Home / Startups / Features / InstantContact targets eleven-year-old Gmail problem

InstantContact targets eleven-year-old Gmail problem

Brisbane startup and ilab Germinate graduate InstantContact has launched a free version of their premier product, a “digital secretary” for Gmail.

Currently operating as a Chrome extension, InstantContact finds and, in one click, updates Google Contact info such as names, phone numbers email addresses, job titles, and company names. The startup has initially focused on Gmail and claims to have “fixed a problem Google ignored for eleven years”, a problem in transferring info that has inspired its own Lifehacker guide.

The team are also working on an alpha version for Outlook and will eventually integrate into enterprise CRM systems and databases. Co-founder Nish Bandara says they will monetise the system here, in business directories, where the real pain is felt and customer information is essential.

“Getting information out of email and into other software is a huge pain,” Bandara said. “You look at business databases and about 80% of them have an error rate of about 50%, of customer information being incorrect or just not being there.”

“We’re trying to automate that entire process with our product, so that data doesn’t get lost.”

Bandara says that one of their hardest challenges was automating data extraction from Gmail, describing the inbox HTML as a mess. He and co-founder Dr David Uhlmann spent six months automating the extraction platform, only for the Javascript library InboxSDK, which is not an official Google product, to be released shortly after they solved the problem.

Nish Bandara has presented InstantContact at a number of recent events, from investor nights to the QLD government's Startups in Parliament event. Photo: InstantContact

Nish Bandara has presented InstantContact at a number of recent events, from investor nights to the QLD government’s Startups in Parliament event. Photo: InstantContact

Officially released at the start of August, InstantContact currently has 32 users but hopes to tap into Gmail’s user base of 425 million people. Competitors include EverContact, CircleBack and FullContacts, but InstantContact has found a number of ways to differentiate itself, chief amongst them their automated extraction system.

“There are products out there trying to solve our problem, but they work passively,” Bandara said. “So if you’re sitting in a business development role and you try to enter a customer’s information, what it will do is say ‘that’s not enough digits for a phone number’ or ‘you haven’t entered an address properly’. So it tells you what you haven’t done, it’s a glorified checking processes.”

“We’re like stuff that, that doesn’t work, why don’t we do the job for you? So we’ve got strong validation that businesses will pay quite a sum of money for it because it physically takes away an entire error base for a work force.”

InstantContact are ilab Germinate 6 graduates, and Bandara emphasised his appreciation for both the seed funding and mentoring they received from the program. While the team intends to keep their headquarters and technical developers in Brisbane, roughly 65% of their users live in the US, where they ultimately plan to secure follow-on funding.

We’ll need to have our feet on the ground in the US pretty shortly, because that’s where we’re having our growth and that’s where we’ll probably have to raise our series A funding,” Bandara said. “So there are plans to move abroad in a sense, but we’re not going to ignore Australia, we’re still going to call it home and the technical development will certainly be here as well.”

About Chris Woods

Chris Woods (@tophermwoods) is the Tech Street Journal's Editor-in-Chief. He lives in Brisbane, has worked in places like Sydney and New York (State of), and will someday update his media-news blog.