San Francisco-based startup Outbox, which converts snailmail into digital formats and places it online, has raised a further $5 million in Series A funding (it raised $2.2 million just two years ago). Although it’s not the first firm to convert physical mail to digital (there’s Zumbox, for example), it is capitalizing on the massive trend toward online communication. And there’s little doubt that most seasoned tech product managers will agree that there’s gold to be mined in that transition.
The latest funding round was led by its existing investor, Floodgate, with participation from Expansion VC, Correlation Ventures, Founders Fund, Peterson Ventures, TDF Ventures and WTI, although 80 smaller investors also contributed through AngelList.
During early testing, just three percent of its test users canceled before it went live. Now that it has, its waiting list has run into the thousands and it’s expected to come out of closed beta later this year.
For the intrigued product manager, the services run as follows. Designed chiefly for urban markets, the company collects mail from subscribers’ physical mailboxes three times a week. Small packages will be transferred to an Outbox-branded mailer and placed in the hands of front desk staff or the building concierge (they can also be delivered to alternative destinations if requested, like the user’s workplace). Paper mail is scanned and converted to digital, whereupon it can be accessed via web, iPad, iPhone or Android in a kind of Dropbox for mail.
Product managers who may be feeling a little uneasy about the prospective success of a venture that involves third parties (or “un-postmen”, as Outbox calls its operatives) rifling through private mail may be mistaken. Outbox says its service is actually more secure than ordinary physical mail. Once documents have been scanned and put online, the hard copies are safely shredded, not just tossed in the garbage as so many of us are inclined to do with physical mail.
And any remaining product manager skepticism will be dispelled by Outbox’s potential versatility: co-founder Will Davis says that it can be adapted for additional applications, like check deposits or bill payments.
The new investment is likely to be ploughed into service expansion, with New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and L.A. on the company’s list of priorities.