tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:/posts The Rapportive Blog 2015-10-08T12:45:43Z tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403477 2012-02-23T00:30:00Z 2014-06-20T23:00:54Z Rapportive Acquired By LinkedIn! Hey there! This is Rahul from Rapportive.

Our vision is to make you brilliant with people. Not just good, not just effective, but actually brilliant. That's our dream.

Since we accidentally launched, we have relentlessly pursued this vision, integrating LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and your address book right into your email.

During our partnership with LinkedIn, we got to know them very well. We found a great overlap between our visions. We found a high-calibre and extremely driven team. We found, crucially, a "members-first" company: everything that LinkedIn does is about making its members more successful.

In business, partnership is dating — and we went on a lot of dates with LinkedIn. Slowly, but surely, we fell in love.

Today, we are simply thrilled to announce that Rapportive is now part of LinkedIn!

Rapportive for Gmail

Over the last two years, Rapportive has become an essential product for folks all around the world. When rumours of our acquisition surfaced last week, many asked what was going to happen to the product. Well, we have fantastic news: at LinkedIn, we will support Rapportive, and we will continue to build beautiful products that make you brilliant with people.

The highlight of this journey has been our interactions with you — our amazing users who choose Rapportive day after day. We love you, love you all.

You've said some truly wonderful things: http://rapportive.com/love

Thank you so much. You're the reason why we do this.

The Future

We are completely beside ourselves with excitement. I have so much I want to tell you, and so much I want to show you. But I need to restrain myself — there'll be time for that later. For now, let me leave you with one last thought.

A company, at its core, is a set of beliefs united by a vision. When we founded Rapportive, we had one simple belief: we would build software that you don't have to remember to use. Our software would be an intrinsic part of the tools you use every day. It would be there when you want it, and out of the way when you don't.

You can convey this idea in so few words; it is so deceptively easy to describe, but it is so vitally important. Because when you do this — when you build software into the very fabric of the world around us, when you remove friction from the things that people want to do — something magical happens.

You enable people to change their own behaviour. You empower people to become better at what they do. And if you get enough people to do that, you might just change the world.

Speaking of which, we've got work to do!  'Til next time :)


Rahul Vohra, CEO of Rapportive.   Let's connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Please note that you are now covered by LinkedIn's terms of service and privacy policy. As always, your trust is the most precious thing we have. If you have any feedback about our new ownership, terms of service, or privacy policy — or even if you just want to say hello — please do get in touch at supportive@rapportive.com. We'll be happy to answer any questions, and if you choose to cancel your account, we will of course do that for you.

tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403478 2011-07-15T17:05:00Z 2015-10-08T12:45:43Z Write better emails: be astute, personal, and effective When somebody emails you, Rapportive is great!

You can immediately see what people look like, where they are based, and what they do. You can establish rapport by mentioning shared interests. And you can grow your network by connecting on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more.

But what about when you send email?

When you start a new conversation, Gmail itself doesn't help at all:

You're emailing Conrad, but you are flying blind.

Where is he? What's he doing? What's he thinking?

What's going on in Conrad's life?

It would be tremendously useful to have Rapportive right here:

Today, we are super-excited to deliver one of our most requested features: you can now use Rapportive when you are composing an email.

By using Rapportive before you email, you can be more astute, personal, and effective. You can find ways to break the ice, topics to bond over, and reasons to get in touch with people. You can even make small gestures such as liking Facebook posts and following on Twitter.

We've been testing this ourselves for a few weeks, and it's already changed the way we write email. We think you'll like it too!

We're gradually rolling the feature out to everybody. But if you can't wait, feel free to upgrade instantly here: rapportive.com/compose :)


Not yet using Rapportive? Get it free at rapportive.com.

tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403479 2011-06-10T17:13:48Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Follow, Reply, and Retweet from Gmail! We want Rapportive to be the best way for you to connect with your contacts. This is why, since our accidental launch, we've shown your contacts' recent tweets:

Our Twitter widget has always given you valuable context at a glance: you can mention the recent tweets, bring up shared interests, or even plan to meet at an event.

Although the recent tweets were very useful, we gave you no way to interact on Twitter itself. Yet to fully understand your contacts, you have to be where your contacts are. You have to chat where they chat, learn where they learn, and play where they play.

If your contacts tweet, so should you.

Today, our Twitter widget gets a massive upgrade. You can now follow, reply, and retweet — all without leaving Gmail!

We'll even show our new widget on Twitter notifications: when somebody follows, mentions, or DMs you, we'll show you their recent tweets and a button to follow back!

