Scott Abel, founder of Umuse

Umuse has created a digital assistant for the email inbox box that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning and becomes smarter over time.

To bring the product to market, the Austin-based startup led by Scott Abel, former Spiceworks Founder and CEO, announced Wednesday that it has raised $5 million in seed funding from Shasta Ventures, Next Coast Ventures and Floodgate Capital.

In 2006, most people just had to deal with email, Abel said. But then all these other things started to creep into the business including Basecamp and Asana and custom applications in the late 2000s like HipChat and Slack. By the time Abel left Spiceworks in 2013, he was receiving hundreds of messages a day across four different applications.

Umuse takes all those disparate message streams and brings them into one integrated feed and prioritizes them by looking at a customer’s inner circle of communication and who they talk to the most often, Abel said. Its technology is called “Inner Circle technology: to help users quickly find those messages that matter most. Through machine learning, the software builds a personal communication graph of conversations, which adapts and learns over time.”

“The algorithm weighs who you talk to, how often and how quickly you respond, and auto-opens messages from those people so that they stand out in your feed,” according to Umuse. “Users can tune and customize these settings as needed, so they have complete control.”

Umuse also makes its search engine more powerful for its customers to find information across email and chat streams, Abel said.

Employees today receive a huge volume of correspondence via email, chat, text and other messages and that has led to all kinds of problems like lower productivity, frustration, distraction and important information getting lost in the sea of communications.

That’s the problem Umuse solves by putting the information into a single, Facebook-like message feed. Umuse works with existing services like Gmail and Slack. With Umuse, customers can quickly scan, zoom, reply to and search messages across multiple channels.

“Email has gone from being a tool that works for people, to additional work they now have to do. Add in chat, text and other forms of messaging and it just exacerbates the problem, creating a drain and drag on worker productivity,” Thomas Ball, Co-founder and Managing Director at Next Coast Ventures, said in a news statement. “Companies need a better approach to bring all these communication channels together. With the Umuse team’s deep experience developing simple solutions to complex problems, I’m excited to see how they solve this one.”

UMuse, founded in 2016, already has more than 5,000 “alpha” users who have been trying out early versions of the product and providing feedback. Now the company is releasing the software to beta users who can download it from the company’s website.

The company chose the name Umuse because it was something that was evocative and captured the role of the digital assistant for the inbox.

“It’s your personal messaging muse whispering in your ear,” Abel said.

Umuse is based in the Westlake area and has 12 employees. It may add one or two more this year, Abel said.

Lots of people have tried to tackle the email inbox management problem and failed, Abel said.

“It is a tough problem,” he said. “But I think somebody’s got to keep trying. It is still a big problem.”

Umuse: The Power of One from Umuse on Vimeo.