Interview with Mailbird CEO Andrea Loubier
Email communication plays a vital role in today’s highly digitised and complex business environment. However, being overwhelmed and frustrated by emails is inevitable. In our interview with Mailbird CEO Andrea Loubier, we talked about the occurring changes in today’s email world, on effective email management and how being a woman in the tech industry could be of advantage in navigating a company to be in the vanguard of technological innovation.
Before finding your niche in the technology sector, you were immersed in other industries. Could you tell us your career journey?
First corporate job out of college was with a market research firm. I was there for 6 years and worked my way up every year. I was very committed and dedicated to my role at that company. I worked very hard. The next job I had was with a software company, and up and coming one that was growing fast and I heard they treated their employees amazingly well. So I was there for one year before asking myself what I wanted to do next, and decided I wanted to work with technology and also gain some international business experience. So I packed up my life and moved to Bali, Indonesia, met my two co-founders for Mailbird and began to create a business and solution for millions around the world out of nothing. I always have a tendency to enter management roles, some say I have a type A personality. I like to plan, organise and execute.
Presently, you’re the CEO of Mailbird. What makes this executive role significant for you?
It’s significant because it gives me the feeling of ownership in what I put my life into, from the very beginning. It means I get to lead and be the person who represents the company and the brilliant people behind it at Mailbird.
Email is vital in modern business correspondence. What are the significant developments you have witnessed over the years? Is it fair to say that email platforms have indeed evolved?
Email is probably one of the greatest things that came from the invention and mass adoption of the Internet. It’s the best way to communicate cross boarders, fast and efficiently. Over the years, it’s clear that people are becoming overwhelmed with managing information that comes through their inbox. So now you see many email platforms evolving with the increase of shared information to help people reduce the management of it, with smart features that automatically do things for you or simply make things faster by the milliseconds. That precious time is everything today, and email platforms are getting smarter, so people and businesses can spend their time efficiently. For our focus, we are looking to de-cluttering and unifying all those communication apps that are built on top of email into one unified platform with Mailbird. So you have all your email accounts from any provider, plus your other communication channels like Messenger, WhatsApp or even WeChat for those in China fully integrated into Mailbird’s unification platform.
From aspiration to fruition – now we have Mailbird. What’s the story behind Mailbird? Why is your company known as the Sparrow for Windows?
Myself and my two Danish co-founders, both named Michael, all expressed problems and our deep disdain for email. It’s stressful. I get too much of it. It’s not enjoyable to use. We saw Sparrow, a native email client for Mac only that provided a clean, stripped down, simple native Gmail experience in a nicer user interface. Nothing like Sparrow existed for Windows, and we believed we could take it a step further by supporting all email providers, and not just Gmail. Then the big differentiator and ideas started flowing, how email can evolve with all the new productivity and communication apps used across different generations and use cases, from personal to business, from grandparents to teenagers. A beautiful experience, fast and easy to use, smart unified email and communication platform that’s good enough for businesses and easy enough for the not-so tech savvy.
In reference to your experience, what are the greatest demands of consumers today and how should those things be addressed strategically?
Consumer today demands speed, convenience and customisation. In all experiences a customer/consumer experiences with a brand, business, product or service those three things should be designed into that experience so the end user feels good and associates positive experiences with these businesses. With Mailbird, we focus on delivering the best-unified email experience to the world by ensuring emails are sent and received and interaction inside the Mailbird app is fast. We ensure that it’s easy to do repeat actions in Mailbird and all the core features you need make managing communication and information exchanges very easy and accessible from anywhere including making it convenient to use both email from any email provider and account and messages in Whatsapp accessibly convenient from one platform, again being Mailbird. Customisation is a key part of building a great user experience, and they can personalise Mailbird in such a way that fits them best, including layout and apps and how all functions are working and visuals are displayed.
With your knowledge of the email world, what do you think are the limitations with all email platforms?
It cannot replace face-to-face or real time communication. Emotions and tone are a big part of how we communicate, and because it’s easy for written/typed communication to easily be misinterpreted, it’s best to have a face to face discussion over a matter to ensure there is no misunderstanding. Otherwise, email is a wonderful tool for asynchronous communication, organising priorities and communicating to a large audience without having to have hundreds of thousands of people gather to hear you speak.
We all sometimes get preoccupied with our emails. How can we avoid that? What makes an efficient email management?
Yes, we all do. It happens, we are human. I believe more training should be done during education on information management via email or any online communication that occupies our lives if not managed. To avoid being totally consumed by email, the best tip is to ensure you schedule your time with email and limit it. This will force you to go through this process of filtering first, deleting and archiving or quick acknowledgements. Then prioritising those that need an immediate response. Next, create a task list from things that you need to execute from emails and ensure its prioritised as well by importance. Another strategy we advise email users is to create a task list the day before your next work day, and don’t check emails first when you start the day. Instead work on the first prioritised task in your list. Turn your messenger, internal chat apps and email off. If something is urgent, email is a secondary form of communication to a real time phone call or face to face meeting. Be sure to set expectations with those you work with, it helps to let them know how you structure your day to ensure the most productive use of your time and the best execution of prioritised tasks.
Apparently, innovation is crucial in any industry. In your line of business, how can you say that you’re at the frontier of innovation?
