Thursday, September 15, 2011
Interview with Josh Brooks, Postcard On The Run
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
In the day and age of digital photos, too often the photos we take end up filed away untouched on your computer, or buried on your iPhone. Unlike the past, when photos were treasured and shown off to friends and family, it seems like photos are almost disposable. However, Los Angeles-based Postcard On The Run (www.postcardontherun.com) is trying to recapture that sense of value of physical photographs, with its new service, which turns digital photos into postcards. We spoke with Josh Brooks, the founder and CEO of the company, about what the firm is doing, his background at MySpace, and what's next for the company.
For those who haven't used your service, what does it do?
Josh Brooks: The goal of Postcard On The Run, is I'm trying to develop a product that speaks to the crossroads of analog and digital, and online to offline. There's something special about physical goods in your hand. We take millions of pictures each day and each year, and we don't do much with them except stick them in a repository on our iPhone or Android, or let them stack up on your computer hard drive. The goal of Postcard On The Run, is to instead do something special with those photos, and capture the moment. We allow a user to easily share a photo, in a meaningful way. We're just a few months old, and last week we launched the company, allowing a user to simply take an image--whether it's an image from their photo gallery, something they've just shot on their iPhone camera, or soon on Android, or rip it from Facebook--and take that image and put it on a postcard, where they can write a message and sign it with their finger for a personal touch. We also use the GPS location of that image, ripping the GPS location and put it on a map or point of interest on the postcard. It speaks directly to your address book on your phone, allowing you to send a postcard, which will arrive anywhere from two to three business days, or internationally in five business days.
What's the story behind Postcard On The Run?
Josh Brooks: Personally, I literally have 23,000 photos in my iPhone gallery. I scratched my head, because in my alternate life, I'm so much better at printing and keeping up with photos I take. But, in real life, it just doesn't happen. It's not because I don't want to, but it's because the of convenience factor, it's a real hiccup for me. You've heard how nowadays, people will leave home without their wallet and keys, but won't leave without their smartphone, which is the truth. I created Postcard On The Run because I was excited by the the idea of sharing and creating a keepsake from a mobile device, and making it more than just posting it online. Nowadays, when you post something online, whether that is an image in a gallery or social networking site, it only has a lifespan of just a few seconds. People are not just interested in looking at a series of 85 pictures you just posted. However, I guarantee if you get something in the mail from a friend or a loved one, you will hold on to it. You'll want to put it on a wall, on your fridge, or desk, and always hold on to it as a keepsake.
Can you talk a little bit about your background and what you were doing before Postcard on the Run?
Josh Brooks: I have always been in the digital space. I ran program and marketing for MySpace for a little over three years. After that, I went to a company called Playlist.com, which is headquartered in Palo Alto. I did content for that company. Prior to all of that, I was managing musicians for six years, such as Queens of the Stone Age, Tori Amos, and A Perfect Circle. Prior to that, I was at a marketing company, Fanscape, one of the early guys in the online marketing space. They're still around.
It looks like you had a stint there at Playlist in the Bay Area, and decided to come back?
Josh Brooks: Playlist was in Palo Alto. After MySpace, I did the old Burbank to San Jose commute. I practically sat in the lap of the Southwest Airlines copilot.
You were able to get the company up and running pretty quickly -- how were you able to execute so quickly?
Josh Brooks: In sum, I had the idea of what I wanted, and did my best to use all of the tools out there to synthesize my idea. I then started working with the engineers to bring it to life. I knew what I wanted, and spec'd it out myself. I'm a big fan of programs like Basalmiq. I dont' have Photoshop chops, but I do have the ablity to storyboard. I created something like 80 to a 100 screens. For a guy like me, where I know exactly what is in my head and need to articulate it so that developers can program it, I love that kind of stuff. I used Basalmiq to sketch out what I wanted to do. I had a clear plan of what it should do, and the scenarios of how the app could work.
You'd mentioned to me earlier that this connects into third party developers in some way. Can you talk about that?
Josh Brooks: That's one of the most exciting aspects of this. We've developed almost five products, including both an iOS and Android application. In parallel, we've create an iOS SDK and Android SDK, our Postal Gopher product. What's special about the iOS and Android SDK, is that there are already thousands of developers who have created amazing photography and travel apps. They all have functionality, which allows you to take a picture and share it. An example might be Facegoo, which allows you to send funny emails to friends, send out a tweet, or add a picture to Facebook. We allow them to use our SDK to implement our service in their app. By allowing third parties to include Postcard on The Run in their iOS and Android apps, it's a new revenue stream for app developers. It's something special--they can create a great app, and we let them do something really good with the photo they've made. You can use Photogene, Camera Genius, or Facegoo, and those apps will have updates that have Postcard On The Run embedded. That lets you do more than take a photo and email it, it lets you create a postcard from any of those wild, amazing, or artistic photo applications.
Let's talk about funding. How is the company funded?
Josh Brooks: We're in the midst of doing fundraising. Hopefully, in the near future we can make some announcements on funding.
Finally, what's the next big thing for your service?
Josh Brooks: There's some fun stuff coming along really quickly. A concept called Postal Gopher is pretty interesting. I'm not sure if you remember what Plaxo was, the address updating program. What I found, was my problem with sending postcards or any mail service, is finding someone's address. In addition to saying, I'd love to print some photos, and getting the photo to the printer, was in this day and age, most of us don't have our contact's mail addresses. You might have their email and cell phone number, but not an address. Postal Gopher is woven into Postcard On The Run, so say for the moment Ben is in Hawaii, and he wants to send a postcard to your new buddy Josh Brooks, but you don't have his home or work address, but do have his cell phone or email. You can have your feet in the sand, snap a photo of Oahu, and you can alert me through email via our postcard app that says--Hey, this is Ben, I'm trying to find your address to send a postcard. I can get an alert by text or email, and that information is immediately passed back to the printer, and also goes back to you in Hawaii so you have my contact info. We then get the postcard printed within 24 hours, and are actually sending it out for you while you sit in the comfort of a Hawaiian beach chair. Another great thing we're working on, is "smell mail". In the next two weeks, we're introducing something called "smell mail", so that your postcard can smell like a Pina Colada, or suntan lotion, when you get that postcard. We're trying to hit as many senses as we can, and the element of a sense of smell is one of the strongest out there. It's tangible, and like a physical photo is really special.