Charlie emerged out of the Kearney Group (a holistic financial services firm based out of Melbourne, Australia) in 2014. Tired of constantly hunting for client communications, and relying on IT providers to track down emails, the team set out to fix email once and for all. It started with a realisation that we and most others had always handled business email wrong - treating it as something owned by a person, not by the team - and quickly turned into a plan to create a collaborative email system (albeit one that allows people to keep using their email client of choice).
Fast forward a few years (and several generations), and Charlie now fills that role. At its core, Charlie is an email archiving and collaboration system. Charlie ingests all incoming and outgoing email for a team, and automatically archives it in a highly searchable way. By connecting to a CRM (or any other source of client and/or non-client data), emails area automatically filed in a way that makes retrieval simple, and it all happens without any heavy lifting from people. At the end of the day, it gives a team a single source of truth for all email communications, allowing them the freedom to manage their inbox as they please, while still ensuring that the business has a copy of, and access to, the important information those emails hold! For a team member, this means they can search Charlie for emails to clients that they might never have seen. For businesses, it means a fully compliant archive of all communications - important to have whether facing an audit, a complaint or any other challenge.
Charlie was built in stages, but most recently we turned our attention to the biggest issue we had - it's was just too complicated for a team to get up and running. When we launched Charlie we were guilty of being too many things to too many people - we'd integrate with any email system, and we'd sync with client data from any source. It was powerful when it worked, but it meant that getting up and running was nearly impossible for most teams.
Deciding the best way to break out of this issue was to streamline the connections we provided, we undertook the task in this hack of revamping Charlie to be built solely for team with their client list in Xero, and using Gmail as their email provider. Xero was the obvious choice given the role its played with small businesses in Australia, and we hitched our wagon to Gmail based on the view that we're looking to work with nibble, cloud-based teams!
The result has been a resounding success, and has seen use trim an onboarding process that previously took hours, involved IT managers and software engineers, and turn it into something that can be done with no technical knowledge, by anyone, in a matter of minutes. And because we're connected to Gmail and Xero, we're ready to help support the most innovative of Australia's small businesses - a group we're not only proud to work with, but proud to be a part of. But what makes us most proud about this hack is that Charlie is going to be able to be put in the hands of a much wider audience, despite narrowing our niche.
Along the way we learned a ton (including at least half of the ways to break an application!), moved the app from its original AngularJS framework to Angular 6, hoped on board the "serverless" bandwagon and re-wrote a significant portion of the app - all to ensure that the value that Charlie was providing was accessible to Xero and Gmail users out of the box.
While we're happy with where its at, we're not even close to done with Charlie. There is a XeroPM integration arriving in the coming weeks (we've come from an Accounting firm after all!), a Gmail in-interface add-on on the way, and a raft of other core enhancements aimed at making AI and machine learning an accessible and useful part of how a small business interacts with its email.
To try it out
Head over to link and sign up for a trial (it'll revert to a free account when the trial expires, and we don't ask for a credit card up front). Sign up with a Google account with some email in it, hook up a Xero organisation, and you're in.
It'll work best if the Xero org you link has contacts that align with the email in your inbox!
Most importantly, Charlie is collaborative, so getting a few others to do the same will show off the real power. As the emails they've sent and received to your shared clients start arriving in Charlie, you'll have a whole new perspective on email!