For the past month I've been using Superhuman, the email app VCs are obsessed with that costs $30 a month — and I'm never going back to Gmail

superhuman email app experience venture capitalists 2x1

  • Superhuman is a paid email app that promises the “fastest email experience ever made.”
  • Although VCs love it, I didn’t think it would be worth $30 a month.
  • After a month of reviewing it, I don’t think I can ever go back to Gmail.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I told myself a month ago, I can have a little paid email service, as a treat.

Superhuman is a $30-a-month app that promises the “fastest email experience ever made.” It equips users with keyboard shortcuts, reminders, and triage to empty their inbox in less time.

I signed up after my first week working from home because of the coronavirus. The sudden isolation had left me feeling lonely and unfocused, and the stress started to affect my productivity. I was writing fewer articles. My inbox filled faster than I could empty it. And so, seeking an adrenaline rush, I gave myself permission to try Superhuman.

The idea was that I would pay for the service for one month to make working in my apartment a little less painful.

As a reporter covering startups and venture capital, I knew its name from seeing “Sent via Superhuman” in the email signatures of so many tech investors who write me. It’s kind of a weird flex, as people have noted on Twitter, because it indicates that the sender pays $30 a month for email.

A month of Superhuman costs as much as Netflix and HBO Now combined. It’s more than the price of my phone’s unlimited data plan and less than my monthly internet bill in New York City.

I didn’t think it would be worth it. 

In those 30 days, Superhuman changed the nature of my relationship with my inbox. I stopped hoarding unread messages. I became more responsive. And I reached “inbox zero” status for the first time in my professional career.

This is the story of how I fell in love with a paid email service, told through screenshots of Superhuman’s app and Netflix’s “Love is Blind,” which I just finished binging during lockdown.

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This is what my inbox used to look like. It is Gmail’s web version.

I wasn’t in love.

My biggest annoyance was the clutter. If I didn’t respond to an important email right away, it got lost in the shuffle of my inbox.

My favorite feature was Gmail’s “templates” for sending replies that I frequently use, like saying “thanks but no thanks” to a story pitch.

Still, the original templates were cumbersome to edit, and it required three mouse clicks to insert one.

I requested access for Superhuman a month ago by signing up online.

I got back an automated email from Superhuman’s CEO Rahul Vohra, saying that I had been bumped to the top of the waitlist. Score!

His email asked me to complete a brief workflow questionnaire.

We rehashed what I don’t like about email: the clutter.

And I got a glimpse of what I have to look forward to on the app.

The survey also gave me a taste of Superhuman’s superpower: keyboard shortcuts. The enter key moved me to the next question.

Next, I scheduled a half-hour video onboarding session with a customer support specialist.

Four days later, I was on a Zoom call with Kian, my Superhuman guru.

The first step was importing my work email address, which is linked to Gmail, to Superhuman. Kian walked me through how to do it using screen-sharing. It was easy.

So even though my work email account is hosted by Gmail, I’m now paying $30 a month to access it on Superhuman.

This is my Superhuman inbox.

The J and K keys move the cursor up and down to select an email.

Hitting the enter key takes me inside the selected email.

And tapping the enter key again starts a reply to all recipients.

The right panel shows me details about the sender, including his job title and our recent email threads.

After I write my reply, using the keyboard shortcut Command + Shift + Enter sends the email and archives the conversation.

See a typo? You can “undo send” by tapping the Z key in the first 10 seconds.

The escape key takes you back to the previous page.

The C key (for compose) opens a window to start a new email.

If an email doesn’t require a reply, clear it with the E key. Those messages are never really gone, just hidden in the Done folder.

I was a little overwhelmed in my onboarding session by the number of keyboard shortcuts I had to remember to navigate my inbox.

My Superhuman guru assured me that I can perform any action using the shortcut Command + K, which makes a text interface pop up.

It’s kind of a shortcut for shortcuts and lists some of the more common actions, like archiving or forwarding an email.

Superhuman bakes reminders into the app. If you hover over “Unsubscribe” under the sender, it shows the shortcut to unsubscribe.

Superhuman’s Vohra also sends these emails with GIFs showing how to use other shortcuts.

You can turn on read receipts to see when recipients open your email. I did not because I don’t want to know.

The read receipts were turned off by default after a privacy controversy.

The biggest change moving to Superhuman was “splits.”

Splits are like buckets for types of email. My News split, for example, collects all the newsletters I get.

Any calendar invite I receive drops into the Calendar split.

When I get an email that I need to respond to, I star it by hitting the S key. It goes to my Starred split.

It’s like triage for your inbox.

My guru, Kian, left me with these words on handling my inbox: “Think of it not as a final resting area.”

I used to be an email hoarder.

In a month of using Superhuman, I reached “inbox zero” status …

In every split …

Again and again.

And I haven’t even told you about my favorite feature: snippets, Superhuman’s email templates.

I recently had to reach out to 15 startups to ask them for headshots of their CEOs for a story. Instead of writing the same email from scratch 15 times, I wrote a snippet.

To insert a snippet, use the shortcut Command + ; and hit the J key to move the cursor to the desired snippet. Press enter key to select.

I have a snippet for everything.

The one I use the most is a reply to public relations professionals telling them I’m not interested.

Snippets help me be more responsive, without my fingertips ever leaving the keyboard.

The main benefit of Superhuman is that I don’t let messages stockpile.

I see what emails actually need my attention and dump the rest.

The thing I miss most about using Gmail’s web app is how quickly I could move between browser tabs, if I wanted to reference something in another tab. I should probably just try Superhuman’s web app.

Superhuman’s cost is the hardest pill to swallow. At $30 a month, it’s only affordable to the wealthy.

After 30 days, I had to decide to continue my subscription or walk away from Superhuman forever.

I renewed!