Favorite things to do in Austin: Drinks by the pool at the San Jose
- Evan Baehr is a co-founder with Harvard classmate Will Davis of Outbox, an amazing service that converts postal mail to digital mail -- like Flipboard for your postal mail. They are creating a new platform for content delivery in partnership with the very first "social network" of the United States: the US Post Office.
- Evan previously worked building a company and making investments with PayPal Founder Peter Thiel, on platform strategy with Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, as a legislative aid on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, and as a policy analyst at the White House, American Enterprise Institute, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
- He serves on the board of Yale's Rivendell Institue, the Manhattan Institute's Adam Smith Society, and PostalVision 2020. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School (summa), Yale Divinity School (summa), and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School (cum laude).
- WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE ROLE OF AN ENTREPRENEUR?
- Honestly, when I think about being an entrepreneur, it's a little bit intimidating for me. Often, companies start with technical founders, or someone who brings a particular skill set, or even knowledge area to the table related to the business. I often joke that I'm really just the Chief Emailer.
- I like the classical definition of entrepreneurship, which is harnessing resources beyond your immediate control. For me, a lot of it is really about relationship building, getting out and meeting people, and having a good time with them. So that means a lot of email. It means a lot of coffee shops. It means a lot of lunches with people, and that's really fun. Getting to meet people, getting to learn their story, and sharing why you're passionate about starting this new venture.
- TALK ABOUT OUTBOX...
- So, Outbox is a free service for busy families that helps you take control over your postal mail. So when you sign up for us, you stop receiving all physical mail at your house, and instead get all that mail that would've come to your house physically, digitally on your iPad or your computer.
- The last thing we want to do is create a new way for our users to be spammed. To be honest, that's a big part of why we want to create a digital alternative to postal mail. But, just like with Facebook, we recognize that delivering a wonderful, free service to our users also creates, as a business, an opportunity to help build relationships between brands and our users.
- So we have a few different revenue streams that, at the end of the day, we think will enable us to provide the service for free to our users. In terms of why we want to offer it for free, we have to think about the alternative right now, which is a pretty amazing service. A guy in boots and a bag shows up at your house six days a week in rain or snow or shine, and delivers you a stack of paper, and he does this for free. It's pretty hard to beat that service.
- So we recognize that in getting users to sign up for our service, they're giving up a pretty amazing alternative. But we have a vision and we have an idea, not that we're going to take over the post office, but that we're going to help build some new messaging products that help bring it into the 21st century.
- IS IT ALL ABOUT THE MONEY?
- One thing we realized over time about investors is that it's not really about the finances. Investors offer a lot more than merely the capital. So, as we thought about the needs for our business, like expertise in shipping and logistics, and expertise in tablet UX design, and expertise in public policy and public affairs in Washington, D.C., we needed a pretty diverse base of investors.
- We came up with a really lengthy list of people we'd like to have, not just as financial partners, but also as idea partners. It's sort of ironic. In the end, we had several angels come in at relatively small amounts, $10,000 to $25,000. Several of those people have been dramatically more helpful for us, than the investors in at hundreds or $500,000.
- And what was important for us is to figure out what capabilities do we have as a management team, where are the holes, and are we securing investors that can really help us fill some of those holes?
- WHY LAUNCH IN AUSTIN?
- During our early visits to Austin, we found the community incredibly receptive. Immediate response from Austin entrepreneurs was, "Hey, do you know my friend who's great at marketing? Hey, do you know these people that might want to invest in your company?"
- There's really a sense of community here, where people are excited about what you're doing and they want to help out. That makes it a really fun place to start a business.
- One thing that's been awesome about Austin is running into the incredible design talent in town. You could go to San Francisco, you could fight over designers, or you could come to Austin and find an incredibly welcoming community of people who build beautiful things. They're here, and they're hungry to work on big ideas.
- There's a fantastic angel network here. A lot of wealth and additional angel investors will be created out of BazaarVoice and Home Away, and there's really some great talent here. So if you're thinking about building a company in Austin, it's important to have New York and Silicon Valley investors. They definitely add a lot of value, particularly as you think about larger financing rounds down the road, but there are some really fantastic investors here who love helping build great companies.