A year of Hellodeco

By: Jack Sellwood
Posted: January 19, 2022

Twelve months ago, I approached two friends, Matt and Tyler, about an idea. Before getting into product management, I ran a branding and IT agency. Among many things, we implemented productivity suites like G Suite and Office 365. Back then, about ten years ago, adopting cloud-based software like this was a radical idea. Fast forward to today, cloud software has proliferated and we have more apps than we know what to do with. The idea I pitched to Matt and Tyler hinged on this shift.

Where productivity suites of the past, from Google and Microsoft, bundled together as many apps as possible, Hellodeco bundles as few apps as possible and unites all the other apps you’re using—no matter who built them. This aligns with a growing problem in the SaaS industry where individual team members are burdened accessing, managing, and remembering almost a dozen apps every workday.

Email rests at the heart of this problem—it’s the identity that follows us across all these apps and is the lowest common denominator of the cloud. Solutions like Okta have emerged and these work well upmarket in the enterprise, but they leave behind mid-market and smaller, creative markets who don’t have dedicated IT teams. Think what Dropbox was for file-sharing, Hellodeco is for app management.

Claudemail, Inc.

The most exciting part of starting a new venture is naming it. We knew Hellodeco would start as an email service but evolve over time into a productivity platform, so we didn’t want to choose an email centric name like Fastmail or Gmail. So, we got clever and created a portmanteau of unofficial-cofounder, Claude, pictured here, and the word email. Claudemail kept our options open, and we planned to drop the “mail” and become simply “Claude” once the product matured. The Facebook anyone?

An image from Notion

As we kept building, designed our first UI, and dreamt about where we wanted the product to go, we realized “mail” couldn’t be anywhere in the brand. Email isn’t what we’re excited to build but it’s what we have to built to aggregate and organize all your apps. This optimism led us to explore past eras when humanity was excited for the future of technology. Ultimately the deco era, and it’s emphasis on craft, was the vibe we wanted Hellodeco to bring back to email and to our mess of apps. “Hello” as an homage to email greetings.

If Notion built email

Notion is all the rage, and it’s minimalist, block-based interface is a goldmine of UX ideas. We’re heavily inspired by Notion’s user interface and strive to create a similar vibe. Notion’s simplicity is paired with onion-like layers of powerful functionality. This balance is tough to achieve, but it’s a first-principle of ours as we build a hub for all your apps.

Early Hellodeco drafts borrowed from Apple Mail and imagined a right-sidebar to compliment the traditional left-sidebar nav found in most email clients. The idea behind this was to give users what they expect from email, a left-sidebar with email folders, and slowly shift them into a new UI paradigm (right-sidebar). In Hellodeco, the right-sidebar surfaces apps and relevant records from your apps alongside the email thread you’re consuming. Across the top, we imagined a global nav that followed you across your Hellodeco-hosted email, calendar, and contacts. We talked to one user and they suggested we replace the macOS menu bar with this global app nav.

An image from Notion
An image from Notion
An image from Notion

We eventually took this a step further and adopted a UI style much similar to Notion. Traversing mail and apps is in a collapsable left nav and the right-sidebar is gone. We think this creates less visual clutter. Instead of putting relevant apps and records in a right-sidebar, they’re now in-situ in the inbox and in email threads themselves. Our first step in bringing together all your apps is surfacing links and other data gleaned from email threads themselves. We exchange so many links to documents, files, and projects in other apps but our email clients do little to surface this.

An image from Notion
An image from Notion

What’s next?

2021 was a whirlwind year for Matt, Tyler, and myself. Matt and Tyler each welcomed newborns into the world as first-time fathers (and founders), and I moved across the country to Los Angeles. With all those shifts, it was far to easy to get pulled away from Hellodeco. We’re looking to disrupt a billion-dollar industry (productivity suites), and that will take dedication and regular execution. Expect a public launch of Hellodeco with MVP-level functionality (think minimalist email) in 2022.

Want to help build Hellodeco? Reach out.