We're gradually rolling the new widget out to everybody.  But if you want it right now, you can get early access here: rapportive.com/twitter :)


Not yet using Rapportive? Get it free at rapportive.com.

tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403480 2011-06-02T18:54:44Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Rapportive integrates Gmail People Widget Google has just announced a new feature in Gmail called the "People Widget". The widget is a sidebar which shows you job titles, calendar availability, recent conversations, shared Google Docs, and Buzz updates:

We're very flattered by how similar the widget is to Rapportive. In fact, some of the design details have been copied directly, from the new position of the "print" and "new window" icons, through to how the widget remains onscreen as you scroll. It feels downright awesome to impact such a widely used product!

In case you don't already use it, Rapportive adds rich contact profiles to Gmail. You can immediately see what people look like, where they're based, and what they do. You can establish rapport by mentioning shared interests. You can grow your network by connecting on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more. And you can record thoughts for later by leaving private notes.

You will notice that the widget occupies the same place in Gmail as Rapportive. As you can imagine, we've been inundated with questions on this. Should you use Rapportive? Should you use the People Widget? Will they both work together?

The answers are: yes, you should use Rapportive (of course), and yes, you should use the People Widget (it's pretty great), and yes, they will both work together (surprise!).

That's right: you need not choose between Rapportive and the widget, as we have integrated it right into Rapportive.

Here it is (watch fullscreen to win):

You can hover over names to lookup people. You can see recent conversations. You can see shared Google Docs. You can fire up a Google Chat. You can edit your contacts in Google Contacts. You can even click a phone number to call it with Google Voice. And you can do all of this right from Rapportive.

The widget is still rolling out, so you may not see all these features immediately. As soon as you get the widget, you'll get the new Rapportive features. All you have to do is wait.

Rapportive will always make the best of its environment: as Gmail improves, so will Rapportive, and so will your experience.

Now you can have your cake, and eat it too :)

Not yet using Rapportive? Get it free at rapportive.com.

tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403481 2011-05-24T01:02:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Welcome to The New Rapportive Today, we are launching a new design for Rapportive! We put a huge amount of effort into this design, because we deeply believe in great user experience, and we know that our users really appreciate it too.

Here it is (make sure to watch it fullscreen):

We'd like to open the kimono and share our journey with you.

The Problem: Long Sidebars

Our previous design, in use since launch, has served us well. It was subtle, effective, and blended in with Gmail. But it was also beginning to show limitations:

  • If you were using a netbook or a portable laptop, the Rapportive sidebar would often be too tall to fit on screen. We hooked into the Gmail scrollbar, but you would have to scroll to the end of the conversation to see the end of the Rapportive sidebar: on a very long conversation, you had to scroll a very long way. This was really annoying.
  • In the past months we’ve added much to the sidebar: phone numbers, Facebook status updates, LinkedIn invitations, and Raplets for a variety of different purposes. This has pushed the previous design to its limits: some profiles would become unmanageably tall.
  • Different people love different parts of the sidebar: some find recent tweets most useful; others swear by our CRM raplets; others leave lots of notes about their contacts. It would suck if the part you most love scrolls offscreen because the other parts take all the space.

    These three points have a common theme: we do not handle long sidebars well.

    How long can a sidebar get? Well, here's my sidebar, with the CrunchBase and the MailChimp Raplets:

    As we add more to Rapportive, this problem would only get worse. We decided to completely rethink our design.

    Our Design Principles

    We wrote down five principles to guide us during the redesign:

    1. Rapportive should enable you to serendipitously learn about your contacts: information should be visible at a glance, and should not require much clicking or scrolling.
    2. Rapportive should remain subtle and unobtrusive: it should be there when you want it, and out of the way when you don't. It should not grab your attention, nor use more space than necessary.
    3. Rapportive should look great on screens both large and small; it should also look great when we have lots of data, and when we don't have much data.
    4. Rapportive should avoid configuration dialogs: the interface should do the right thing.
    5. Rapportive should be clear, beautiful, and enjoyable to interact with :)

      These principles enabled us to reason effectively about our options.

        Sexy Buttons

        To warm up, we put the big problem to one side, and instead started with graphical tweaking. Here are some sexy buttons:

        Next up: how do we handle long sidebars?

        How Do We Handle Long Sidebars?

        The Sidebar Scrollbar

        Our first thought: we could simply give the Rapportive sidebar its own scrollbar. In order to see the end of a long sidebar, you would not have to scroll the conversation; you would just scroll the sidebar. But this approach is pretty bad: large parts of long sidebars would still be hidden offscreen, making it no easier for you to serendipitously learn about your contacts.

        The Tabbed Sidebar

        We quickly ruled out a tabbed interface. Tabs work well in browsers, where each tab is independent. But contacts aren't like that. To see why, imagine that we made each sidebar section into a tab. We would then have multiple tabs per person. However, these tabs are not independent: they are about the same person! You can't see the contents of a tab without clicking it, and you can't see the contents of two tabs at the same time. As a result, tabs require laborious clicking and actually make it harder for you to serendipitously learn about your contacts. A tabbed interface would often feel clunky and frustrating.

