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iPostal: Postcards, Mobile Apps and the Element of Spontaneity

iPostal came in second place at last week’s AppCircus São Paulo, selected out of a group of 10 finalists as a winning application. The app is based on a simple concept – take a picture, write a message, send a postcard – and has already garnered 2,000 users since its launch on May 17th.

Yussif Ali Mere Neto, co-founder of iPostal, shared information about the background of the company as well as the logistical issues of setting up and his own impressions as a first-time entrepreneur.

Journey to an Idea

iPostal was founded by Neto along with Felipe Oranges and Victor Stabile. Childhood friends, the three discussed starting a business for quite some time, meeting two to three times per week to discuss ideas. After numerous brainstorming sessions, the idea of a web-to-print service came about.

The web-to-print sector in Brazil is growing, and numerous companies are currently in existence that offer the service. In recognizing this, the group decided to focus on one single product – the postcard.



The Element of Spontaneity

Though iPostal is available as a web and mobile app, it is concentrated on the mobile sector. Neto noted the element of spontaneity in this decision. With iPostal, an individual who sees something while on a trip or even in his or her daily life can snap a picture, write a quick message and send a postcard to a loved one in just a few minutes. He acknowledged that low smartphone penetration in Brazil limits the current prospects of the business; however, sales are growing towards a future in which most internet access will be mobile.

iPostal is currently available for iOS operating systems, and the Android version will launch next week. Thus far, 1500 postcards have been created and sent via the application. The iPostal app can be downloaded for free, and each postcard sent costs R$2.99 (roughly US$1.50). Packages are also available, where volume discounts apply. Postcards are guaranteed to be delivered within five working days.

Competitors

Though iPostal does have its fair share of competitors, the team is confident in its value proposal within its niche. On an international level, Sincerely out of the U.S. and Touchnote of Europe provide a similar service and deliver everywhere, including Brazil. However, in terms of turn-around time, international shipping can take about a month.

As for local competitors, large web-to-print platforms, such as Printi, are in the mix. However, iPostal has a big advantage there in terms of price.

Logistical Challenges

Logistically, Neto noted both highs and lows in the work that had to be done. iPostal does not have its own printing facilities and has had to outsource this service. Identifying a partner in this endeavor, Neto explained, proved difficult in terms of the quality standards expected by the iPostal team. Moreover, now that an agreement with a São Paulo printing service has been reached, someone from iPostal goes to the company every morning to retrieve the postcards, confirm quality and carry them to the post office. Once more users are garnered, iPostal will seek to set up an agreement with the postal service to schedule daily pick-ups.

Neto also discussed payment issues. Interestingly, he did not perceive reluctance towards online payment on the part of iPostal users. He made the point that if one is tech-savvy enough to have a smartphone, it’s likely that the online payment barrier is something that’s already been breached. Instead, he explained that the big issue iPostal has confronted has been identifying forms of payment that are adequate in consideration of the service’s low price.

The iPostal team has had to integrate credit card payment and work directly with payment management companies. PayPal and similar online payment services are not an option because they require fixed fees. Moreover, Neto explained that iPostal still cannot save credit card data as this service also requires the payment of a fixed fee. In order to circumvent this, iPostal allows users to purchase credits to avoid inputting their credit card information every time they want to send a postcard.

The Entrepreneurial Experience

In closing, Neto touched on his own experiences and impressions as a first-time entrepreneur with iPostal. First and foremost, he mentioned the surprise of how difficult it is to live without a monthly salary – a feat much more challenging than he imagined. He went on to describe the entrepreneurial lifestyle as one of ups and downs, sometimes lending to great excitement and other times entailing huge letdowns. He noted that progress and processes have been slower than he had imagined as well.

Despite the difficulties of entrepreneurship, when asked whether he’d do it all again, Neto’s answer was absolutely. For now, he will continue to work with iPostal as it forges ahead in Brazil. Later down the line, the company will explore other options in the web-to-print vertical and consider expansion to other Latin American locales.

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