Former Dell exec gives texting an overhaul with new startup

December 2, 2015
Texting may be popular, but it’s kind of like voicemail in one terrible way: If you can’t keep track of messages and convert them to action, it’s just be another place good ideas go to die.
This week, an Austin startup emerged from stealth mode to change all that with an app called , which combines the productivity of Slack with the convenience of SMS.
Founder and CEO Bruce Kornfeld (pictured right) realized the world needed better tools for texting when he heard an unusual radio ad in the fall of 2012. A business owner asked listeners to call or text him, then gave out a local phone number. Soon after, Kornfeld set out to invent a tool for fielding such a high volume of texts.
At first look, it’s easy to confuse Gyst with other messaging apps. It certainly looks like one, and it integrates with your calendars, contacts and tasks to deliver a Getting Things Done experience reminiscent of Slack, Hangouts and countless predecessors.
But the key difference, Kornfeld explained, is you can use it to track texts with anyone, even non-Gyst users, for productivity-focused messaging with contacts on any mobile platform.
“It’s really a pain in the ass to get your business colleagues and clients to use the tool you want to use,” Kornfeld wrote in a recent blog post. “SMS and MMS are here to stay – unless of course Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft get together and agree on a messaging standard to replace them.”
Kornfeld knows firsthand how unlikely that is. He formerly held two director positions at Dell. Plus, he said, those other companies have no financial incentive to facilitate communication across their networks.
“It gets complicated deciding how to reach people,” he said in an interview with Built In Austin. “Do I use Hangouts? Skype? Then when you try to find the response, you have to remember where to go looking for it. So one thing we’re doing is making search much easier—texts, calendars and tasks.”
Gyst hasn’t officially announced a revenue model, and its public beta is Android only. But the market is pretty huge if it becomes the texting app we can’t live without.
There are 2.1 billion smartphones on Earth, according to KPCB’s 2015 Internet Trends report. Add to that the 1.3 billion mobile workers identified in a 2012 IDC report, and you have a clear picture of busy people increasingly turning to texts to keep in touch with clients and colleagues.
Gyst isn’t just for business types, either. The UI was designed with homemakers in mind because they manage so much household business through texting, too.
The company is planning a public release on the Google Play store in early 2016, followed by a series A funding round to develop an iOS version. So far, they have $600,000 in seed money and nine remote employees, including Kornfeld.
“I’ve got lots of things on the roadmap,” Kornfeld said. “But I’m convinced people will try Gyst for free and quickly see how much better their life is from using a productive texting app, and they’re going to stop using their native app. And they’ll pay us for that benefit.”
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