        The Accordion

        An accordion interface seemed like a more promising direction. Here is an example from Outlook:

        When you click a section it expands to show additional information; when a section expands, another one collapses to make room. In the screenshot above, I could click "Contacts" to see my contacts, and the "Mail" section would collapse to make room.

        As described so far, accordions have the same properties as tabs: you can't see a section until you click it, and you can't see the contents of two sections at the same time. But what if multiple sections could be expanded at the same time? And what if the accordion would intelligently use available space?

        The “Adaptive” Accordion

        We started experimenting with an “adaptive” accordion. Here are three early design concepts:

        These designs were not pretty, but as we tested them on various screen sizes, an algorithm began to emerge. We decided that we needed an accordion with the following improvements:

        • It should be possible for several sections to be expanded at the same time.
        • The sidebar should fit on the screen without scrolling. When you expand a section, the sidebar may need to collapse other sections to make room.
        • The sidebar should intelligently choose which sections to collapse. For example, if you haven’t clicked a section recently, you probably find it less useful than a section you just clicked. The sidebar should prefer to collapse least recently used sections.
        • Collapsed sections should be useful. For example, the collapsed Twitter section could show the contact's username and a button to follow, whereas the expanded version could also show their recent tweets.
        • The sidebar shouldn't show empty sections. For example, if the contact doesn’t have a Twitter account, the sidebar shouldn’t show the Twitter section.
        • The sidebar should clip very long sections and give them a scrollbar. Very long sections are rare but do happen; for example, consider a Facebook status with many comments.
        • If you resize your window, the sidebar should expand or collapse sections to accommodate.

        It turns out that this finely tuned accordion plays exactly the song that we want it to. However, there are still hard questions. How exactly should expandable sections behave? The devil, of course, is in the details.

        Expandable Sections

        In our original design, when you click a Twitter username, we show recent tweets in a new browser tab. In an accordion design, when you click a collapsed Twitter section, you expect it to expand and show recent tweets inside Rapportive. Should we ask users to learn a new behaviour, or should we add a button to expand a section?

        This was our first attempt. The arrows convey that you can expand a section, and also act as the button to expand it. But there's a problem: not all sections have arrows, since not all sections are expandable. As a result, the “connect” and “add friend” buttons would not always align. The arrows also look cluttered and complicated.

        Surely we could do better! For example, we could only show the arrows when you hover over a section. We could even use the arrows to convey where the section will expand to:

        Now we’re really moving away from established user interface patterns. Would you notice the arrows? Would you understand what they mean? Would you try to click them? The arrows convey lots of information: they tell you that the section can be expanded, and once expanded, how tall it will be and where it will be placed. These arrows also present a much bigger click target than the previous arrows, which is good. But they still don't look like a button. (They go grey when you hover over them, but it's not obvious.)

        Fortunately, inspiration struck again. If we’re using arrows to preview the expanded section, well… why don’t we use the expanded section to preview itself? We can just show the expanded section on hover!

        We call the preview of an expanded section a "genie", in honour of the famous Mac OS window effect. The design seems obvious in retrospect, but it took a surprisingly long time to find and understand it.

        Although the version above isn’t yet pretty, it addresses the challenges we discussed earlier:

        • Rapportive remains minimalistic and uncluttered. We only show you more when you hover your mouse over the sidebar.
        • If you’re on a large screen, or looking at short sidebar, sections expand to fill the space. You can see everything at a glance, and there is no need to click anything.
        • If you’re on a small screen, or looking at a long sidebar, lesser-used sections collapse. In most cases, everything fits on screen without need for scrolling.

        Furthermore, if there are adjacent collapsed sections in the sidebar, you can skim them with your mouse. As your mouse moves from one section to the next, the genie for the previous section disappears and the genie for the next appears. This is great for getting a quick overview before you reply to an email.

        The design so far is good, but isn't yet perfect: how do you actually expand a section?

        In the screenshot above, we used a button with an arrow pointing right. If you clicked it, the genie would slide into the sidebar, and the other sections would move out of the way to make room. The animation was good, but the button itself was ugly. After some thought, we realised that we could remove the button and convey the same thing with a right-pointing mouse cursor (cursor:e-resize, for fellow CSS buffs — yes, this isn't the standard way to use this cursor, but we like it!).  Now you can click anywhere on the genie and it will happily slide into the sidebar.

        After many lines of JavaScript and CSS, and countless more days tweaking, we felt like we were finally done. This is what the final design looks like:

        We hope you’ll agree that it is gorgeous. We have added almost no new user interface, but the end result is very effective. It fits neatly on both big and small screens, with both short and long sidebars. It is clear, easy to use, and even fun to play with. Give it a try for yourself, and please let us know what you think!

        Usability without design is dreary.
        Design without usability is pretentious.
        Design and usability… together, they are delightful :D


        Not yet using Rapportive? Get it free at rapportive.com.

