San Francisco service offers to sort, digitize people's mail

March 13, 2013 9:39:30 PM PDT
As our electronic lives move further and further into the cloud, there's something being left behind: old-fashioned snail mail. But a startup launched in San Francisco is aiming to change that.

Francis Sanchez is an "unpostman." Making as many as 60 stops a day, he retrieves mail from people's mailboxes and takes it back to the warehouse of a company called Outbox.

"We make you paperless overnight," Outbox co-founder Will Davis said. "And so all of your postal mail is now on your iPhone, your iPad and you can access it anywhere at any time."

Davis says for $5 a month, Outbox will pick up your mail three times a week and scan it for you to see from anywhere.

"This is the first time that you've ever had control to unsubscribe from junk mail, to share mail with your spouse or your accountant, and to even request physical items you want without anything of the rest," Davis said.

Outbox is gathering steam, but it's also getting mixed reviews. Everyone seems to agree it's innovative, the question is whether it's an innovation that enough people will actually want.

"The postal industry is already on its way out, so a startup kind of disrupting a dying industry doesn't really make sense," VentureBeat writer Christina Farr said.

Farr says privacy is also a concern.

"You have pretty sensitive information coming through in the form of bills, so you have to make this decision about whether you feel comfortable having someone else open your mail," she said.

Outbox says all of its employees have rigorous background checks. But your mail will be read by a machine.

Just like Gmail, Outbox plans to have targeted ads, but with with a twist.

"You could click and request a sample of your favorite makeup or cleaning product that would be delivered in your weekly requested mail," Davis said.


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