Startup Outbox takes on USPS by digitizing physical mail

A USPS mailbox.

Outbox aims to get rid of these. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Steven Johnson/Flickr)

The U.S. Postal Service recently announced cuts to Saturday service in an effort to save money. This is in large part because consumers are opting to save money on message delivery by using electronic transmissions. Now, thanks to a startup company named Outbox, consumers can save money and time (and the USPS may lose more customers) by digitizing physical mail.

Undelivering mail with Outbox

Outbox calls the process “undelivering mail,” and it costs $4.99 per month. An “unpostman” visits subscriber homes and picks up mail. It is transported to a company facility, where the mail is scanned into a computer. Subscribers then can view each piece of digitized mail via the web or the company’s app, informing Outbox which pieces should be shredded and discarded, and which should be delivered to their door.

Currently, Outbox is available in Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, Calif.

USPS offers resistance to Outbox

Understandably, USPS administration has shown resistance to the idea of companies like this. As such, the Postal Service has refused to allow Outbox workers to pick up mail directly from local Post Offices. In spite of this, the company has continued to move forward, even though questions of legality may exist with a third party removing mail from a mailbox, even if that party has permission.

Outbox – Like a good neighbor

Representatives of Outbox argue that once a piece of mail has been delivered, it’s unregulated paper. Thus, an employee who picks up a customer’s mail with express permission is very much the same as a neighbor picking up mail while a client is out of town.

“Innovation happens in the gray zone of deregulation,” said Outbox co-founder Will Davis. “We’re operating in that gray zone.”

As for the safety and reliability of Outbox employees who handle customer mail, Davis notes that all of them undergo “more thorough background checks than Postal employees.” itself uses 512-bit encryption and device recognition to help prevent digitized mail from falling into the wrong hands.

Outbox the mail to make money

Davis believes that once Outbox saturates a service area, it will be in prime position to transition into same-day delivery for e-commerce companies like Amazon. Tiered pricing for business addresses as well as expansion of mail forwarding options are also on the future agenda. Davis also has plans to bring Outbox to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., in the near future.



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