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403483 2011-05-11T17:09:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Claim your email addresses! Hurrah! Rapportive users now lookup more than 50 million profiles every month.

        We want Rapportive to be the best way to understand and connect with your contacts. We also want lots of people to use Rapportive. As we advance on both fronts, something else is happening as a result: Rapportive is becoming an important place to cultivate your brand.

        When people email you, they'll see your Rapportive profile. What do you want them to see?

        We want you to be in control. To see and edit your Rapportive profile, just click "my profile" at the bottom of any Rapportive sidebar. Here you can change what people see when they email you.

        This approach has worked well so far, but it doesn't cover all cases. For example, many people have more than one email address (I personally use four). If you have multiple addresses, editing your profile like this would change what is shown for your Gmail address, but would not change what is shown for your other addresses. Today, this changes.

        You can now edit the profiles for all your email addresses. Click "Claim your email addresses" in the Rapportive menu at the top of Gmail, and follow the instructions. (If the option doesn't appear, please reload your Gmail tab.)

        After you've claimed an email address, you can edit its profile whenever it shows in Rapportive: just hover over the parts you want to change.

        On the internet, you are who you say you are. Take control.

        Claim your email addresses!

        Not yet using Rapportive? Get it free at rapportive.com.

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403484 2011-04-06T18:09:35Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Your address book and inbox: together, at last. I love business cards. There, I've said it.

        Business cards have names and photos. They have jobs and companies. They have email addresses, phone numbers, and wide variety of usernames. Business cards are easy to exchange, remind you who people are, and help you reconnect with your contacts later.

        Business cards are Rapportive for real life.

        I get plenty of cards, so I have a small process to deal with them. I'll fire up Google Contacts, type up the details, then head over to Gmail and send a quick note. It's usually something like "it was great to meet you" or "let's grab a coffee" or "you should totally meet Sam".

        Except there's a problem. When a contact emails you back, you don't see their business card. If you want to phone them, you have to jump from Gmail to Google Contacts via a series of clicks just to even see their number. This is crazy, especially considering you've spent time to type up the card! Enough of this craziness: we have now integrated Google Contacts into Rapportive.

        To see your Google Contacts in Rapportive, click "Connect my networks" in the Rapportive menu at the top of Gmail, and then click "Sign in with Google".

        Over the next hour, any photos, phone numbers and occupations in your Google Contacts will be seamlessly integrated into your Rapportive sidebar. For example, if you had my contact details, you would see my numbers as in the sidebar below.  (Please don't all call at once!)

        It gets better. If any of your contacts have multiple email addresses, we'll merge their Rapportive profiles into one. For example, suppose you know two email addresses for one of your contacts: john.smith@gmail.com and john@acme.com. Through the gmail.com address, we find John's Facebook account; through the acme.com address, we find John's LinkedIn account. When John next emails you from either address, Rapportive will show you a complete profile with information from Facebook and LinkedIn.

        Of course, your contacts remain absolutely confidential: their photos, phone numbers, and any merged profiles are only ever shown to you.


        Not yet using Rapportive?  Get it free at rapportive.com.

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403485 2011-03-10T01:15:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Rapportive for developers: Bitbucket, GitHub & Stack Overflow Here at Rapportive we're a pretty technical bunch of people, and we spend a lot of time communicating with similar people: many of our friends are developers, job applicants are developers, the people we share mailing lists with — also developers. While we've previously been able to see their social profile, there's just something missing. Wouldn't it be great to see what they are actually working on, and what makes them tick?

        Services like BitbucketGitHub and Stack Overflow solve this problem. Developers have a personal profile on each site that gives an overview of the areas in which they contribute. It's quick, easy, and incredibly valuable to scan down a list of projects they work on, or a list of questions they've answered. Not only can you see what they're doing right now (which is important by itself), but you can also get a glimpse into their professional history.

        For a while now, Rapportive has been showing links to Stack Overflow, and more recently we started doing the same for GitHub. Today we're happy to announce that we're also searching Bitbucket.

        If you're already using Rapportive, you don't have to do anything to see these profiles. If not, it's easy to add Rapportive to Gmail now!

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403486 2011-02-17T04:42:00Z 2014-08-08T16:31:08Z The new Gmail menu bar Today Google released a new design for the menu bar on Gmail to a small percentage of users. It looks nice, but sadly it also had the effect of breaking Rapportive for those users who had been randomly selected by Google.

        Fortunately, we soon figured out what had changed, and within a few hours we had Rapportive up and running in the new design. This is what it looks like:

        Just one thing to note — you need to update your Rapportive browser extension to version 1.2. In Firefox, you'll need to go to Tools → Add-ons in the menu, click "Install updates" and restart Firefox. Chrome and Safari should get the update automatically in a few hours, and after you reload Gmail. If you just can't wait to get your Rapportive back, here's how you can update right away:

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403487 2011-02-10T00:52:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Get out of your inbox: meet people at conferences! Communicating electronically, be it via email, Twitter or anything else, is never quite as good as meeting people in person. Rapportive shows your contacts' happy smiling faces in your email, which helps a bit... but still, wouldn't it be better to just meet face-to-face?

