The co-founders of LTLprints.com were able to sneak away to the Midwest on an investors…
A week ago I was contacted by Alexandra de Oliveira, Chief Marketing Officer, for the Durham, North Carolina based startup company Shoeboxed.com. It was requested that I review this new startup company and I am honored to comply. Alexandra linked me up with Dan Englander, a Duke University young buck who’s taken the title of VP of Communications at Shoeboxed. I grilled him on a couple of occasions about the team, the technology, and what the heck they are trying to do. He was very helpful in answering my questions. Here is my review.
Shoeboxed.com is a startup founded by Duke students who are trying to shift the way users interact with online shopping and increasing organization of receipts, both digital and paper. After registering for an account at shoeboxed.com they give you a new email address that you can now use whenever you purchase something online. These online purchases get sucked into the shoeboxed system which then allows you to “digitally organize” any of your online purchases.
Based on their website and additional information collected, here are the value propositions, as pitched by Shoeboxed.com:
* Less Spam in your inbox
* Identity theft protection
* View, organize, record, analyze your purchase history
When you buy something online you’re now supposed to use your “@shoeboxed.com” email address. This is what helps reduce the spam in your inbox, secure your identity and allows you organize and review your receipts online. The system is smart enough to extract important information from the email interactions with online merchants. You can then log into your shoeboxed account to group all of your amazon.com digital receipts into one online shoebox for better organization. You can then create as many digital shoeboxes as your want. Make sure to take your OCD medication before you start. In the prefect world your inbox is clean, online identity further protected, and after a few tweaks in setting up digital shoeboxes one is ready to organize and study all the junk they buy online. Woohoo!
Shoeboxed was started in late 2006 by students at Duke, and the team rapidly grew during the early months of 2007, and nearly 30 people work here currently.
The team is headed by Taylor Mingos and has secured funding from Michael Brehm who made bank with the German Facebook clone StudiVZ.net. There is a strong German connection to this group as apparently four members of the team speak fluent Deutsch and they decided it would be fun to cram a number of people into an apartment in Berlin for the summer. As far as strategy goes, I have to give them props for this move. It’s an excellent way to recruit bright talent from Duke for a summer internship abroad (probably without paying them very much for their work). This is the type of entrepreneurial bootstrapping that brings a smile to my face.
They also have a great passion about what their doing and I admire their ability to take risk and try something new. Kudos for the 24/7 help line. I’m sure this is pumped to someone’s cell phone. Hey, go buy that guy a beer. I published my cell number when I was at Wallhogs.com and I know what a pain this can be. This is great to see and makes me want to follow their progress in the future.
My praise for the company ends there. I’m confused by the pain points they are trying to solve and I’m tired of hearing the classic web2.0 business model of Advertisements and Partnerships. I don’t think the value add here is strong enough to go with a paid subscription model (nor has it been mentioned by anyone on their team.) I think they are missing a mantra and by pitching anti-spam, identity protection, and organization they dilute the real reason I think someone would use their technology; organization and analysis.
I played in the anti-spam world when I was at TurnTide, so I can speak with a limited amount of authority when I say that shoeboxed.com is not an anti-spam company and shouldn’t pitch it as such. The vast majority of people who are buying things online do not consider interaction with the merchant they just paid money to as spam. In all actuality, the purchaser desires email interaction with that firm and now that a relationship has been established future emails from that company enter into a gray area for spam classification. This could cause increase false positive classifications at shoeboxed.com in the future.
What if I want marketing emails from Orbitz? Ahh, here is the crux. Shoeboxed won’t block or trash these emails, instead a user has another inbox to sort through instead of their primary one. The idea that limiting your normal email address exposure by only buying online with a shoeboxed.com email address doesn’t hold water. Email addresses are meant to be used and there is stronger anti-spam technology on the market backed by lots more than 30 Duke Students (regardless of how smart they are). By using a shoeboxed.com address I am not reducing the amount of unwanted email I receive, I’m sorting it and I think this is fundamentally different than what they’re pitching. Perhaps I’m missing something here. The added value to me is not in their anti-spam, it’s in the ability to organize. Most likely a person will now have 2 spam buckets to sort through and new tweaking of white/black lists – ugh.
Identity theft protection: The shoeboxed team is making the claim that by using their issued email address your identity is now safer online. Guys, you’re not lifelock.com, don’t pitch this. If I’ve just made a purchase with a company, they most likely have my name, email, credit card info, credit card billing address (for verification) and perhaps a few other things that might be juicy to someone looking to steal my identity. If shoeboxed is making the point that it might be possible to buy something with only your name, email address and a PayPal account then perhaps they’re onto something for avid PayPal users. Their point is lost on me because 99% of my online purchases are made with a credit card and the merchant I’m giving my info to knows a lot more about me than just my name and email address (I have to pay them, remember?). Replacing that address with a shoeboxed.com address does little to protect my identity. I won’t even touch the topic that you guys are now holding some pretty sensitive data about my purchasing habits and what I do online.
The true reason someone would use shoeboxed? I think it’s the self discovery and organization built into their receipt tagging system. It might be very interesting to know that I spent $460.08 at Amazon and $2,590.75 on airfare. I know it’s a startup and there are a ton of smart people working for the company, but after my review I’m left scratching my head. Is this a big enough pain point in my life to want to redirect my email? Let me dig into mint.com and then we’ll see. Currently Shoeboxed is a free system and it’s something that I’m going to continue to look into, but overall I’m looking for a little more from a web2.0 company.
Talk to me guy, what am I missing? I openly invite Taylor, Dan, Alex, or anyone else at the big blue box to clarify anything that I’m missing here. I admire their spirit and hope my review doesn’t bring them down.