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The ShuttleCloud Spotlight series highlights innovative email providers that are enhancing the user experience. For the third spotlight, we had the opportunity to speak with Helen Horstmann-Allen, who is the COO, and Bron Gondwana, the CEO of Fastmail
1. Please describe the mission of Fastmail as an email provider?
Fastmail is a human-focused email, designed to assist you in getting the most out of your email, with the least effort and time.
2. When and where was Fastmail founded?
According to Helen, Fastmail was founded in 1999 in Melbourne, Australia. It was owned by Opera Software from 2010 to 2013 before being sold back to some of the staff. Fastmail purchased the assets of ICGroup in Philadelphia (including pobox.com) in 2015. Pobox was founded in 1995, making it one of the oldest email companies still in existence. Our longest serving employee just celebrated 26 years working on email — the first Pobox email she has is from 1995! We have offices in Melbourne and Philadelphia as well as some remote staff.
3. When was the first email sent from Fastmail?
The oldest active account on Fastmail was created on Feb 16, 2002 – but there would have been emails sent before then! The first email I personally sent on Fastmail was from my new work account to my personal account on October 29th, 2004. I moved my personal email (and all my family’s email) to Fastmail about a year later, having previously hosted it on my own server.
4. What is one unique thing about Fastmail?
It may sound surprising, but a good old fashioned “service in exchange for money” business model is surprisingly rare in this marketplace. Most email providers are trying to monetise something else in order to provide the email account for free. We don’t do that. The other thing that regular Fastmail users often become oblivious to is just how fast and easy to use our interface is compared to other products. It’s only when you try to use something else that you realize just how slick the Fastmail experience is – and it’s because we put a lot of work into making everything fast (it’s in the name) and predictable so you can process your emails with confidence.
5. What’s next for Fastmail?
There’s tons of things in the works. Without too many spoilers, a lot of the upcoming features that I’m particularly excited about are little tweaks to make things more useful for multiple people working together – from shared team calendars, to shared mailboxes that support workflows for a group of people collaborating on a role (e.g. sales or support) within a small business. It’s not “new features” as such, all the underlying infrastructure is there, but the right little bits of automatic behaviour and rules will make life easier for the millions of small businesses that currently have shared email addresses and have to manually keep track of messages sent to them. Little tweaks that unlock big benefits for our customers are one of the best ways to add value to our product.
6. What is your name, role and responsibilities at Fastmail?
My name is Bron Gondwana. I started with Fastmail as a developer and sysadmin in 2004, became a part owner in 2013, and have been CEO since 2017. As CEO I’m responsible for everything – the buck stops here. I still have a soft spot for low level programming (I was a key developer for the Cyrus IMAP server that stores all our customer data for many years) but these days my work is almost all conversations and relationship nurturing
7. Is there another email provider you would like to see featured?
Not an email provider as much as some email products! Fastmail provide much of our work as open source, and are very strong proponents of open standards. We developed the JMAP standard which is now generally available from the IETF as RFC8620 and RFC8621. The Apache James server and Linagora (https://www.linagora.com/en/) – the company who do a lot of work to support it are very interesting. There’s also the very new Stalwart JMAP server (https://stalw.art/).
Keep an eye on Fastmail to stay informed about their advancements in email and privacy.Look out for our next email spotlight series to learn about other innovative companies in the email industry.