        With the new Lanyrd Raplet for Rapportive you can do just that. See which conferences your contacts are planning to attend — and if you're going to be there too, let them know so that you can meet up. You don't need to do anything special, because the Raplet shows everything right next to your email conversation.

        Lanyrd's social conference directory also allows you to keep track of conferences in the past, and if any of your contacts have been speakers, you can check out their slide decks and videos.

        How do you add this to Rapportive? Why, same as all Raplets — click the Rapportive menu at the top of Gmail, then "Add or Remove Raplets". Enjoy!

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403488 2011-01-21T23:05:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Build Rapport over Facebook We believe that companies will increasingly compete on treating people excellently.

        How do you treat people excellently? You respond to people quickly. You help people feel like they belong. You personally connect with people: you care about who they are, what they think, and what they do.

        The trend is most visible in customer support, but it will not stop there. It will affect sales, business development, and every other way in which companies communicate. As a result, more of us will spend significant amounts of time building rapport with people. Many of us already do.

        How do we establish rapport in an increasingly online world? It's simple: we interact with people on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But if you're at all like me, you're too busy to go to multiple sites. This is why Rapportive brings your network into one place — your inbox.

        Since our accidental launch, we've shown your contacts' recent tweets. With our LinkedIn integration, you can grow your network from Gmail. Today, we are excited to announce that we've integrated Facebook right into Rapportive.

        You can add contacts as friends on Facebook. You can see their Facebook posts. You can see attached photos. You can 'like' and respond with comments. You can even watch attached videos. And you can do all of this without ever leaving Gmail.

        Building rapport has never been this easy, or this much fun.


        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403489 2010-11-30T00:00:00Z 2014-04-04T12:20:58Z Grow your network with Rapportive We've never had more demands on our time, or more ways to spend it. It's never been easier to neglect things which aren't urgent, but which are good for us. Like eating well, exercising, or filing receipts. There is one other thing I regularly forget to do: grow my professional network.

        We all know that relationships matter. Networks like LinkedIn can remember all of our previous colleagues, and can track what they're working on now. This could be an invaluable resource for every one of us. But for me, it doesn't quite work: my LinkedIn network does not represent who I've worked with. I rarely remember to go to LinkedIn and update my network; when I do, I forget to connect with everybody that I should.

        LinkedIn is great at knowing your network, but it's not great at knowing who to add to your network. That's why we've integrated LinkedIn into Rapportive. You can now add contacts to your LinkedIn network without ever leaving Gmail.

        To add a contact to your LinkedIn network, just click "Connect" in their Rapportive profile. You can enter a short message, click send, and you're done. When your invitation is accepted, your contact's profile will show that you are connected.

        This is the kind of feature we love to make: it not only saves time, but also quietly reminds us to do something worthwhile – at precisely the moments when we're ready to do it.

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403490 2010-11-16T01:30:00Z 2014-11-22T05:36:27Z Will Freemium Work for You? Ruben Gamez says freemium doesn't work. Yet Dropbox, MailChimp and Evernote say freemium does work. So, does freemium work or not?

        This is the wrong question. The right question is: when does freemium work? [1]

        The business model for Rapportive (which adds rich contact profiles to your email) is simple: build an amazingly useful product, and charge money for it. It will most likely be freemium: a base version of Rapportive will always be free, and there will be a premium version which costs money. We think that this strategy will work for us.

        But why? What signals indicate whether freemium will work? I think it depends on many things: the type of product you have, the kind of company you want to build, and more.

        10 questions to consider:

        • How do users feel about your product, as a function of time?
          Products which increase in value over time are good candidates for freemium.

          Neil Davidson has a good illustration of this.

          Do users love your product for a short while, and then get bored of it? (casual games) Are they oblivious to it most of the time, but occasionally desperate for it? (data recovery tools) Do they always dislike it? (virus scanners) Or does it gradually get more useful over time? [2]. For example, a tool which recovers corrupted photos from your camera is unlikely to work as freemium (cameras can corrupt files, but it happens rarely), whereas a tool such as Evernote works well as a freemium (it becomes more useful over time as you enter more data into it).

        • How good is your long-term retention?
          With good retention, you have a better chance of converting free users to paid users.

          Your product may become more useful over time, but if a large proportion of free users stop using it after a while, that's bad news if you were hoping to convert them to paying later on. In that case, you should probably ask them for money early, while you still have their attention, or improve your retention! However, if a large proportion of your free users stick around for a long time, and your product becomes more useful over time, more and more of them will eventually convert from free to paid.

        • Does your product require behaviour change, or can people start using it gradually?
          If people can start using your product gradually, freemium might work.

