Contur: A Virtual Assistant that Organizes Your Email Overload

September 16, 2012

10:00 am

Sometimes, the best way to handle your email overload is to let someone else do it.

Los Angeles startup Contur realized this early on. So rather than giving you ways to sort and categorize your email, their technology does it for you. It observes the way you interact with emails, then organizes them into to-do’s and projects and filters out the unimportant ones.

“If you’re working on a business deal, all your emails related to that deal, whether it’s from your secretary, clients, partners, or boss, will be sorted into that topic so that you have all the information you need,” explains cofounder Herry Lian.

Contur received $20,000 in funding from Los Angeles accelerator Start Engine to pursue this thorny problem. Below, Lian explains how they came up with their solution and how it might help you.

Herry Lian of Contur

Tech Cocktail: What problem does Contur try to solve? 

Herry Lian: 30 million knowledge workers and professionals in the United States are experiencing email overload. It is not only a pain for the individuals, but the companies as well. In the US, over a billion dollars were lost due to workers having to do “necessary, but unproductive tasks” on email (organizing them, keeping track of follow-ups, etc.). Tools such as “starring,” “flags,” or “priority inboxes” have long lost their powers in helping users tackle the amount of incoming emails.

Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration behind Contur?

Lian: One day, we met an executive who told us he got close to 100 emails every day, but for some reason didn’t feel like he was overloaded from email. We were quite surprised because, based on a questionnaire we sent out before, almost everyone who received 50 or more emails struggled with their inbox, and wished they had some sort of tool to help them manage it.

Curious as to how he did it, we asked him. His reply was simple: “I have an assistant who sorts and organizes them for me. She only gives me the important ones, which come in grouped by my current projects and tasks, so it makes it easy to deal with them.” Genius!

Since not everyone is able to hire a secretary to sort their emails for them, we set out to create a virtual assistant for email to help the rest of us.

Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about you and your team?

Lian: A funny thing about us is that I’m almost half our other cofounders’ ages. Despite that, we get along really well.

Contur was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail Los Angeles mixer in August. 

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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