. One of the likely features will be enabling admins for group discussions. Many of their some 100 beta testers “are asking for managed conversations . . . or managed accounts owned by organizations run by end individual users (like company email accounts).”
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They already have some $1.7 million in angel investments from former Skypers like Jaan Tallinn and Priit Kasesalu, plus cash from Sten Tamkivi, David Gammon, Ahti Hainla and Rock Spring Ventures. Skype looms large in Fleep’s background and Ruukel’s connections there have been helpful in getting the company rolling. But just as Ruukel hopes to differentiate his new brand’s utility from that of his company of origin, so too he points out that the fruits of other startups’ labor are having just as meaningful a financial impact in the local ecosystem.
“My experience with angels is limited relative to my own network from Skype — I think the angel network is much bigger. We’ve had other successful exits and they’ve been quite active in the angel network too. Skype’s played a significant role in this; on top of creating wealth, [it] played a role in creating a college for starting new ventures and I think the college is the more important trend than those funds supporting those early rounds,” he posited.
“If you have a good team, that can excite angel investors.”
Fleep was founded in 2013 by CEO Henn Ruukel, CTO Asko Oja, Erik Laansoo and Marko Keen. They employ 13 people at their offices in Tallinn, Estonia.