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Even future-obsessed Silicon Valley occasionally looks back in time. A case in point is Superhuman, a service that aims to reinvent something as antediluvian as email. It has created more buzz than anything for a while in the world’s tech capital, by marrying two of technologists’ biggest desires: for efficiency and status.
Many a venture capitalist or entrepreneur in the Valley would sympathise with David Ulevitch of Andreessen Horowitz, a big venture-capital firm, who recently likened his overflowing inbox to the final level of Tetris, a classic video game. It is just as engrossing; tech types often spend four hours a day fielding emails. Superhuman (in which Mr Ulevitch’s fund has invested) tries to speed emailing up—no command is meant to take longer than one-tenth of a second to execute—while making it less taxing. Keyboard shortcuts, conversion of messages to tasks, instant unsubscribing from newsletters and other tricks, plus nudges to get people to use them, can cut emailing time by half, boosters claim. The firm regularly quizzes users and adds features requested by the most committed among them.