A Q&A with Tylr Mobile co-founder and CEO Ryan Nichols. The San Mateo, California-based startup, which offers a mobile sales force productivity app that integrates email with CRM, recently announced the completion over the summer of its $1.5 million Seed funding round from investors that include Salesforce.com. It was founded in late 2012 by Nichols, Marlin Scott and Matthew Beebe.
SUB: Please describe Tylr Mobile and your primary innovation.
Nichols: We’re here because the way we work on the go is broken. The number one mobile work app is email, which is a terrible place to actually get work done.
Tylr Mobile is turning the mobile inbox into a connected platform for mobile work. We’ve built an app that helps workers be productive on the go, a platform to meet the unique needs of each enterprise, and connectors to the systems that businesses need to run.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Nichols: Our first app is WorkinBox, an actionable inbox connected to CRM. WorkinBox helps salespeople be more responsive to their customers, and helps companies manage their sales teams, who sink $12 billion a year into CRM systems that nobody really uses, especially on the road.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Tylr Mobile from the competition?
Nichols: There are a bunch of startups targeting mobile sales productivity, but none of them are tackling the elephant in the room—email. There are other startups that are targeting mobile email, but none of them are ready for specific roles in the enterprise. We’re way ahead of anyone else building a mobile inbox for salespeople.
Our main differentiator is our technology platform. We have a unique way of building and deploying dynamic mobile apps that are flexible enough to meet the needs of the enterprise.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1.5 million in Seed funding. Who are your investors?
Nichols: We closed our Seed round in June. We were flattered to receive backing from the Alchemist Accelerator, Citrix, Salesforce.com, and a handful of Seed investors with deep enterprise and mobile expertise. All of our investors are focused on technology for the enterprise; that allows them to advise us in very helpful ways.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Nichols: We’re investing in rock star developers who are passionate about reinventing mobile work.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Tylr Mobile? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Nichols: This is my fourth startup focused on changing how people work. My last startup tried to ‘kill email.’ I learned that we should instead embrace email for what it’s good at, but overcome its shortcomings by connecting it to other systems. That’s a tough technical challenge. Marlin, my co-founder and CTO, had been building connected enterprise mobile apps for years. We first met at Appirio, in the Salesforce.com ecosystem. Our founding moment was when we realized that Marlin’s technology could be used to solve the problems of mobile productivity.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Nichols: We knew we needed world-class, user-driven design to build a mobile app that people loved to use for their daily productivity. So we brought on the third member of our founding team, Matt Beebe, an ex-IDEO designer, who had just been named to the Kleiner Perkins Design Council.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Nichols: Tylr Mobile’s technology platform allows us to expose ‘tiles’ of information from different sources inside a single, dynamic mobile app. WorkinBox is our first app—we’re turning your mobile inbox into a place where you can actually get working.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Nichols: Right now, we’re 100 percent focused on identifying our next batch of pilot customers and making them wildly successful. Expanding beyond that will require additional capital, a conversation we’ll start in the new year.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Nichols: We’ve discovered that there’s no real minimum viable product for email; getting daily active usage requires a lot of functionality and great performance. But that’s what makes our product so hard for others to replicate.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Nichols: After your free trial, ongoing individual usage will require a subscription to our professional edition. But the real revenue growth will come from sales teams, allowing management to configure and control their team’s WorkinBox. Over time, we’ll also sell our full mobile platform to enterprise IT, allowing them to add connectors to other data sources and support other roles across the enterprise.
SUB: What are your goals for Tylr Mobile over the next year or so?
Nichols: Right now, we’re looking for iPhone-toting sales teams using Salesforce.com and Google Apps to join the WorkinBox pilot. We’re also looking for CIOs, who share our vision for mobile work, to partner with us in developing connectors to other systems and supporting other roles across the enterprise. It will be an exciting 2014.
Tylr Mobile – www.tylrmobile.com