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July 18 2011

23:13

Inbox Overload Begone: Taskforce Exits Beta, Goes Pro With Paid Version

Email is an essential part of our daily communication, but it can also be a real pain in the ass. Or, going one step further, as my colleague MG Siegler recently put it, “email is the absolute devil”. This fact even prompted him to channel Peter Gibbons and quit email altogether. I, personally, applaud this bold move but, instead of taking a vow of abstinence, am turning to other tools to help find a way to funnel the fire hose. Of course, this problem is not new, and many startups and products have tried to climb Mount Email, many with little success.

While it will take a near-divine intervention for me to declare a winner in this fight, Taskforce, a member of the Y Combinator Winter Class of 2011, is taking a better shot than most other tools I’ve used. (You can check out our February profile of the startup here.)

Taskforce offers an extension that integrates with Gmail to convert your emails into task lists and makes it simple to create reminders. Appearing out of your inbox like a tall Google toolbar, Taskforce, perhaps more importantly comes with collaboration and calendar tools, enabling you to add collaborators, set due dates, and comment on and hide tasks that don’t need to be completed immediately.

When you add a collaborator to a task, Taskforce alerts them to the shared task and if you make updates to the collaborated tasks, it sends further alerts — and your collaborators don’t have to be using Taskforce. (These collaborative functions are what sets it apart from GTasks.) And even though it adds buttons to your emails allowing you to convert them to tasks, Taskforce doesn’t actually access your inbox. Everything happens through the extension.

Since going into beta in February, Taskforce Founders Niccolo Pantucci and Courtland Allen have been poring over feedback from users and are today officially stepping out of beta to launch publicly. They’ve added a few more features to flesh out the extension’s usability.

Taskforce has introduced a mobile app and are now unveiling a paid version of the service, called Taskforce Pro, which includes a number of additions, including collaborative lists that enable light-weight project management to be carried out in teams, GTasks sync to enable tasks to be pushed from Taskforce into GTasks as well as GCal.

Pro will also allow users to reprioritize tasks that they can choose the order in which they work on their to-do lists, take advantage of keyboard shortcuts, as well as (and importantly) the ability to maximize and minimize the size and presentation of the Taskforce in-email app — a much requested feature according to Pantucci, including by yours truly.

Pantucci also told me that Taskforce has seen great early user adoption, with numbers in the “tens of thousands” of signups, including some by “some very well known tech companies”. Although the founders declined to share specific notable users this early in the game, we were able to find out that a particular company that just recently launched its music service in the U.S. has become an active Taskforce user.

In terms of funding, as part of YC’s class of 2011, Taskforce was included in Yuri Milner’s no-strings-attached convertible debt investment offer of $150K, which the startup accepted. And thanks to Taskforce’s incubation at Y Combinator, the founders were advised by Paul Buchheit, who is a Partner at YC and also happens to be the creator of Gmail.

Taskforce Pro provides the startup with a great opportunity to begin monetizing, and Pantucci said that, when the founders bounced the idea off of early adopters, many said that they would welcome a paid option. Pro will initially be priced at $5 a month, and all Taskforce users will have access to Pro’s features for the first 30 days of using the service, whereafter users will be asked to pay. Those who continue with the free version still have access to Taskforce’s core features — on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Next stop: Taking Taskforce beyond task management, pushing integration with other tools, like Dropbox, for example. Document management is a possibility as well. To learn more, visit Taskforce at home here.



February 16 2011

20:09

Taskforce Helps You Organize Your Inbox and Become a Taskmaster

If you’re a TechCrunch reader — or, really, if you live in the 21st century — you probably get more than one or two emails in the course of a day. In fact, you probably get a lot more. For some of us, emails have a way of accumulating faster than trolls in a comment section, and it can become an arduous task to keep track of which emails are top priority and which are your ex-girlfriend telling you to come and pick up your stuff.

Thanks to Taskforce, a member of Y Combinator’s latest class of startups, organizing your inbox just got a lot easier. Taskforce, simply put, is an inbox extension that integrates with Gmail to convert your emails into tasks and makes it simple to create reminders.

To begin using the plug-in, you simply download the extension, and sign in to your email account. Taskforce will pop up (it looks like a tall-ish Google toolbar) and prompt you to begin creating tasks. You can then set due dates, add collaborators, delay the date, and make comments on your tasks. It also adds buttons to the top of each of your emails, allowing you to convert the email into a new task, or add it to an existing task. (And don’t worry, Taskforce doesn’t access your inbox, all actions take place through the extension.)

When you add a collaborator to your task list, Taskforce will send that person an email, alerting them to your shared task. If you then make updates, or add pertinent emails, it will automatically alert your collaborator(s). And the coolest part? They don’t even need to be using Taskforce — nor do they have to continue ping-ing you every time they need you to do something — instead they simply check the status of the task.

I recently became a user of Taskforce and so far it’s been great. There are a few kinks here and there, and it sorely needs to add a few minimization so that you can hide the toolbar when you’re not managing your tasks, but overall the UI is terrific, as is speed. For those Google Tasks users out there, collaboration is the main feature that distinguishes Taskforce. Both task organizers are available on mobile and essentially offer the same tools, but Taskforce kills GTasks in design and UI. Plus, if you’re lazy like me, you don’t have to open a new tab.

Founders Niccolo Pantucci and Courtland Allen told me that the idea for Taskforce came from Pantucci’s experience during last year’s catastrophic volcanic eruption in Iceland. Pantucci was one of many in Europe grounded by the enormous, resulting ash clouds. During his three-week layover, emails from friends, family, and colleagues began piling up in his inbox — too many to keep track of — and he found himself unable to reply to the majority of them. And so, in a twist of the butterfly effect, a natural disaster gave birth to an email organizer.

The startup has been in beta for the past 5 months, during which it gained tens of thousands of users, according to the founders. The older version had a few bugs, so the guys completely overhauled the extension for today’s release. And as to funding, as part of YC’s class of 2011, Taskforce was included in Yuri Milner’s no-strings-attached convertible debt investment offer. They accepted.

If you need any assurance before adding the extension, you might want to know that the founders were advised by Paul Buchheit, YC Partner and creator of Gmail, during design and launch. “[Paul] was particularly excited about the fact that he could use Taskforce to avoid extra work,” Allen said of Buccheit. “He wanted to be able to convert people’s emails into tasks and have Taskforce do all the communication, and let people know that he’s ‘on it’”. And so it was.

Taskforce is currently available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, with plans to offer compatibility with other browsers in the pipeline.



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