Edwin Hermawan and Lea Pische are the founders of UnsubscribeDeals, a service that gets rid of all those unwanted daily deal emails that seemed like a great idea in 2010, but now are clogging your inbox. They are also dating. Fast Company caught up with them to learn more about their Groupon repellant and about the benefits of building a startup with your significant other.
FAST COMPANY: When did you get the idea for UnsubscribeDeals?
LEA: We went to a hackathon, and two guys were promoting their business, a daily deals aggregator. I was like, "What if I don’t want daily deals anymore? My inbox is overloaded by deals." He looked at me, like, "I don’t know." So we went home and just decided to make it.
EDWIN: I remember when Groupon came out, I bought one or two, and they were nice. Then I never wanted to buy another Groupon again. But the emails kept coming. I’m a former attorney, so email to me, it’s almost sacred. For a lot of years, the minute the red light blinked on my BlackBerry, I automatically responded.
UnsubscribeDeals will unsubscribe users from all deals email in one fell swoop. You just released a new version. What's new?
LEA: Most people don’t want to get too many emails from daily deals, but are still afraid of missing the good deals.
EDWIN: We’ll send a daily or weekly customized roll-up of deals—but only if you want it. We also now support Yahoo! Mail in addition to Gmail. We’re also trying out a section where users can submit stories about their daily deals experiences.
I tried to redeem an expired Groupon for the purchase value recently, and the business—a Brooklyn bar—wouldn’t honor it. The owner said working with Groupon was a terrible experience, and hadn’t brought her any repeat customers.
EDWIN: I have a buddy who owns a hair salon. He was cutting my hair, and I was like, "Bro, you look a bit dazed." He was like, "I’ve just been giving blowouts. All day. Blowouts. I wanna die." He did a deal, $20 for a $40 blowout. Everybody just came in once, and my buddy was like, "You wouldn’t believe all the blowouts I’ve been doing. I never want to do a Living Social ever again." He was like, "You’re my first actual haircut this week." And it was a Thursday.
When a new startup—yours—is dedicated to undoing the work of other startups—daily deals—do you think that’s a sign the bubble has burst?
EDWIN: I think it’s not a burst, but definitely a correction.
LEA: They do a good job on deals, but it’s that people receive way too many emails. I was getting at least 15 a day.
I spoke recently with someone who said everyone should have a "commercial inbox," dedicated to all commercial communications.
LEA: If I had an email address just for commercial uses, I would never open it.
EDWIN: To be honest, I wouldn’t use a commercial inbox. My usage would probably just to be polite in a store, if a nice person said, "Hey, can we add you to this email list," I might put my commercial address just to be polite, but I would never check it.
So you’re skeptical of any commercial communications that claim to save you money?
EDWIN: Yeah. The best way to get my attention would be more if a buddy forwarded me a link to a deal. I’m an avid cycler, and one time there was a deal on this helmet. My buddy forwarded it to me and I opened it, because he vouched for it. I bought it, it’s an awesome helmet, and I use it. It makes me look really good in my spandex.
You guys are seeing one another. You’ve written that you’re "like Sonny and Cher—only with more Google Analytics." What’s it like cofounding with your significant other?
LEA: It’s really nice. I don’t know if I would have had the motivation to do this, mostly because I’m not from here. I’m an immigrant, and I still work at a restaurant to pay my bills. Edwin is better at the programming, and I do more of the design and marketing.
EDWIN: It’s really nice because we keep each other motivated, and we keep each other honest. It’s hard for either of us to drop the ball. Work always follows you to bed, but it’s a good thing. Also, Lea is Italian and cooks very good Italian food. So I get to eat spaghetti instead of ramen, which makes me really happy.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
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