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Outbox: Turning your snail mail into email with the help of "unpostmen"

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Austin Photo Set: News_OutBox_Dec2012
Courtesy of Outbox

With snail mail, laziness begets clutter: all the catalogues, coupons and flyers for a free teeth cleaning pile up. It’s like paperwork. An Austin-based startup is willing to do some of the cleanup and enable a different kind of laziness. For about $5 a month, Outbox will pick up your mail for you, scan all of it and let you look it at online (or on its iPad app), like email.

And like email, you can sort, scan and ignore. It has a spam filter, too — those pages-long Red Plum coupons for stores you don’t go to? You can unsubscribe and have ‘em shredded and recycled. For the pieces of physical mail you do actually want, Outbox arranges for them to be delivered to your house, in regularly scheduled intervals. Things like packages will still be delivered as normal.

Cofounder Evan Baehr, a Harvard Business school grad who’s spent time working at Facebook and hobnobs with (and gets some of Outbox’s funding from) PayPal’s Peter Thiel, pulled together big names for their investor and advisory board, including early players from Twitter and Netflix. And they’ve even wrangled a former vice president of the U.S. Postal Service.

Given the big names behind the service, its appropriately slick and the service is not without a few cool tricks: they can duplicate your mailbox key from just a picture, so Outbox can intercept mail from almost anywhere. “The goal is to never make you go to your mailbox again,” Baehr says.

There are already a few of mail-digitizing services, like Doxo, Manilla and Zumbox, that specialize in collating bills into digital counterparts and are free. If you’re bad about keeping on top of your payments, those solutions might work better (since they spit all your bills on to one clean page); Outbox is more for those trying to achieve some serious paperless zen.

But this also means someone’s looking at all your mail. The company’s “unpostmen,” who intercept your mail, and storage facilities (physical and digital) are vetted with leading security measures. Baehr assures that Outbox’s “unpostmen” are more heavily screened than current postal workers.

Moving forward, Baehr says the goal is to build partnerships with businesses to make their “going paperless” options more streamlined. Baehr says that Outbox is currently in talks with the city of Austin, which is trying to go paperless, for a possible, future collaboration. The service is currently only available in Austin, but the company does have plans to venture outside the capital and to other major cities in 2013.

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