social inbox puzzle

A startup called Handy Elephant has just released an app to bridge the gap between your inbox and cloud applications. The app, called Unifyo, is to be a unified inbox where people can check and respond to all incoming social networking messages in your email client.

The product’s makers ultimately hope to help people successfully maintain and build deeper relationships with the thousands of contacts they’ve encountered on the web.

“We’re having so many more relationships, active relationships, these days that it’s hard to get an overview of them,” Handy Elephant founder and CEO Benjamin Wirtz said in an exclusive interview with VentureBeat. “You have your few thousand friends on Facebook, and you’re maintaining business relationships with LinkedIn, Twitter, and email. That’s just a large amount of people that you’re in touch with, and I wanted to create a solution that makes it easier for people to deal with that.”

Above: click to enlarge

The version of Unifyo (pictured right) out today is a phase one release that connects to Facebook and Twitter to pull in mentions, direct messages, and Facebook messages for an inbox unified across those popular social channels. Social messages are sandwiched in a right-hand column where users can view and respond without needing to navigate back to the social network in question.

I found the tool simple at best, and unnecessary at worst (the only good news is that it works with Rapportive, so you don’t have to uninstall one for the other). But I’m missing the bigger picture, Wirtz explained. Unifyo will soon sync with CRM services such as Salesforce to pull in customer data and conversation history, and eventually become a take-it-with-you-as-you-browse relationship management necessity, he said.

“Once you have a unified inbox, then wherever you go on the web and you see a name that looks familiar, we can tell you exactly how you know that person,” Wirtz said of Handy Elephant’s future plans for Unifyo. “That can be in your project management tool, on Eventbrite or Plancast … on Hashable and that sort of stuff.”

So Unifyo will store a master list of contacts from across multiple social and CRM platforms for you. Then, when you load a website, perhaps an event invitation for instance, the tool will show you which of the contacts on the page look familiar, how you know these folks, and your previous conversations with them. “It’s a lot about giving you the information you need at hand,” Wirtz said.

Okay, that’s admittedly a bit cooler than direct messages in my email client, even though it does border on the creepy side of the social intelligence spectrum.

For now, though, this futuristic version of Unifyo is in the proof-of-concept stage. Handy Elephant will, however, update Unifyo with CRM integration and syncing at the end of the month.

Unifyo is free for individuals and will eventually be offered to companies for a fee. 500 VentureBeat readers can get early access to the beta release.

Founded in 2010, Cambridge, UK-based Handy Elephant has raised an undisclosed sum of seed funding from the Citrix Startup Accelerator.

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