A venture capitalist complains in this post about not being able to get back to every email message he receives.

But I think the problem is not the quantity of email that he receives… the problem is the expectation of a response.

While I do not know him personally, Fred seems to be a genuinely nice guy, and he has set his personal bar high enough that he feels everyone needs a response to their email. Which is an admirable goal, but not generally achievable for someone with his level of mail.

So I came up with a software-based solution….

The idea is this:

As soon as Fred touches your email, he decides whether he needs to type out a personal reply, or if one of his canned replies will work.

If a canned reply is all you need, then he forwards that email to specific address. In the back end, the remailer logs your email on a web page with his canned response to you. (For example, “I have received your email, reviewed the contents personally, and unfortunately cannot respond directly. However, I do believe that the information at the following link will be of some help: [link]”)

When you click the link, you see the web page for the canned response.

The content of this page could say, “Currently my portfolio is full, and I cannot take on any more investments at this time. I am personally involved with all of my portfolio companies, and there are only so many hours in the day. Spreading myself any thinner would be a disservice to you, and to my existing portfolio companies. Listed below are several other investors who might be interested in your proposal. If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them in the Comments field.” The respondent can then post any comments they might have, or comment on other people’s comments. Fred can scan these from time to time to get more information.

However…

If he decides that your email needs a personal response, he then tags it so it goes into a Response Queue. You, again, get an auto-responder email with a link to your message and it’s general location in the queue.

This way you know:

  1. You WILL be getting a personal response from Fred.
  2. Fred is very busy.
  3. Fred knows about your email, will not forget your email, and will respond when the time comes for him to do so.

This alleviates your questions about whether you should wait for a response, send him another email, call him, etc. It also puts Fred’s mind at ease that he will not forget your email under the vast pile of emails awaiting him. Yours has a place, and it has a turn, and when its turn comes up, he will respond to it.

This could be a Win for everyone, and could be used for every rock star, movie star, Guy Kawasaki, Bill Gates, and anyone else who gets a gajillion emails a day.

I’ll prototype it up, and get into the next round of TechStars Seattle! :-)

(Yeah right!! In all my spare time….)