Paperless Mail Nears Reality

It’s been talked about for years: a paperless postal system that would enable folks to send real paper mail electronically. Not via emails, but real documents sent to people digitally.

Well, it looks like the time may be here. Zumbox, a Westlake Village, Calif.-based company that has created a web-based platform that powers the world’s first paperless postal system, launched its national rollout on Sept. 22 in San Francisco and Newark, N.J., following a successful pilot in New Lenox, Ill.

It’s been talked about for years: a paperless postal system that would enable folks to send real paper mail electronically. Not via emails, but real documents sent to people digitally.

Well, it looks like the time may be here. Zumbox, a Westlake Village, Calif.-based company that has created a web-based platform that powers the world’s first paperless postal system, launched its national rollout on Sept. 22 in San Francisco and Newark, N.J., following a successful pilot in New Lenox, Ill.

Here’s how Zumbox works: For every U.S. street address, there’s a corresponding Zumbox — or digital mailbox — that enables postal mail to be sent as digital files and received online with no paper and no scanning. By using Zumbox, businesses and other organizations can cut down on mailing costs and reduce their environmental impacts. Consumers, on the other hand, can access their mail online and also receive multimedia content in a new way.

The announcement, made on Sept. 22, means that City and County of San Francisco and the City of Newark, New Jersey can send secure, electronic, paperless mail to their residents using delivery criteria such as neighborhoods, ZIP codes, cities or specific street addresses. This can include letters, utility bills, public notices, newsletters, permits, videos and more. Zumbox, which incorporated last year, is making its service available to municipal and state governments free of charge. And, there’s no cost for consumers to receive paperless mail via Zumbox.

“A paperless postal system represents a new opportunity for San Francisco to reduce the city’s overall waste stream and will help in our efforts to reach zero waste by 2020,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in a statement. “As a communications technology, paperless mail also supports our commitment to open government by offering a more direct and efficient online connection between the city and our residents.”

Zumbox is also offering a free trial for qualified nonprofit organizations and local businesses in San Francisco and Newark, according to a statement by Donn Rappaport, president and CEO of Zumbox and founder and chairman of direct marketing list firm ALC.

In fact, many heavyweights are behind the system. In August, Zumbox announced it closed its Series A funding with $8 million raised. Investors include Art Bilger (managing member of Shelter Capital Partners), Rick Braddock (chairman and CEO of Fresh Direct and former chairman and CEO of Priceline.com), Michael Eisner (founder of The Tornante Co. and former CEO of The Walt Disney Co.), Bill Guthy (founding principal of Guthy-Renker) and Rappaport.

The first stage of Zumbox’s national rollout aims to reach approximately 1 million households in the U.S. through partnerships with municipal governments, media companies, and national and local mail senders. Additional cities and partners will be added in the coming weeks and months. I am going to be tracking it closely. What do you think about it? Good idea? Bad idea? Let us know by posting a comment here.