Interview with ShareMail Co-founder: Jeff Jackson

There is probably no startup that a lonely, non-digital grandmother will appreciate more than ShareMail (ShareMail.me). That’s because it was designed just for her. ShareMail enables grandchildren and others to select photos and messages from Facebook and have them automatically printed and mailed to their elderly, socially isolated loved ones.

What inspired you to start ShareMail.me?

My 97-year-old grandmother lives in an assisted living facility in Oklahoma, and I’m between NYC and Austin, so I never get the chance to see her. Also, she doesn’t hear very well, so talking on the phone with her is difficult. I knew that she is bored and pretty lonely out there, so in early 2016 I committed to mailing her a letter every day at the end of work… I made it two days before stopping. I couldn’t believe how much of a pain it was to compose a letter on my laptop, add pictures to it from my phone, and print it onto paper at the office. I wanted a quick, easy solution to send her updates via one of the only communication channels she is on these days – paper mail. I figured that integrating into my already existing social media content would make things even easier for me… So I reached out to Jason Smith, my cofounder, who has done other startups with me, and thus ShareMail was born.

As the next generations of elderly will be increasingly connected to Facebook, do you imagine ways of pivoting?

I think there are a lot of ways that we can grow that is independent of Facebook penetration with older adults, like birthday gifts and other things. That said, the next immediate generation of older adults is less connected to Facebook than you might expect… at least depending on how you define ‘older adult’. Of the 43 million adults over 65 in the US, 17.5 million of them are not online at all. Of the remaining 25.5 million that are online, 9.5 million of them are not on Facebook. And I’d imagine there are plenty of people that have accounts Facebook, but never log on. And increasingly, younger people are not using Facebook to post about their lives- so I judge that the mismatch in communication channels between older people and younger people is a big problem that is not going away anytime soon.

I’m connected on social media and I’m not elderly. And I would love an easy way to print out Facebook photos and have them delivered. While the ShareMail concept is to break down the technology wall and reduce isolation for the elderly, do imagine other applications for your concept?  

Sure, we definitely have people that use the service to send photos to themselves or to connected friends and family. The packing is nice, and people love getting gifts in the mail, and having physical reminders of people and things they love. So yeah, there’s definitely a broader application than the specific use-case we’re marketing to at the moment.

How much does it cost to use ShareMail, and what is your most popular plan?  

Our most popular plan is a monthly letter for $6.99/mo, and there is also a weekly letter plan for $14.99/month. They both come with a no-credit-card-required free trial and you can sign up at sharemail.me.

Where are the orders printed?

We print them right here in NYC.

What are the benefits of being an entrepreneur in NYC?

There’s a great ecosystem of other entrepreneurs here, as well as tons of media access and a lot of financing available if you need it. We’ve really benefited most from meeting other entrepreneurs and journalists in-person through our co-working space in Manhattan.

What were you up to before ShareMail?

My cofounder Jason and I had a project involving mining data about Airbnb and the short-term rental market that we decided to stop pursuing in order to do ShareMail. Prior to that, we had a hosted CouchDB-as-a-service startup [CouchDB is an open source data software] called Iris Couch, which we sold to another company in 2013. Prior to that, I built a company in Austin that does wholesale prepared foods, called The Green Cart, which I still have.

 

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