I recently discovered snailmailr, a nifty website that lets you send real mail (i.e. “snail mail”) online for only 99 cents per letter, postage included. As you can see from the picture, the interface is dead simple. You can write your letter with their online editor or you can attach a Word Document, PDF, Powerpoint Slide, etc. They use laser color printers, 100% recycled paper, and even purchase carbon offsets for their paper use. And it works internationally. You can opt to pay 10 cents extra to have the snailmailr.com logo removed from your envelope, and you also have to pay about a quarter extra for every page over 2 pages, but that’s still pretty reasonable.
Cool right? I mean, there are definitely times late at night or in crappy weather when I’d rather spend the 99 cents and fire out a letter like it’s an email and be done with it (in my apartment complex the mailboxes are quite a walk). I also don’t always have a printer available. I can see how this could be incredibly useful for someone who is constantly traveling, especially internationally. Or if you rarely send letters and don’t feel like keeping stamps and letters in stock. Or if you flat out don’t have a printer. It really is useful in a lot of scenarios.
Here’s the best part though, the part that left me kicking myself and will probably do the same to you: the startup costs for this business are almost zero. Any of us could have done this. It serves a pretty big need. One that amazingly isn’t really being met elsewhere. I’m almost stunned that no one has done this before.
Granted, a laser printer costs a few hundred dollars. The paper costs a few bucks, as does the postage. And you have to be reasonably tech savvy to throw together the website. But nothing that any of us couldn’t have taken a legit shot with for under $1k.
I did some searching and wasn’t able to find out who started it or who has funded it (other than some guy named Kevin who left a comment on a blog post review…Kevin if you’re out there, drop me an email). But there’s no reason that this couldn’t be started by a student or part-time entrepreneur. It’s one of those rare examples where the startup costs are low but the upside is very high (and scalable).
The downside is of course the low barrier to entry. Can anyone think of a better way to do what snailmailr is doing?