It took just four months for Engagio to go from a conversation between Fred Wilson and William Mougayar to a funded startup, and about six weeks of that was spent drawing up the legal documents. Mr. Mougayar, founder of the content aggregator Equentia and a frequent commenter at Mr. Wilson’s blog, was trying to solve the “scattered comments” problem. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the comments feed on our favorite sites have become their own inboxes. Engagio aggregates these conversations into a searchable social media inbox that shows all your incoming and outgoing comments as well as more information about who you’re talking to.
“The whole thing was more or less conceived on Fred’s blog, and it came as a result of my involvement as a frequent commenter not just on his blog but elsewhere,” Mr. Mougayar said in a phone call with Betabeat this morning. “I believe in commenting as a value element because it’s not just commenting, it’s conversations and I have developed relationships with people that I have started to comment with.”
Mr. Wilson, who was the first investor, wrote a blog post about Engagio earlier this month. “I’ve been encouraging William to do this project since he first mentioned it to me in the fall,” he wrote. “It seemed only right to encourage with both words and capital.”
Other investors came in through AngelList and personal introductions. The final list includes Rho Canada (Montreal), Real Ventures (Montreal), Bullpen Capital (Menlo Park), Michael Yavonditte (New York); and Extreme Venture Partners (Toronto).
Mr. Mougayar himself is based in Toronto, although he plans to move into General Assembly with his team of four for three months, thanks to a grant from the Canadian government. Engagio is hiring for several positions. “I really like the startup tech environment in New York,” he said. “It’s so close to Toronto so it makes a lot more sense for me to use New York as a jumping point as opposed to San Francisco or the Valley.”
Between a few press mentions and two posts from Mr. Wilson, Engagio is up to 3,000 users—the site opened to the public at the end of January—and is ready to scale with a big press push today. “We have about four different monetization options which I prefer not to talk too much in detail about because they all hinge on having a lot of users first,” Mr. Mougayar said. “So right now we are dead focused on ramping up the number of users.” Right now the product is built for consumers, although Engagio has had requests from brand managers and is “paying attention to having those features,” he said. One possible monetization model would be a freemium service similar to Dropbox.
We couldn’t help noticing the frequency with which Mr. Mougayar and Mr. Wilson referenced Gmail. “Make it like Gmail,” Mr. Wilson told the founder. “Engagio is a Gmail-like productivity tool to manage your conversations in social networks and commenting systems,” the site says.
But Twitter, Facebook, Disqus and the like can send email notifications when one of your comments gets a response. So why make social media conversations separate? “Actually our most active users don’t like the email notifications from social networks/commenting systems… there are too many of them and they get lost,” Mr. Mougayar said on Skype, pointing us to the review by investor Brad Feld, who said the service saves him time. He also noted that Engagio keeps track of who you’re interacting with, even across networks.
“Also replying to comments/conversations is more fun than responding to email,” he said. “You do email because you have to, but you respond to conversations because you want to. I go to my Engagio Inbox when I want to take a break and have a bit more fun.” Amen to that.