In 2011, I had a weird idea. But I was obsessed with it, and I thought others might be, too.
In 2012, it made over $54,000 from over 1.6k backers in a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. It did even better in subsequent launches that year.
In 2013, we launched an iOS app that was featured on the front page of the App Store, numerous times.
In 2014, we launched a Mac app that quickly became the #1 “Top Paid” app in the entire Mac App Store in over 50 countries.
Mail Pilot’s hiatus began in 2016. It isn’t available anywhere anymore.
In the intervening years, I continued — almost weekly — to sketch out my ideas for how the world’s next great email client should work. So many interesting ideas I’d had before really started to come into focus; over those years I was able to really polish the stone.
Of course, I thought it was all simply for the fun of ideating.
I did not think I should embark on building a new Mail Pilot. There were plenty of alternatives that popped up after Mail Pilot’s initial run. I assumed the problem had been more or less “solved”.
One day, during Mail Pilot’s hiatus, our website went down when there was a problem with the website host.
Then the emails started. And the tweets. “Is Mail Pilot gone?” … “Have you guys quit?” … “Does this mean we aren’t getting a Mail Pilot 3?” … “I can’t believe what I saw on your website today… nothing”
People became existentially afraid that Mail Pilot was gone for good. They made sure I knew that would be a terrible decision. They wanted to express their frustration over not having Mail Pilot in their lives. Many wrote me with a list of all the email apps they had been rotating between waiting for what they thought was Mail Pilot’s inevitable, if delayed, return. Upon realizing it might be far from inevitable, they made sure I knew their frustration.
I had no idea how much anticipation was out there.
Mail Pilot only exists because of the crowd. It was funded through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter made successful by the attention it received from crowd-sourced news aggregators like Hacker News and social media — in particular, Twitter.
No VC, no single publication, no award made Mail Pilot exist. The fans did. Collectively, they made sure it existed. That’s something that I cherish. I knew we were not wrong, the way I might wonder or doubt if we had first sought a traditional investment only to then try to drum up the level of interest necessary to ensure the investors get a good return.
And now, once again, the fans forced Mail Pilot to exist. Although this time, the fans resurrected it.
By sheer coincidence, in the very same month that the Mail Pilot website happened to go down, I had made a significant breakthrough with my concepts and sketches for the future of email.
When I initially came up with the concepts for Mail Pilot, there was one section that didn’t make it into the Kickstarter video, and never made it into the core concepts. It wasn’t ready yet. I continued to work on it for years, designing, prototyping, and experimenting — I knew it was really good, and I had a feeling it could be really great, so I kept at it.
It just so happened to be that month that the ideas I’d had for years started to all sync up and click into place. It became dead simple, yet really powerful — essentially, I had figured out how to make it insanely great.
With the demand for a new Mail Pilot from a surprisingly healthy fanbase, the ideas for the future of email that I had always wanted to build finally ready, and some subsequent tests of using the redux architecture (pioneered by engineers at Facebook) in Swift (programming language created by bright minds at Apple), I got to work.
Soon, I’ll unveil everything I’ve been working on. Be sure to subscribe at mailpilot.co to find out.
(If you should know in advance for your publication or podcast, get in touch!)
Update: It’s unveiled!
One thing that remains incredibly true about Mail Pilot: it exists only because of its fans, and it is perfected and made popular by its fans. That’s why we’re doing things like the Yacht Club with Mail Pilot Discovery Edition — to give new opportunities to the fans and to Mail Pilot’s sustainability.
It’s also why we’re doing Mail Pilot 3 “Carbon Fiber” — this first release is for the fans. It’s meant to give long-time fans of Mail Pilot the release they’ve always wanted. Like Snow Leopard for avid Mac fans, and Firefox Quantum for avid Firefox fans (even those that had switched away), Carbon Fiber is meant to communicate something very strong and very intentional to Mail Pilot’s fans. The message it is meant to send will, I hope, be heard by every one of Mail Pilot’s fans when they fire it up for the first time, and every time they use it for the days and months afterwards.
To Mail Pilot’s fans: you are awesome, and thank you. Thanks for picking Mail Pilot up, dusting it off, and pushing it forward. I hope I’ll make you proud when you get your hands on Mail Pilot 3, when you check out Mail Pilot Discovery Edition, and I look forward to your thoughts in the Yacht Club Slack channel!