          For example, an image editor requires an abrupt change of behaviour: you've got to stop using the old one and start using the new one. In that case, charging all users from day one may actually help you: by having spent money, users are more likely to also spend the time learning how to use the new application (due to the sunk cost fallacy), and thus end up getting more value from the product. On the other hand, if your product doesn't have a big learning overhead and users can gently start using it, it may be better to charge for it later.

        • Does your product have distinct modes of use for different audiences?
          If it does, you can be more creative with your freemium model.

          I am fascinated by Yammer's business model. They get lots of people in an organisation to use it for free; then sometime later, when there are lots of active users, they sell the enterprise IT department on stuff like data ownership, admin controls and security tools. The end-users who sign up do not care about the admin features; the IT department does, and they are a separate audience. This is an interesting take on freemium: always free for end users, always paid-for for IT departments doing their job.

        • What is your market like?
          If you are targeting a large unmet need, you should make your product free.

          When faced with a wide open field you should be in land-grab mode, and acquire users before your competitors do. On the other hand, if you're in a well-established market, you'll need to gradually convince users to move away from their existing solutions. In this case, charging money is the best way of finding customers who care enough about the problem that they are willing to pay for a better solution.

        • Are you targeting a premium niche?
          Free users are the opposite of premium.

          Sometimes free users are more troublesome than paid users (for example, MailChimp was faced with a spam problem when they started offering a free plan). If you are going for the top end of the market, giving something away for free may hurt you more than it benefits you. The price of your product says a lot about your positioning, and people tend to assume that if something is free, it's less valuable than something expensive.

        • Which metric do you use to separate free from paying users?
          Freemium makes sense if there's an obvious point to start charging.

          Do your users need to pay when they exceed a certain number of seats, credits or widgets? Picking a metric is tricky, and is a topic worthy of a separate blog post. Number of seats is a common metric, but it only makes sense for applications where there's a downside to everyone using the same login. (For example, if your application is an analytics dashboard, it doesn't really matter if there's one shared login or each person has a separate login.) If there is no obvious metric which separates free from paying users, you should probably charge everybody.

        • Do you depend on word-of-mouth marketing?
          More users (even if they are free) = more mouths.

          If yes, note that more people using your product means more mouths to spread the word. You still need to reach the right kind of users, so the question is: can you reach people who will pay, through the word of people who will remain forever free? My guess is that if you're targeting a specific niche, word-of-mouth spread and willingness to pay are strongly correlated (which suggests that there is little benefit in having lots of free users); if you're targeting a broad audience, the two are uncorrelated, so free users can help you carry the word to people who will pay. [3]

        • What kind of company do you want to build?
          You need lots of users if you want to take over the world.

          If you've taken venture capital and want to take over the world, you need to grow quickly, even if it means leaving revenue on the table. If you want to grow organically and maximise profits, you're better off maximising revenue per user, and ignoring those users who would never pay you anyway.

        • What are your costs per user?
          They had better be low if you have lots of free users.

          Are your costs fixed (developers, testers) or variable (servers, support)? If your variable costs are low enough, it's fine to have a low conversion rate, because one paid-for user may pay for 1,000 free users. Support for free users is often the limiting factor. To keep your support burden low, you'll need to make your product easy to use and fix all your bugs... but that's well worth doing anyway!

        So why does Ruben say that free plans don't work? Well, for his situation, I think he's absolutely right. Let's consider the above questions for Bidsketch.

        Bidsketch a workflow tool for designers: it's immediately valuable and then probably stays this valuable over time. It requires a change of behaviour: stop using email and start using Bidsketch. It has two distinct modes of use (one for designers and one for clients), but it seems pitched at one audience (designers). It competes with email, a well established solution. It seems to target a premium niche of the best freelance designers; this is not a tool for everybody. Ruben is self-declared Micropreneur who wants his business to grow organically. And because he's working by himself (as far as I can tell), the support burden of free users would be significant.

        So I agree: freemium is not right for Ruben's product. But it might be right for yours.


        [1] This is a popular failure mode for online discussion, and a pet peeve of mine. 14 months or so ago, the NoSQL community was squabbling about "mine is better" – "no, mine is", so I contributed a post explaining when you should use which type of database.

        [2] Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, gave an excellent talk on Evernote's business metrics in May. It's packed with great insights for products which gradually become more useful over time.

        "Every month, the longer you use [Evernote], the more valuable it gets. And since the long-term retention is flat, and the conversion goes up, what you see is: the longer a cohort stays, the more valuable they become." (at 14'55")

        Examining the cohort of users which signed up in March 2008, Phil found that after 3 months, they were making $300/month from 11,000 people (a conversion rate of about 0.6%); 22 months later, they were making $8,000/month from the same 11,000 people (a conversion rate of about 16%)!

