Email is proof that you can’t hate something to death. No matter how many times you swear at your inbox, glare at your email client, or publicly denounce the format, email is there. Saying that consumers and tech pundits hate email is akin to beating a decades-old metaphor (or however that goes), and we tend to forget that there are people who have it even worse than us. The 18 unread emails from Groupon in your inbox pale in comparison to the several thousand messages a business receives each week.
Submittable, a Y Combinator alum, has raised a $750,000 round from Flywheel Ventures, Good Works Ventures, the Frontier Fund, and a number of angel investors to try and solve that very problem.
The company’s product, which initially aimed to help publishers manage the ever-increasing number of submitted works, is trying to replace email with a “Dropbox-like solution,” as Submittable president Michael FitzGerald says. It’s important to note that the company isn’t trying to “fix” email for everyone – Submittable is focused strictly on businesses.
Submittable users can push a button and get their message across. “No, we don’t want to run this article” and “Sweet Cthulhu, this is the best thing we’ve ever read!” can both be conveyed with one click of the mouse instead of an individual email with a subject line, recipient, CC’d colleagues, and cut-and-paste boilerplate.
According to FitzGerald, the problem with using email as a submissions mechanism is the 1:1 nature of the format. A piece of content, such as a short story or freelance article, tends to become broken and diminished as it passes through the email chain. What may have been a good, clear story can get ruined by the edits added by each new person, or – perhaps more likely – end up falling into email oblivion, lying forgotten in some server or other.
With Submittable, the message stays safe in a central database that everyone can view, comment, and act on without screwing with the original message. The tool has been repurposed to serve a number of verticals, from the previously-mentioned articles and stories to songs and videos and resumes. Instead of inefficiently wading through thousands of emails, businesses are able to cherry-pick what they want to see and deal with a message as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately that isn’t an option for most. We are restricted by email not because any of us want to use it, but because everyone has to use it. (Chew on that one for a bit.) That isn’t the case with publishers and other organizations – if you want them to check out your video or song or whatever, you’re going to play by their rules. In this instance, businesses have it better than a layperson.
Frankly, Submittable sounds like the tool that I would want to use instead of email even if I were only receiving a few messages each day. There’s something about email that is off-putting, from the feeling that every message has to be responded to with a salutation, a paragraph (at least!) message, and a “signature” to the issue of figuring out how to deal with an uninteresting message.
I’d like to write more, but I’ve got to go. My inbox is waiting.