A long commute inspired this former Google Gmail designer to start a profitable email startup with $13.6 million in funding (GOOG, GOOGL)

Mixmax

  • A former Gmail designer left Google to start his own company, Mixmax, with friends from another startup. 
  • Mixmax charges $9/month for access to email-enhancing tools, including tracking, in-emails polls, and easier meeting scheduling.
  • Mixmax has raised $10.4 million in a Series A funding round, with an eye towards expanding hiring. It's already profitable.
  • Two of the founders are bilingual immigrants, a commonality that they say first sparked their interest in how people communicate with each other.

 

If Chanpory Rith learned one thing during his time at Google, it's that email isn't dead. Now, he's at the helm of Mixmax, a small, but profitable, company that's trying to prove it. 

In 2011, Rith was leading the design the Gmail app for iOS. His team wanted to measure if people how often people were using Gmail. Unsurprisingly, they found college students didn't really use email much. But when they graduated and entered the workforce, their email use skyrocketed.

That gave him an idea: What if he could make using email at work easier? That idea eventually led to the creation in 2014 of Mixmax, a small company co-founded by Rith, that makes handy tools to improve Gmail — including the ability to track emails, schedule when emails are sent, make in-email polls, and schedule meetings with one click.

Mixmax email schedule

And not only is Mixmax already profitable, with about 10,000 customers — earlier in February, it announced $10.4 million in new funding in a round led by personal investments from venture capitalists Jason Lemkin (of SaaStr Fund) and Carl Fritjofsson (of Creandum). All told, Mixmax has raised $13.4 million since its inception. 

Prices range from $9 per month for individual users to $50 or more per month for businesses. Mixmax's customers are mostly small businesses: It says its products are especially popular with sales, customer support, and recruiting teams.

"People still use email," Olof Mathé, Mixmax's CEO and co-founder, told Business Insider. "And one of the biggest problems we've seen is communicating with people outside of your organization. It takes five or six emails to schedule a meeting."

Right now, the company employs 20 people. With the additional funding, Mixmax wants to expand to 50 employees. 

Here's how a long commute put Rith — now a designer with Mixmax — on the path to starting his own, profitable, growing company. 

A killer commute

Rith left Google in 2012, after about a year working as Gmail's iOS design lead. He had been pushing the company to build a features, like email tracking and scheduling, specifically for businesses — but was told that Gmail would continue focusing efforts on its broader audience, Rith told Business Insider.

Plus, he was commuting two hours in traffic from San Francisco to Google headquarters in Sunnyvale, California every day and it was beginning to take a toll. 

"Although I really loved working at Google, the commute really got to me," Rith said. "And I wanted to work on something that gave me a lot for space for expressiveness, like I wanted customers to be able to express themselves much more richly, and Gmail at the time was still very text based." 

That brought Rith to Inkling, a company that lets users make visually appealing e-textbooks. That's where Rith met Olof Mathé and Brad Vogel, with whom he would eventually go on to start Mixmax.Mixmax one click

Rith and Mathé, a former Skype employee, are both immigrants and self-proclaimed "communication geeks." Growing up — Rith in Cambodia, and Mathe in Sweden — they became interested in making communication better, especially because both were bilingual and often had to translate for their families. Both see Mixmax as a key utility to make it easier for people to communicate with one another.

Rith and Mathé got along so well, they left Inkling with Vogel in 2014 to found Mixmax, using the idea Rith had while working at Google: Email for work, but better.

They experimented with making Mixmax a free product, but ultimately decided to "make a product so good, people will want to buy it," Mathé said. That was one of the most important decisions they made, putting them on the path to profitability — and it's their advice to other entrepreneurs.

"Always charge for the things you build," Rith said.

SEE ALSO: Stop worrying about the period in your Gmail address — Google says it doesn't matter

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