Gmail + Automation Helps Our Startup Run Faster

Published: January 8th, 2020

Note from the editor - this is the first part of our series showcasing Starter Story's new product - Pigeon. Starter Story runs its business on Pigeon!

Hello, who are you and what business do you run?

Hey Pat, thanks for interviewing me! I’m the co-founder and designer at Superlinear. Francesco and I make apps for Mac like Boxy Suite, and we also run a newsletter network called Unreadit.

We’ve left our day job at a tech company in Milan in late 2018 to start Superlinear and focus 100% on our projects. It’s been one hell of a ride, and we’re now profitable. Boxy Suite has 1.3k active paying users on yearly subscriptions, and Unreadit grew from 0 to almost 7k subscribers.

We’re now focusing on Mailbrew, which is an evolution of Unreadit, and instead of just letting you subscribe to interesting newsletters, it lets you create your own automated newsletters from sources like Twitter, Reddit and RSS Feeds. We have more than 1k people in an early access list.

I’ve been using Pigeon for the last 4 months and, as we are running multiple startups, it is a great tool in our arsenal!

Our new startup Mailbrew!

Explain to me your email and business workflows.

Email has always been a big part of our workflows, and life in general. The very first project me and Francesco did together was the original “Boxy”, an Inbox by Gmail client for Mac. Then came Boxy Suite, Unreadit, Mailbrew. You see the pattern.

But even if our projects always revolved around email, I must admit I was pretty bad at email marketing, outreach, cold email, etc. We were lucky to slowly grow an email list from the early days of people who like are projects and want to stay up to date with us, and that list now has around 30k people in it.

But it’s just in 2019 that I started to improve my emailing skills and, for example, take cold emails more seriously. And truth be told, after trying many different things, Pigeon was kind of a lifesaver. I remember struggling to have good workflows to reach out to people, follow up with them, getting feedback on my products, because other email marketing solutions felt overly complicated, cumbersome, slow and old.

What do you use Pigeon for today?

So, when I first tried Pigeon, I almost instantly felt like the search was over. Having a CRM that doesn’t feel like a NASA dashboard but just like a smart spreadsheet, and having tools to schedule emails and follow-ups that are intuitive and nicely embedded inside Gmail is a joy.

We use Pigeon for a lot of things, but one cool use case is for press outreach for our app Boxy Suite. We collected data from journalists and put it into Pigeon, logging first name, last name, email, website, and a few other key data.

A few clicks later, we had personalized emails going out to a few journalists, including automated follow-ups if they didn’t respond. Here’s how our Pigeon collection looks for our press outreach (blurred out some things).


Now, we just add new entries every time we come across a new article, and shoot those sequences off.

I also used Pigeon in the early days of Mailbrew to connect with founders and just get feedback on the app. This outreach led to our first customer interviews and ultimately a couple paying customers once we launched.

Here’s what my sequence looked like, it was really simple and it took me about 10 minutes to email hundreds of founders:


Also, I was impressed by the speed of development. For example, when I tried a well-established competitor, I soon realized that my issues with it would stay that way, and my support tickets would largely stay unanswered. On the contrary, I was seeing Pigeon grow day-by-day as I was using it, and it now fits my workflow perfectly.

Pigeon allows our emails to look 100% natural

I think the ease of use plays a big part for me. Adding contacts usually means just pasting them in the UI, and then tweak a few fields as needed. Sending a sequence is a matter of a few clicks, and setting follow-ups is super easy and intuitive as well, just as removing follow-ups or un-schedule sequences when needed.

A pretty important thing for us is that our emails look 100% natural. What I love about Pigeon is that our emails are just simple plain text and they really do look like they were manually typed out. From the recipient’s side, there is no sign of automation! Also, we can include our signature or not.

We can also use placeholders to insert data into our templates like first name, name of the company, etc - and it again looks 100% natural. You might think this is obvious, but when I’ve tried other tools I’ve had all sorts of issues where I think the recipient could clearly see those were not hand-written emails.

Have you noticed any results from using Pigeon?

I got replies, tons of replies. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve reached out to countless leads to sponsor Unreadit newsletters and closed important deals. I’ve reached out to many cool people that either replied right away, or after the first follow up.

That’s why I’ve started using Pigeon as a default for reaching out to people, versus doing it only for “sales” stuff.

I tend to write emails just as I would normally do in Gmail, and keep follow-ups nice and short. That’s also the benefit of having a tool like this right inside Gmail, with a UI that doesn’t feel over-designed and complicated.

It lets your brain function normally where you can write your emails naturally, while other tools kinda make you become a robot sales agent, and your writing style changes accordingly.

Thanks Fabrizio for the interview and for the support! Check out his new startup Mailbrew here. If you're interested in trying out Pigeon, check it out here.