There was a period of time when I received roughly 1,000 emails per day. They weren’t pure spam. Instead, my inbox was jam-packed with emails from (mostly) actual humans who wanted me to hear about their startup, try their app, or check out their new iPhone case. I ended up setting up a series of elaborate filters in my inbox to surface the 20 or so emails in that thousand that were relevant to my interests–hint: It’s never iPhone cases–a technique that helped, but sometimes resulted in me missing out on messages that I did want to see.
While my 1,000-email problem was atypical, most business professionals have to deal with unexpected emails, be they from a designer who wants to update your website, a college senior looking for an internship, or a friend from high school looking to reconnect. Some of them you might be okay with, others may seem like a waste of your time. Now a startup called Nextio thinks it’s come up with a better way to wrangle them.
“Our belief is that with life-changing opportunities, a lot of them come when you reach outside of the boundaries that you currently have,” says Nextio cofounder and CEO Anoop Gupta. He thinks that it’s important that you’re able to reach people outside your network and they’re able to reach you. But when it comes to contacting you about something you’re not particularly interested in receiving messages about, you should have an incentive to respond. A monetary one.
“We think money is a good proxy of saying ‘I really want to reach you’,” says Gupta. Users set their own pricing for receiving messages (think something like $.50 or $1). They also set what topics they’re interested in hearing about. Messages about things you’re interested in are free for other users to send. If someone wants to message you about something else, they’ll have to pay. Money only exchanges hands when you respond. You can take the cash for yourself, or choose to have it go directly to a charity like the ACLU or code.org. You can also cap your inbox for the week, so you only receive 10 messages instead of 50.
The idea is that you’ll post your Nextio contact information in places such as LinkedIn and Twitter rather than sharing an email address. You’re opening yourself up for unexpected email, but also adding a layer of friction to ensure that the people who are messaging you really want to chat and aren’t just blasting the same message out to a lot of people at once.
Paying to send email isn’t a new concept. LinkedIn is already a place where many people go to message someone outside their network, and requires users to pony up for a Premium subscription if they want to reach non-connections. That means that instead of blindly sending emails, some choose to try to connect to you instead, causing a whole different kind of spam problem. And those dollars for Premium accounts end up in LinkedIn’s pocket, not yours. (Nextio takes a 20% cut of any money you make from responding to unexpected emails.)
Beyond its pay-to-play messaging, Nextio is also a career site, pulling in listings from the Indeed job-listing aggregator. Gupta says that Nextio has also collected millions of résumés from people all over the U.S. with information about where they went to school, what skills they have, and what their career path has looked like after college. “We can tell you for any role where do people go next, what do people look like, and how compatible you are and what skills you might develop,” Gupta says.
That means if your dream job is to become a software engineer at Twitter, or even an astronaut, Nextio can tell you where people who have held those positions went to school, what previous jobs they held, and where they went afterward (if they’ve moved on). If one of the skills you need is something like Java programming, Nextio might also link to a site where you can learn the coding language to make yourself a better candidate for the position. You can also see all of the types of positions available at a specific company, and what their average salaries are.
If you have a dream job, Nextio lets you analyze your current career trajectory and decide if you’re on the right track. “We show you this compatibility report,” says Gupta. “It shows you where in your résumé things match or what skills are missing. In some of the cases the pieces that are missing are things that you know, but you just haven’t added them [to your résumé].” That erroneously missing item could mean the difference between getting called in for an interview or getting passed over for a position.
Aside from having to pay to send messages, Nextio is free. Gupta hopes that the payment aspect will encourage users that might have otherwise kept their contact information hidden from the public to make themselves available.
“We wanted to create a place where people can connect to each other and have useful conversations,” he says. “We’ve gotten so used to closing ourselves. When you open yourself you create value for the community.”