Gmail loading on laptop
Photo: Solen Feyissa/Unsplash

Meet Gated, the email tool that makes unknown senders pay for inbox access

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. This Sunday, I’m with Stripe product design manager Owen Williams pondering the energy of the folks who leave their webcams on for the entirety of an all-hands meeting. I salute you. Today: meet the people who charge for access to their email inbox, the right-to-repair movement is having a moment in the enterprise, tech company hirings/firings/freezes, and why you can’t retire any time soon.

Spam, spam, go away. Only come back if the spammer pays.

The problem of spam has plagued us since the dawn of inbox time. In 2004, Bill Gates predicted that Microsoft would solve the problem in the next two years. That certainly hasn’t happened. Despite built-in email filters and deluxe email management tools, inboxes are still chaotic. Enter Gated, a new email tool tackling spam with mandatory donations.

Gated lets users set up a paid email gate to deter spammers. The goal is to disincentivize the sending of irrelevant or even harmful emails, and make email interactions more meaningful.

  • How it works: An email from an unknown sender will trigger an automatic reply prompting the sender to donate a specified amount of money to the user’s nonprofit of choice. 70% of the donation goes to the nonprofit, 15% covers processing fees and the rest goes to Gated.
  • If senders decline to donate, the email will go into a separate “gated” folder rather than the primary inbox. Senders can click a button to automatically bypass the donation in case they are a personal connection.
  • Gated is just compatible with Gmail for now, but is working on securing Outlook. CEO Andy Mowat said he intends to keep Gated free for users forever. “This is driven by our belief that users shouldn’t be required to pay to clean up the trash dumped by others,” he said.

It’s become popular rather quickly. Last month, Gated officially launched on Product Hunt, hitting product of the day on June 17.

  • Charles Hudson, investor in Gated through Precursor Ventures, was worried that using Gated would make him seem closed-off or inaccessible. But those fears have been moot, he said: “Gated allows me to spend more time on the content that I’m getting that I think is relevant to me.”
  • Davis Bell, CEO of practice management software company Canopy, signed up for Gated because he hated being inundated with sales and vendor emails. He said the tool has saved him valuable time and energy.

Paying a fee for email access is controversial. Just think about the semi-regular Calendly tech Twitter debates. We’re accustomed to the idea that everyone and everything on the internet is within reach, for free.

  • Richard John, a postal system historian at Columbia University, said it could be hard to convince the majority of people to accept this limit on digital access. “If you make spam expensive, you could cut down on it, but that undermines that principle of access, which is an enlightenment principle we’ve had for a long time,” John said.
  • Productivity expert Karla Starr doesn’t think paying for direct email access is bad, especially because there are other ways to reach people. She does see it as more of a status signal than a productivity tool, however. You could use a service like this and still end up drowning in emails, she pointed out.
  • Angel investor Esther Dyson is a strong proponent of paying for primary inbox email access. She thinks it’s the best solution for the spam problem. She’s not a fan of putting a nonprofit in the middle of the transaction, however. “Being paid for the value of your time is honorable and doesn’t need to be sanitized by giving the money to a charity,” Dyson told me.

Gated’s mainstream success hinges on a major behavioral shift in how we think about email. Melissa Moody, who helped Mowat found Gated, acknowledged this but argued that some of tech’s biggest innovators think in this way. Getting in a stranger’s car via Uber or sleeping on a stranger’s couch via Airbnb seemed weird once, too. Maybe paying to spam is the next big thing.

Read the full story.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Fight for your right to repair at work

The right-to-repair movement has been gaining steam among consumers for years, but what about the right to repair the devices we use at work? A group of companies that fix enterprise software and servers is banding together to push Washington to protect the practices at the heart of the industry.

The trade group, FreeICT USA, wants to build on successes in Europe, mostly through an explicit bill ensuring that it’s not just the big sellers like Microsoft or IBM that can easily repair the software that businesses use.

Shannon Mahaffey, who is leading FreeICT, told Protocol that in addition to lobbying Congress, the group plans to work in states and stay in touch with the right-to-repair groups focused on consumer goods.

“Our job isn't to replace anything being done with right to repair in that general category, but to expand that conversation,” he said.

Read the full story.


They created Digital People. Now they've made celebrities available as Digital Twins: Soul Machines co-founder and CEO Greg Cross and his co-founder Mark Sagar, Ph.D., FRSNZ are leading their Auckland and San Francisco-based teams to create AI-enabled Digital People™️ to populate the internet, at first, and soon the metaverse.

Read more from Soul Machines

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

↓ CoinDesk reports that crypto exchange cut 25% of its staff, affecting around 150 people, citing harsh financial conditions.

↔️ Snap will reduce hiring as it struggles through the troubled ad market.

↔️ Microsoft is getting rid of open job listings, including in its cloud and security business units.

↑ Roblox is growing. Chief Technology Officer Dan Sturman said the online gaming platform continues to hire for key engineering and product roles. Last month on Blind, anonymous poster Broblox said the company is understaffed and cash flow positive.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

Retire early never

According to a June 2022 Quicken survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, ages 18 to 74, lots of folks are delaying retirement or “unretiring.”

Top reasons some of us are deciding to work forever and ever:

  • 65% of survey respondents cited rising costs due to inflation.
  • 45% said they couldn't retire because of the current state of the stock market.
  • 30% pointed to high interest rates.
  • 12% delayed retirement because their partner’s job or compensation has been negatively impacted by the failing economy.

"Through the end of 2021, we were in an unusual environment with plenty of jobs, a buoyant stock market and tame inflation,” said Quicken CEO Eric Dunn. “In 2022, it's a different story."


They created Digital People. Now they've made celebrities available as Digital Twins: Soul Machines is at the cutting edge of AGI research with its unique Digital Brain, based on the latest neuroscience and developmental psychology research.

Read more from Soul Machines

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Can tech workers also be artists? The Seattle arts community doesn’t think so. (Crosscut)

Hybrid work is incredibly hard on SF small businesses. (CNBC)

A16z is going remote and also opening three new office spaces, because why not?

Tech companies cutting costs might also be cutting diversity. (Wired)

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to

Recent Issues