Any etiquette guide will tell you that hand-written notes are a required part of adulthood. You should to send them to clients, to job interviewers, to your friends. Some experts even argue they’re more important in a digital world, where follow-up emails and Facebook “Happy Birthday” posts are too easy to be meaningful.
No matter, it’s still a pain to acquire a card, write the note (who has good handwriting anymore?), find a stamp and drop it in a mailbox. It might sound lazy to complain about, but how often do you send cards versus how often you’d like to?
Earlier this week a startup called Bond launched to help bridge that gap. The company follows in the footsteps of other digital-to-paper startups like Postcard on the Run, Red Stamp, Postagram (which includes a hideous QR code), Cleverbug, which focuses on birthday cards.
Bond’s secret sauce is that it’s classy, or at least classier, than a printed message, because its cards are hand-written. The company actually built a machine that handwrites the notes, which arrive in an elaborate wax-sealed envelope.
Naturally there is the problem of initiative. If people don’t think to send hand-written cards anymore, then why would they think to use an app to do it? Maybe we’re just outgrowing this form of communication. (Apple agrees; the company shut down its Cards app last month.)
Bond aims to take the initiative out of the equation a couple of ways. For one, the app reminds people of when it’s a good time to send something, be it the birthdays and milestones of friends and professional contacts, or follow-ups from meetings.
Secondly, Bond curates gifts from a limited set of options focused on your preferences. Co-founder Angelo Bruno, who was a founding member of One Kings Lane and did merchandizing for ABC Carpet and Saks, is bringing a level of taste to the gift selection. Personalized curation was where Facebook Gifts failed, says Sonny Caberwal, Bond’s co-founder and CEO. “Like any retail experience, they need a point-of-view directed at a specific customer,” he says. “You can’t have the same things for everyone.”
Facebook Gifts has now scaled back its offering to gift cards only, which Caberwal says is “kind of lame,” unless the monetary value is really high. “It puts a dollar amount on your relationship,” he says. Previously Caberwal founded Exclusively.in, a fashion commerce site in India backed by Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management, which he sold to Myntra.com. In addition to Bruno and Caberwal, Bond’s other co-founder, Andy Ellwood, is a former VP of Gowalla and Waze.
“Our goal and the big picture is to just change how people interact with each other, so they can be more thoughtful,” he says.
In that way, the company picks up where one deadpool company, gifting startup Wantful, leaves off. Earlier this year upscale gifting service Wantful shut down after it wasn’t able to secure a new round of funding.
Caberwal says Bond will avoid Wantful’s fate by focusing really narrowly on coastal professionals between the age of 25 and 40 who have to send gifts and cards for work. These customers have more than 500 LinkedIn connections and make more than $75,000 a year. Beyond that, the company is working on partnerships with large organizations that already have service teams spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on client gifts. Non-profit Charity:water is one such client.
Bond launched this week as an iOS app. Hand-written notes cost $5 each to send.
[Image by Edward Gorey via johnesimpson.com]