        "Users are kind of like a nice wine, or a stinky cheese. As [a cohort of users] ages, it actually gets better. A lot of the people who wouldn't pay leave, and a lot of the people who stay end up paying. Even though there's no hard sell, and you can use Evernote forever for free, a much larger percentage winds up converting." (at 17'05")

        Of course, not every application increases in value to users over time.

        [3] Rapportive has broad appeal and is not limited to a specific niche, so it makes sense for us to have lots of free users. When Brad Feld recently said that he was trying Gmail, a chorus of our users jumped to recommend Rapportive to him. We wouldn't have got that without lots of people using and loving our product.

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403491 2010-08-17T06:24:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Effortless Scheduling with Tungle.me Scheduling a meeting shouldn't take longer than actually having the meeting. Yet we spend so much of our time playing calendar battleships. Back and forth our emails go, trying to find that one precious hour where fates, stars and calendars align.

        Calendars are great for remembering meetings, but they don't help you arrange meetings. That's why we've integrated Tungle.me into Rapportive. Tungle.me makes scheduling easy.

        To schedule a meeting with somebody who uses Tungle.me, just click "Schedule" in their Rapportive profile. Their calendar will appear, showing only the times when they're available. You propose some times, enter a topic, and you're done.

        If you already use Tungle.me, we've done some magic: your account will automatically show up in your Rapportive profile. Just make sure you've made your Tungle.me page searchable, which you can do from your Tungle.me account settings page. If you want to use Tungle.me to help you manage your calendar, you can sign up at http://tungle.com.

        Why wasn't it always this easy?

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403492 2010-08-11T07:17:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z The Accidental Launch We accidentally got 10,000+ users in 24 hours, and funding from Y Combinator just a few days later. This post tells that story.

        We were determined to take part in Y Combinator, so we spent weeks crafting our entry and polishing Rapportive. At the start of March, we were finally ready. We held our breath and clicked "Submit". We looked at each other, relaxed, and slowly started to breathe again. A few hours passed uneventfully. We were in no way prepared for what happened next.

        Somehow, the press had found us. TheNextWeb ran the first piece. ReadWriteWeb picked it up after that. Then Lifehacker. Then WebWorkerDaily. We had headlines like: "Stop What You Are Doing & Install This Plug-In." Our twitter account was aflame with thousands of mentions in just a few hours. We had accidentally launched.

        We saw our user count grow from 5 to over 10,000 in 24 hours. I had a case of beers in my drawer in case we ever needed to celebrate anything. We drank all of them.

        I stayed awake for two days straight: the emails didn't slow down, the tweets kept pouring in, and new Skype chats would appear as soon as I'd finish old ones. But we were determined to quickly respond to every single last email, tweet, and chat, so we soldiered on.

        The next day, investors from across the world started contacting us with offers of funding. These weren't just any old investors; these were some of the best angels and venture capitalists in the world.

        We didn't have time to wait for the normal Y Combinator interview, which would have happened a month later. I contacted Harj, Venture Partner at YC, and they offered to do the interview over Skype. (I vaguely knew Harj from our university days — it's a surprisingly small world.)

        A few days later, Martin, Sam and I were huddled around around a laptop talking to pg, Jessica and Harj. They weren't quite as huddled, so we spent most of it talking to pg's legs. We talked for half an hour, but I felt like it passed by in an instant. A few minutes later, we had our answer: Y Combinator would fund us!

        We celebrated in the traditional British manner. When we were next coherent, we booked a fundraising trip to the Valley.

        Lessons Learnt

        We did several things that worked well during this phase:

        • Offer surprisingly great service. Most companies deliver terrible service, and users have come to expect it. Surprise them. Make it abundantly clear how users can contact you. Monitor all your channels. Respond to people as soon as you physically can. Thank everybody and go the extra mile. I personally find that it really helps to smile, even when the user is thousands of miles away and on the other end of a tweet. We use a shared Gmail account for email support, and CoTweet for twitter. Our YC batchmates rave about Olark.
        • Use a feedback forum. Make the forum really easy to find. Include links to it from your product. Make the links especially visible when the product isn't working properly. If your forum provides single sign-on (so users don't have to create new accounts) then use it! We use UserVoice and have fallen irrevocably in love with it.
        • Release early. We didn't choose to release early: it was a complete accident! But in hindsight it turned out to be very useful. Our feedback forum rapidly filled up. We quickly learnt peoples' likes and dislikes, and prioritised building what people want. If you don't release early, then you might build the wrong thing and you won't find out until much later. Even if you build the right thing, somebody else might build it first and steal your thunder. So get out there.
        • Be ready to scale. You never know when traffic will hit. Now I realise that "be ready to scale" may sound like classically bad advice, but cloud computing has changed the economics. You can be ready by simply choosing the right hosting provider. If we were on a cheap VPS, we would have crumbled to pieces like Cobb's limbo in Inception. As we were on Heroku, we could simply increase the number of dynos. I still vividly remember when our traffic hit. I was away from my desk, so I reached for my iPhone and dialed us up to 20 dynos using Nezumi. A few seconds later, we had scaled.
        • Build for the press. It turns out that Rapportive works exceedingly well for technology bloggers, because they spend so much time corresponding with people who have significant online presences. It is not worth building functionality only for the press (unless, of course, they are your target market), but it is worth being aware of this effect.
        • Build early. This advice is specifically for companies applying to Y Combinator: start as early as you can, as the deadline will come soon. The most impressive thing you can do is make something that people want.

