(Video by YouTube user Tanuri X, under a Creative Commons license)
Peter Norman says his company is kind of autobiographical.
The attorney and cofounder of Philly-based software company Winnieware — makers of an add-on for email platform Microsoft Outlook called ReplyToSome — was helping negotiating a contract between two less-than-amicable parties a few years back when an email screw-up led him to show the other side a smoking gun thanks to a catch-all distribution list.
“This was information that the other side shouldn’t have had,” Norman, 40, said. The incident led him to think about how tech could catch those email misfires before they happen. In 2014, the company was founded alongside two partners in New York and Atlanta, with the legal space as its initial sales target.
Today, the company has two Philly law firms — Panitch Schwarze and Dilworth Paxson — as its primary customers. All told, some 40 individual users rely on the platform to help suss out where emails are going and, more importantly, where they’re not.
“It’s highly customizable,” Norman, of Center City, said. “We lay the info that is sensitive to you so you’ll see what you do and get feedback before you press send.”
Finally, Peter Norman of @winniewarellc/ReplyToSome bringing it home with a slick tool to save us from ourselves (and those 3:00 a.m. email screw-ups that terrorize our professional lives…). pic.twitter.com/utqAAjjsoL
— Christian Lang (@christianllang) May 2, 2018
The way the platform works is by listing recipients’ addresses grouped by organizations. It’s color-coded: Green for internal, red for external.
“This way, when you reply, you can select only a certain group of people so reply-all errors become less likely,” Norman said. “Our auto-fill tool also color-codes addresses.”
Embarrassing anecdotes aside, email misfires can have real-world impact. According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Report, data breaches caused by email mixups rose by 56 percent from last year.
“It can be helpful to people in variety of sectors that handle sensitive information,” Norman said. “We’ve had inquiries from folks at government agencies, universities, finance and healthcare institutions.”
But the bigger question here is: What about Gmail? With Outlook users outnumbered by those of us on Google’s free service at a 3:1 ratio (Gmail at 1.2 billion, Microsoft Outlook at 400 million), it’s a very frequent question on Norman’s inbox.
“Right now its just Outlook, but we’re looking into the Gmail expansion,” the cofounder said.-30-
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