Email intelligence company Return Path acquired API provider Context.IO today in a move that it hopes will make it faster and easier for developers to integrate email data into their applications. Bruno Morency, Context.IO’s director of product management, said that “Email is a platform that goes beyond communication — it powers project collaboration, document sharing, task delegation and workflow management…we are excited to become part of Return Path, an organization that shares our vision that email is not only here to stay, but is ripe for innovation.”

For those that don’t know Context.IO, it’s a company that supports the expansion of, access to, and synching of email data so that developers won’t have to build, scale or maintain it themselves.

Return Path is also investing $1 million into what it calls an innovation program for startups that will foster email API advancement among all developers to help facilitate the creation of new applications to improve email productivity.

With this acquisition, Return Path will add Context.IO’s subscriber data into its own database of 2 million users. Context.IO customers will now be able to leverage Return Path’s relationships within the email ecosystem and email intelligence solutions, giving them access to a large set of data enabling better ROI of emails for their users.

With the creation of this new startup program program, Return Path is looking for qualified developers — you need to complete an application if you meet the criteria: raised less than $3 million in total funding to date, already have a Context.IO API key with at least 1,000 mailboxes connected to it, and you’re building something “exceptional” with email data. If you’re accepted into the program, you’ll receive $25,000 worth of credits to apply to Context.IO usage and can be renewed once more if you still meet the qualifications.

This isn’t the first time that email marketing and intelligence services have made moves to help encourage innovation in the email ecosystem. ExactTarget has acquired CoTweet and more recently Pardot and iGoDigital to help build out a more well-rounded company. Additionally, Constant Contact has acquired SinglePlatform to enable businesses to update their information on the web.

Context.IO will remain in Montreal, Canada while working jointly with the rest of the Return Path teams.

Image credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images