Austin startup pushes the envelope with mail digitizing service

Aug 21, 2014
Austin Business Journal


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


In April, Scan Mailboxes Inc. 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


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


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