Silicon Valley thinks the U.S. Postal Service is a joke. Tech investor Tim Draper called it a classic example of a "fat and lazy" industry. They tried, but failed to put it out of business. "Paper" itself is a dirty word. But when there's inventory to move, the old ways will do.
Hence the direct mail "exclusive invitation" to "SAN FRANCISCO OFFERS" filled with fliers for venture-backed startups. Residents received the paper envelope this week.
— Diana Smith (@DianaHSmith) November 19, 2014
The well-funded companies participating in this round are Casper, which has raised $15 million in venture capital to sell its "obsessively engineered mattress" and uses the tagline "The Mattress Reimagined." There's Handy, which also advertises in BART. The on-demand handyman and house-cleaning service raised $45.7 million in venture capital and is currently facing a class action lawsuit for violating a bouquet of labor laws.
Others include: Blue Apron (the grocery delivery service that has raised $58 million), BarkBox (the subscription service for dog owners that has raised $21 million), Minibar (the alcohol delivery service that has raised $1.8 million), and Boxed Wholesale, which has raised $7.6 million to deliver "the big box club experience to mobile devices" apparently through your mailbox.
The company behind the campaign has a minimalist, modern website located at the URL Mailisback dot com. It appears to be a startup that handles marketing for startups like the ones above, which could loosely be described as tech companies. Since I have no moral objection to paper myself, I will likely indulge in one of these rectangular coupons. I tried the senders through their email firstname.lastname@example.org and will update the post if I hear back.
The sharing economy ecosystem in particular keeps growing layers of startups between its contract workers and consumers. Direct mail is just another form of advertising supported by startups, which are supported by venture capitalists. Mat Honan made this observation about mobile ads on Facebook back in May:
Nevermind that much of Facebook's advertising comes from venture-backed apps, and that if the app bubble pops, Facebook's money machine could seize up–just as it had happened to magazines a decade before. Today wasn't a day for cards to fall.
To contact the author of this post electronically and not through direct mail, send your message to email@example.com.