Liaise makes email useful, now it's ready to make money (invites)

Among the many startups promising to help users take control of their overflowing email inboxes, one of the most intriguing is Liaise. The Palo Alto, Calif. extracts action items from emails and turns them into to-do lists. Today it’s leaving beta testing with the full launch of its product.

A survey of early testers found that the typical Liaise user sends and receives more than 100 emails per day, and that more than 75 percent of those emails either assign a task or offer an update on that task. If that information is left in an email, it’s easy to forget.

Liaise, which works as a plugin for Microsoft Outlook, pulls that information out, turning a sentence like “Anthony, please send me the report by Wednesday” into a task assigned by and to a specific person with a due date and a priority level. Those details are determined by Liaise’s language processing technology, but users can tweak the tasks themselves if they’re not quite right. Liaise also integrates with Outlook’s calendar, so users can be reminded as deadlines approach.

Another startup called Producteev says it can help turn emails into tasks. Its approach involves less automated task generation, but it is appealingly simple.

Liaise first announced its product at the DEMO conference co-produced by VentureBeat last year, where won the Best Enterprise award. It then opened to the public in December, but the product was still in testing, and the company wasn’t charging any of its users. That’s changing today, as Liaise unveils its subscription plan. The plugin now costs $50 per user per year, after a 30-day trial period.

If you’re an Outlook owner and want to try Liaise for yourself, the company is offering a free one-year subscription to VentureBeat readers who sign up here.

Co-founder and chief liaison Sidney Minassian told me the company has also added some features for this new version. There’s a new dashboard for managing individual and team tasks. There’s also a new feature called Liaise Lists, which moves the product beyond email — now it can capture action items from freeform notes, such as meeting minutes.

I really like the concept, so as a Gmail user it’s a drag that the Liaise Manager only works with Outlook. However, from the company’s perspective the Outlook user base is a big enough audience to start with. In terms of moving to new platforms, Minassian said the company’s main interest is in developing applications for smartphones.

Liaise has raised funding from Southern Cross Venture Partners and is also a participant in Microsoft’s BizSpark One program for startups. It’s preparing to raise a new round of funding.

liaise screenshot

[top image via Flickr/Jim Epler]

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