Former HP Marketer Richard Gerstein to Helm Email Sorting Startup

ZigMail Aims to Help Consumers, Marketers Deal With Avalanche of Messages

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Richard Gernstein
Richard Gernstein

Former top Hewlett-Packard and Sears marketer Richard Gerstein is dipping a toe into the startup world as co-founder of ZigMail, a free service now in alpha testing that aims to help consumers sort their personal emails from the messages sent by businesses and marketers.

Mr. Gerstein left HP, where he was senior VP-strategy and worldwide marketing for the company's Personal Systems Group, in March after holding the position for barely a year. He was previously senior-VP marketing of Sears Holdings and has also worked at Procter & Gamble and Alberto Culver Beauty.

He said he became more acutely aware of the need for a service to help people de-clutter their inboxes during his tenure at HP, where there was a move toward going paperless. ZigMail is being designed to assuage the frustrations both of consumers overwhelmed by "transactional" email and of marketers whose open and click-through rates are falling.

The service will provide users with a email address that they can plug in for online transactions ranging from e-commerce to registering for their alumni newsletter, Mr. Gerstein said. The "transactional" emails being filtered will fall into six buckets: notices and alerts, such as bill payments; time-sensitive offers from companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial; general shopping catalogs; personal-interest communications such as market updates; receipts and records; and a miscellaneous category. Users will then start to receive a digest sent to their regular email with a daily frequency they specify.

"What's great about this is we're basically automating and creating a better interface for what people are doing with their email clients today," he said.

Mr. Gerstein is driving the marketing and consumer user interface end of the business, while his partner, Michael Kennedy, is leading the financial and technology side. A third partner responsible for building the site is Chicago-based technology firm Thirdwave.

Mr. Gerstein said the future revenue model has three prongs: ad revenue from placements within the Zigmail inbox and on the daily digests; selling analytics reports to marketers; and the possibility of selling premium services to users.

He expects ZigMail to enter beta testing in the next month.

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