Since email has evolved into our hub for personal and business communication, sorting through our physical mail has become anti-climactic, even chore-like. For every, say, 30 pieces of credit card offers and donation requests you receive, you’ll be rewarded by one personal letter that was actually worth opening.
Outbox is a San Francisco-based startup that wants to help you reduce the amount of time you spend sorting through junk mail and allow you to focus on the letters that are actually important, all while bringing your snail mail to your computer screen. Judging from investor activity you can predict that Outbox is set for huge success, as they just closed a $5 million Series A funding round. According to TechCrunch, Outbox raised funds from over 80 investors, amounting to the largest round ever raised on AngelList Invest. AngelList Invest is a tool that allows investors to pool small amounts of money online to create an on-the-fly LLC that invests in the company directly.
How Outbox Works
When you sign up for Outbox you give their staff permission to collect your mail. If you use a key to access your mail you’ll send Outbox a snapshot so they can make a copy. Three times each week, Outbox’s “unpostmen” will visit your mailbox to collect your mail and deliver any packages to your front door or office. They’ll scan everything else and give you online access through the Web and their iOS and Android apps. If you find any mail worth keeping you can request that Outbox deliver the piece to you. Otherwise Outbox will shred and recycle your unrequested mail after 30 days. Outbox offers this service for $4.99 each month.
The company has posted a helpful video overview of Outbox:
Here are some of the features Outbox offers that let you take control of your mail:
- Put an end to junk mail: Outbox lets you unsubscribe from senders so you never receive an wanted message from them again
- Organize your mail: As you browse your scanned mail, you can sort your messages into inboxes like “bills,” “friends,” and “coupons”
- Receive the mail that really matters: You can request that Outbox delivers certain pieces of mail to your home or office
- Create a to-do list: You can add your mail items such as credit card bills to your to-do list and receive reminders of when payments and other tasks are due
How Outbox Could Change Snail Mail for Good
It’s no understatement to say that Outbox is proposing a radical change in the way you interact with your mail. Doesn’t it seem crazy to hire someone to pick up your mail (especially when your mailbox is just outside your front door) and sort and scan it for you? On their blog, Outbox admits that their approach is deviant but explains why Outbox could become the best solution for making receiving your mail a pleasant experience:
“We know our approach is crazy. But it’s like Winston Churchill said about democracy: it’s the worst form, except for all the others. But don’t worry: we’re not building out a 10,000-Prius network. Our long term vision is that all Outbox customers have an Outbox Address. Senders can use our API to reach you with both digital content (bills, statements, deals, etc.) and physical content (gifts, printed material like photos, or packages). As a customer, you will get most of your content digitally on any of your devices and some of your content delivered physically wherever you want: your apartment, your office, or even your hotel. You get just the content you want (unsubscribe from everything you don’t want), in the medium you want it (digital or physical), where you want it (any physical address for delivery: hotel, house, work), and have total control of it (send it, shred it, email it, share it).”
Outbox lets you organize your mail in ways never possible before. Since Outbox is such a personal service (they visit your house three times a week, for crying out loud. Your friends probably don’t even do that!), it also offers the flexibility to develop personal relationships with their representatives. This could allow for special requests, like a hold on your mail deliveries while you’re out of town. Plus, using Outbox allows you to go completely paperless – imagine the day when Recycling Day no longer signifies the day you need to drag a heavy bin full of pointless circulars to your curb. Sounds like the life.
Where is Outbox going?
Outbox ran its first beta in Austin, where the service was tested by 500 users. Outbox is currently running in beta in San Francisco, also with a membership of 500 testers, and with thousands waiting for join. To date, only 3% of Outbox users have opted out of the service, a sign that Outbox has experienced high traction and customer satisfaction so far. Hopefully with their recent funding Outbox will be able to come out of beta in San Francisco and expand to other cities, like New York, soon.
For more information on Outbox, check out their introductory video, their company blog, or the history of the company as interpreted by the cast of Seinfeld.
If Outbox were available in your area, would you take advantage of its services, or would you stick to your more traditional system of mail delivery and sorting?
They’ve been doing that for awhile though haven’t they? I remember seeing this some time ago.
Very interesting. All the times.. 🙂 Philippe Trebaul.
This has been around for a long time. The risk is when/if the company dies, you have to get your address back.
EarthClassMail.com has been doing this for years, and IMO it’s a system that will scale far better since you just re-route all your mail to your new address with them — no need to make a copy of a key or anything. They even licensed their technology to SwissPost and have European addresses as well.