        One of our favourite books is Founders at Work, a collection of interviews with founders about their early days. We're now collecting stories of our own, which we will post in a series, Rapportites at Work. This post is the first of the series.

        Update: It turns out @plc tipped @zee, which sparked off all the press — thanks Pete :D

        Jobs: We are looking for a talented developer to join our team.  Could it be you?

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403494 2010-07-30T20:17:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z 10% of your emails aren't from real people Email can be a pretty painful experience. We all get a ton of emails; some of them are personal messages from real people, some are notifications sent by a service, some are newsletters. Some are important, others less so. Some are from people or companies you know well, some are ones you barely know.

        What we're trying to do with Rapportive is to make email a better place. Part of that is to help you figure out what to do about a given email, and to help you do it. And a quick look at the feedback forum shows that our wonderful user community has plenty of ideas on how to make email better. This blog post is the story of one of those ideas.

        One of the most popular ideas on the forum has been "Display an informative and helpful profile when companies email me". To give a bit of background: when you get an email, Rapportive tries to find the sender on various social networking sites, and gives you a summary of that person — their photo, location, job, recent tweets, LinkedIn profile; whatever they have chosen to make public.

        However, that only works if the sender is an actual person.

        We looked at our statistics, and saw that about 10% of profiles looked up by Rapportive users are for senders like noreply@example.com, support@company.com or notifications@someservice.com. (That's counting distinct sender addresses, not the number of times they looked up, which is probably even higher.) For these profiles, we simply had nothing to show — pretty lame. That had to change.

        So we built a bit of cleverness into Rapportive: when we spot an email address which looks like one of the above, we grab a copy of the website of the company sending them. For example, if the email came from noreply@apple.com, our servers will go to www.apple.com, pick the parts which seem the most interesting, and put them in your sidebar in Gmail. Before and after this change:

        It's not perfect — for example, the link to "iPhone" was picked up as "IPhone", with an uppercase "I" — but we think it's still pretty useful. For example:
        • When you get an error notification from a company, click the "Support" link in the Rapportive sidebar to go directly to that company's customer service.
        • When you get a message from a service you use, go directly to their blog to check if they have said anything about the upcoming feature you are waiting for. Or maybe they have some interesting upcoming events?
        • When you get a marketing mail from some random company and you can't remember signing up to their newsletter, check their website summary in the sidebar to decide whether it's interesting to you or whether you want to unsubscribe.

        If you send emails using an address like noreply@yourcompany.com, check out the advice from Ben Chestnut at MailChimp — do you want a more personal or more corporate feel? If you want to edit the profile for an email address, Andy Gambles describes how. And if you don't like what Rapportive has done for your address, just drop us a note at support@rapportive.com and we'll change it for you.

        By the way, if you're technically inclined, we even made some of the code behind this feature freely available. And if you're a talented code craftsman and these sound like interesting problems to work on… we're hiring :)

        We've got lots more exciting features coming. Follow us on Twitter for updates!

        tag:blog.rapportive.com,2013:Post/403496 2010-04-20T02:52:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:42Z Down at the Open Angel Forum

        After launching in March, attracting 10,000+ users on the first day and many more since, MartinSam and I decided to raise seed funding for Rapportive.

        Anybody who has raised funding knows that it can be very time consuming. The best investors will significantly improve your chances of success, and can even rescue you you from dire straits.  But even with a strong personal network, it can take a very long time to schedule meetings with the good and the great. That is, until Jason Calacanis started the Open Angel Forum.

        The Open Angel Forum puts 6 promising start-ups and 20 hand-picked angel investors in the same room as steak, wine and beer (the precise details may depend on your location). After everybody is suitably lubricated, each start-up pitches for 5 minutes and takes 10 minutes of Q&A.

        The angels are stellar. We were in Silicon Valley, where the OAF boasts Dave McClure and Shervin Pishevar as chapter heads, and where the membership created or funded some of the world's most successful technology companies. These folks are the real deal. Don Dodge puts it best: “This is an invitation-only group, and these angels all write cheques.”

        I am bullish on the OAF: it works. If you want to raise funding, and you are ready, then you should immediately apply. There are currently events in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York and Boulder, and there’s rumours of chapters in London and Israel.

        Thanks again to Jason, Tyler, Dave and Shervin for putting on such a good event.  It works!