Austin startup pushes the envelope with mail digitizing service

Austin startup pushes the envelope with mail digitizing service

August 21, 2014

Christopher Calnan
[email protected]
Twitter: @ABJCalnan;
Staff Writer- Austin Business Journal

Three months after Outbox Inc. shuttered operations, another mail digitizing company has launched in Austin.

In April, Scan Mailboxes Solutions LLC began offering a service that diverts postal deliveries and automates the scanning process of individual pieces of mail. Customers that receive emailed images of the mail can then select what to do with it.

CEO Ken Brown III said the service has proven popular with customers who travel frequently, operate home offices needing an extra level of security or work in paperless offices.

The self-funded business was founded in September 2013. It employs two workers — Brown and co-founder Chris Landry — but plans to hire up to 10 employees within three years, Brown said.

Scan Mailboxes doesn’t actually retrieve customer mail. Instead, the U.S. Postal Service re-routes it to the company’s office for digitizing.

Customers can choose from three levels of service, $10 a month for a starter, $20 for a professional service, or $40.

Brown considers Los Angeles-based Earth Class Mail Corp. to be his chief competition.

Earth Class, which launched in 2006, operates in 19 U.S. cities, including Houston. It offers street address-based accounts for $29.95 per month to $50.95 per month; and post office-based accounts for $14.95 per month to $25.95 per month, according its website.

In January, Austin’s Outbox shut down operations citing higher-than-expected costs for acquiring customers that reached $50 per sales lead. The company, which launched in late 2011, received more than $7 million in investment capital.

Outbox was founded by Will Davis and Evan Baehr with a service that physically collected the contents of mailboxes, digitized the mail and enabled subscribers to decide what they wanted sent to their physical address or simply on their computer screens. It employed 10 workers in late 2012.

In 1997, Scan Mailboxes’ Brown had the idea of similar service while working for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Security concerns required him to rent a post office box for his personal mail.

But traveling to the post office was time-consuming and the mailbox was often empty or full of junk mail. Last year, he began using Outbox, but said he found it “restrictive.” Customers were required to use their own address and the mail was retrieved from the mailboxes only a few times per week.

Scan Mailboxes customer Evan Winegard, the Austin-based chief financial officer of three companies, said he frequently travels and the digitized mail enables him to check and sort it remotely. He started the service in June and gets about 20 pieces of mail a day — digitally.

“I can see the mail and funnel it to the appropriate people or take care of it myself,” he said. “It saves me time.”

Christopher Calnan covers technology, finance and clean energy for the Austin Business Journal.


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