Sept. 11, Anthrax Get E-Mail Startup Noticed

PaperlessPOBox opened for business Sept. 11 and planned a demonstration of its e-mail service that day in lower Manhattan. The terrorist attacks postponed the demonstration but the anthrax attacks that followed gave the company an unexpected boost.

“We have many customers who heard about our service through the media and came to us because they didn't want to touch their mail,” said founder David Nale. “A mailing services company came to us during the anthrax scares because it needed a service to handle mail for its clients since its facilities were shut down as a result of an anthrax scare.”

When customers sign up with PaperlessPOBox, they receive a P.O. box at a post office near the company's processing facility in San Francisco. Customers then give that address to mailers. PaperlessPOBox employees pick up mail delivered to the P.O. boxes each morning and bring it to the processing center, where it is scanned and e-mailed to its customers that day.

The company has more than 100 clients. Though many heard of the company during the anthrax scare, Nale said most use the service because of convenience, not fear.

Salespeople who travel frequently are among the most common users, and some customers are Americans living overseas. Nale said some companies use the service to process invoices, which then are routed via e-mail to the right people in their company. Another company in San Francisco, with some of the most expensive real estate in the country, has used the service to reduce the size of its mailroom.

The individual plan starts at $19.95 per month for up to 500 images, and corporate plans start at $129.95 per month for 1,000 images. For companies, there is also a monthly $5.95 routing charge per recipient.

Customers also can have the mail archived to CD-ROM or other media. Each CD costs $14.95. In addition, PaperlessPOBox stores the mail it scans so customers can retrieve it at a later date. For larger clients, the company will install the mail extraction and scanning machines on site or pick up mail from a company's mailroom for processing.

The mail is processed using high-speed extraction and scanning machines that handle 300 to 500 pieces an hour.

Many of Nale's customers not only have business correspondence scanned, but direct mail as well.

“One of the businesses we are talking to has engineers that receive mailings discussing trade shows or educational seminars,” he said. “They understand that the engineers need to know about these events, especially since they are traveling. So we would be scanning that.”

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