You cannot escape it – your email that is.
It is stuck to your hip wherever you go, beeping and begging for your attention. Slowly, your inbox begins to pile up, and the little red bubble on your home screen has suddenly climbed to a three-digit number. Every time you look down at your phone, your heart races a little faster.
With so many emails dashing into your inbox, how do you keep up with what’s important? Sometimes, the important stuff gets buried under the junk. You don’t necessarily want to get rid of the junk, because hey, everyone loves a good deal. But between the hours of 9 to 5, shopping will have to wait.
Two 24-year-olds struggled with the same problem a few years ago. Their solution resulted in the creation of Unroll.Me, which in its simplest form, is an email organization tool.
“He wasn’t answering my emails,” cofounder and COO Jojo Hedaya said of his business partner, Josh Rosenwald. “He could never find them.”
“Our product was definitely born out of a personal frustration,” says Josh, cofounder and CEO. “Realistically, 80 percent of the emails that come to your inbox are newsletters, subscriptions, and updates. We knew there’d be a better way to do this that none of the major ISP’s provided.”
Unroll.Me scans through your inbox in a matter of seconds and compiles all of your subscriptions into a single email, which they call “The Rollup.” From there, you can scroll through all of your subscriptions and if you see anything that makes you cringe, you can unsubscribe with one click.
The best part? You can pick what time The Rollup arrives in your inbox. If you like to check out your subscriptions on your lunch break, you can set it for noon. Prefer to check them after hours? Set your Rollup for 6 p.m.
The young entrepreneurs grew up in New York, but it wasn’t until they traveled to Israel to study abroad in college that they met for the first time.
“Our rabbi noticed that we were the only two people with international BlackBerrys at the time,” Jojo says, “He said to us, ‘Okay guys, you need to be friends.’”
And when they discovered that they share the same birthday, December 30, 1989, a friendship was formed.
Aside from sharing the exact same birthday, their journey follows a similar narrative. They both attended private Jewish high schools before going off to college. Josh dropped out and re-enrolled a few times between two different schools. Jojo was the Vice President at Boston College. Neither graduated.
“I think that experience is better than a degree,” Josh says. “At least in the society that we’re in today, it’s really skills that are everything. I think you only need education if you don’t have skills, and if you don’t have skills, then you’re probably not working at a startup.”
Although he didn’t graduate, Jojo says he wouldn’t advise someone to skip out on a degree and jump headfirst into starting a company.
“I think we got lucky,” he says. “But Josh’s father always tells us, what you learn at Unroll.Me is way better than a college education, and I totally agree with that.” With only three credits left standing between him and a degree, Jojo figures he’ll go back to finish at some point.
Before the company was born, it needed a name. They were looking for something that was going to stand out and reflect their mission to help email users opt out of subscription mayhem.
“I would wake up in the morning with five thousand emails from Josh with different names,’” Jojo says.
In early morning hours, Josh would toss around different words, with the help of a thesaurus, to see if anything stuck. When he finally landed on the word “unroll,” things took off from there.
Unroll.Me launched almost exactly two years ago. The cofounders were hesitant to put all of their resources into a project that might not work, so they aimed to get it out there as soon as possible. It was more important for them to conceptualize the idea and measure the response than to get it right the first time.
“It took us less than two months to get the first version up there, but that doesn’t mean it worked well. It didn’t work well at all,” Jojo says. Despite those early setbacks, Unroll.Me was featured in Lifehacker and The Next Web, which resulted in thousands of new sign ups.
There are other services that have similar business models to Unroll.Me, and the cofounders admit that their idea isn’t the most unique on the market. But the duo isn’t worried about the competition — what sets them apart is their execution.
“It’s about making things simple.” Jojo says.
He learned that after watching one of Unroll.Me’s competitors fail. The competitor received a lot of initial funding and was fueled with attention from the press, which attracted a ton of users. However the service itself required a lot of different components, which resulted in a complicated, poor user experience.
One of the main goals of Unroll.Me was to make sure it was as simple as possible for users. That was a better way to execute the idea, Josh explains. The next step was to figure out what that was going to look like.
“On Gmail you have an unsubscribe button, Jojo says. “With Unroll.Me, you’re able to see all the subscriptions right in front of you and unsubscribe from them all at once. It’s an easy, simple process that really truly separates us from the rest.”
With more than two years of startup experience under their belt, Josh and Jojo have faced the struggles that coincide with launching a startup. For aspiring entrepreneurs, Jojo advises them to be prepared to work hard.
“Learn skills,” he says. “We always tell people, it’s all about the value you bring to your team. If you’re starting your own company, explore the space and try to get your products to market as quick as possible with the least amount of resources. The most important thing that I’ve come across for a startup is how you use your resources. You have to trust your gut when you’re making big decisions.
Josh took a different route. “Go into real estate,” he says, half jokingly.
“I mean, I don’t think enough people look at the odds for success in the startup world. Ninety five percent of all startups fail. There’s no guarantee, so unless your startup takes off pretty quickly, it’s just a tough game to be in.”
Jojo jumps in: “He’s also saying, do something you love.”
“Yes, do what you love,” Josh agrees. “Start something if you want to start something. Plan it out before you start, and figure out what a goal is or what the goals are that are going to make you feel successful. And if you’re missing those, go back to a job.”
With that said, they both knew they would both never work for other people. They’re thankful that Unroll.Me has allowed them to do something they love every day, and now Josh will never miss another email from Jojo.
Photographs by Lauren Kallen