If Email Isn’t Dead in Southeast Asia, Can We Fix It?

Here are 5 things you should not do

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 21 Sep 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Email has been the ubiquitous form of digital communication since the commercialization of the Internet. Even with the introduction (and popularity) of apps used for instant messaging, video calls, as well as platforms to bring together office teams, it looks like email is here to stay.

John Bailon, co-founder and CEO of blockchain company Satoshi Citadel Industries, says he uses email in his daily communications—from coordinating with clients, partners, and teammates to receiving alerts from their apps and services. “Email is an integral part of my day-to-day,” he says. He says it allows you to participate in multiple conversations at your own pace.

Justin Hall, principal at Singapore-based venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures, points out that “email is currently the de-facto medium of digital communication for [his] industry.” And while he uses email “without fail” everyday, there are downsides.

One is what he describes as “signal:noise” ratio, which means that it is difficult to separate correspondences from high-value connections (signal) to junk mail (noise) because everything comes through email.

For many, emails are also treated as To-Do lists, which means that messages sent here are subject to different priority levels. Says Hall, “This obviously means that it can take people a long time to respond to emails or, if they're like me, procrastinate and never get around to them in the first place.”

To use email effectively, here are five rules to follow for Southeast Asian entrepreneurs:


1. Don’t use email for urgent conversations

Bailon says, “I think there are certain tools that fit certain types of communication, and email is one of those tools that are just universally convenient for everyone.”

However, he says, urgent messages or conversations that would be better done face-to-face or voice do not really work over email. For this he uses instant messaging apps, such as Telegram for urgent messages and task manager Trello and Slack for communicating tasks with the team and real-time chat.

Hall adds, “You'd be surprised how much business is conducted via social media. This is especially true in industries where the lines between professional and personal are often blurred, such as startups and venture capital.”

Bailon says emails are for the rest of the conversations that do not need real-time attention or if the particular conversation may have to be retrieved for future reference.


2. Don’t take a shotgun approach

Don't take a shotgun approach to emails, Hall says. Know exactly who you're speaking to—identify them by name and email them directly, as opposed to a general email address like He says entrepreneurs should be direct, informative, and brief. Depending on whom you are writing to, it would be helpful to include a deck, as well.


3. Don’t put hard asks through email

Hall says email is only intended to help secure a face-to-face meeting, so don't put any hard asks in the email itself. “No investor is writing a check based on how nice your email is. The most entrepreneurs should expect and ask for from an email is a request to meet in person; anything beyond that is asking too much and will most likely get ignored,” he adds.


4. Don’t clutter your inbox

Email is unobtrusive as long as you don't let your inbox overwhelm you. Bailon says he uses Google Inbox, which adds features to improve email's utility for him. “Particularly useful to me is the ability to let you snooze emails, which is a great way to de-clutter the inbox view, so I don't get overwhelmed,” he says.


5. Don’t let email enslave you

Bailon reminds entrepreneurs, “They should treat [email] as a direct line to all their stakeholders and customers. But do not let it enslave you. Set times for when you should reply to emails, and snooze emails that do not need attention yet.”

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