Unified Inbox makes its first acquisition

Kiwi startup Unified Inbox has made its first acquisition, buying iPhone app HelloInbox for an undisclosed sum.  

Unified Inbox is building a single platform to centralise external social conversations and internal team collaboration, which is currently in beta and plans to launch publicly later this year.

Founder and chief executive Toby Ruckert says web services need a strong mobile strategy and Unified Inbox without a mobile app would not be a service people could use all the time.

The deal has been brewing for about a year, he says. Unified Inbox had been looking at its competitors in the mobile space and HelloInbox was one of the "really cool" ones.

"You don't really know who's going to make it eventually," says Ruckert. But Unified Inbox and HelloInbox "aligned" with each other (to say nothing of their similar names) and when the latter's founder Dirk de Kok was looking to sell, rather than building its own mobile app from scratch, Unified Inbox decided to make an offer.

"It will be a nice addition from a usability point of view," he says. "The HelloInbox team and in particular Dirk is as dedicated to streamlining multi-channel communication as we are, and we are looking forward to leveraging their expertise in the mobile application space to enrich the Unified Inbox experience."

There'll be further development, of course. HelloInbox was designed for the Dutch market, played more in the B2C space rather than B2B, and is iOS only, but Ruckert says going forward they'll build across platforms, for Android, tablet and desktop.

Unified Inbox is building a team in Silicon Valley, which may be joined by some of HelloInbox's staff.

"Today I would say it's harder ti work with people in different time zones than different locations," Ruckert says.

It's the first acquisition for the company ("it's a big thing for a comparatively small team from New Zealand to do something like this so early") but it's already working on another deal. And he says Unified Inbox is open to more opportunities in the quest to build a "dream team".

HelloInbox's de Kok will be joining Unified Inbox's mobile strategy team.

"Message overload is becoming a bigger and bigger problem, users expect to be able to check and respond to all their messages everywhere all the time. Talking to Unified Inbox over a period of time we realised that our mobile apps combined with the strength of the Unified Inbox platform could deliver a world-class product," he said. 

See Ruckert's previous posts on Idealog about starting a business in New Zealand, and the 10 strategic building blocks of startups.