I believe innovation is a continuous journey that adapts and pivots with changes in human behaviour and new problems that develop with the rapid increase of technology use in our lives. Mailbird has innovated the email experience and use of technology by its unique features that provide new ways of managing the increase of information we need to process online today that come through our inboxes and other communication and productivity apps. We started with enabling people and businesses to manage an unlimited of email accounts from any email provider to be managed from one tool, finally. This was unified inbox. We added inbox clearing features like Snooze to ensure you clear things off your plate, in this case your inbox, and manage them at a more appropriate time rather than having it occupy your inbox. It’s clean inbox management, so you work with things that you need to, and remove things that you don’t need to deal with at that moment or day. The next step is unifying your apps and email inboxes further, with seamless integration and customisation of what you need to get things done, because everyone is different here, and this is why this is critical and a favoured differentiator for Mailbird against the competition out there. Soon we will unify further by making our platform available cross devices and operating systems. No more management of several different apps and tools, only one tool for all communication and productivity that is easily customised.
What do you think is the greatest obstacle that aspiring leaders/entrepreneurs need to grapple with? What advice can you give?
The first is just starting, again here people have a tendency to focus on what is not possible rather than just starting with what is possible. I made the decision to quit my job, move to Bali, and build my first tech company, Mailbird. I had never done any of these things before. If I didn’t know something I researched it and talked to people who have done it before. Once you grasp the fact that entrepreneurs are not super humans, and they don’t know everything, that you need help to do things…the easier it is to start. Another thing is not basing business decisions on assumptions, but hard data and validated research instead. Talk about your business early on, find all the small first steps to take right away, talk to people and get feedback and start building upon your idea for the business. Be prepared for big learnings, small adjustments and making calculated risks. Finally, don’t over think things too much…just start, and embrace the “learn as you go” process. Finally, find the right people to support you and the right tools, like Mailbird, to manage the intense flow of information you’ll need to manage when you start your first business. I also encourage more women to experience the greatest journey ever of starting a business, it’s exciting, empowering and repositions our world to accept diversity and recognise the value that women bring to the world.
You are a proof that women can indeed be on the forefront of technological endeavours. How was your experience? What are the advantages and drawback of female leadership in this kind of business?
It’s fantastic to be a woman in tech, and you don’t have to come from an IT background to do it either. I think that’s the first barrier that some might tell themselves, man or woman, when considering pursuing a technological endeavour, “I can’t because I didn’t study IT”. So many of us focus on what we cannot do, rather than what we can do. I guess it is human nature to be self-doubting, but somehow I made the decision to start an IT company, without a degree in programming or computer engineering, by focussing not on what I couldn’t do, but what I could. I can’t code, but I can find someone who can and I’m great with people so I will succeed in building an incredible team. I’ve worked in management, marketing and software companies (even though I wasn’t a computer engineer in these companies). You take what you can do, and that is how you do it. When I started Mailbird in Bali, Indonesia 5 years ago, I felt like I was the only female tech CEO in Asia, which was kind of cool. It was more the reactions of people when I told them I started an email software company, surprised that I, a woman was the lead in creating and building this business that is very tech heavy and tech focused. Advantages are there are opportunities that support women founders, drawback is people still not take you seriously enough because you are a women in a industry where you are the minority, which somehow ends up being associated with not being good at it. Lack of inclusion and assumptions about women in executive tech roles are a daily battle, simply because people are still getting used to this. What many don’t realise, are the major strengths that women can bring to the success of a company that other “typical”, male, technical executive’s lack, one being consumer focussed thinking women are still the dominant consumers in the world today. Women have a tendency to also be very skilled at building relationships, and the longer you run your business, the more you understand the importance of partnerships and relationships to help you succeed and grow.
In your journey toward the C-suite leadership, who/what were your greatest inspirations/motivations or influencers?
Companies like Sparrow, Uber, Airbnb and Facebook are obvious pioneers in fast growing companies. Those that motivated and influenced me most though were Jessica Mah, Hermione Way and Sheryl Sandberg. All amazing women who made a name for themselves in a male dominated industry of tech. Today I try to ignore the hyperbolic success of these unicorn tech startups, and consider the valuable steady, linear growth companies.
All leaders have their own impressive lifestyles that help them strengthen their inner selves. Could you share to us your daily routines that make you an incredibly successful CEO?
I travel a lot, and no matter where I am in the world, I see no boundaries for where I can accomplish great things. The location independent productivity lifestyle is one that has never been seen before. People are able to make money online now rather than relying on industrial 9 to 5 jobs. So no matter where I am, I will find a community of like-minded location independent entrepreneurs. I like to stay healthy and active to balance work and life with health as the pinnacle of my priorities, because if you aren’t in good health then everything else around you suffers. I have routines in how I work, I challenge myself every day and ensure I’m always available to my team across the globe. I set up a weekly meeting with teams in my company to ensure we communicate, solve any obstacles or tensions, and keep design and innovative thinking and learning at the forefront for development. I am also a coffee addict, my day never starts without a coffee. I make sure to take breaks, and although I might be flexible and work on weekends on public holidays when everyone else is off, I do make an effort to cut off completely from work. It’s all about balance for me.
Thank you very much, Andrea.
About the Interviewee
Andrea Loubier is a travel addict, who is obsessed with spicy food. A third culture kid who is crazy, passionate about entrepreneurial initiatives for women, improving the unification of online communication and building businesses from the ground up. Andrea is a thought leader for startups founded by brilliant women in Southeast Asia. She is the CEO of Mailbird.