Chalk this one up as crazy-stupid or the future: SoPost, a new UK startup launching today, is on a mission to reinvent the postal address by mapping things like Twitter handles, Facebook names, email addresses and other social IDs to a physical location to make it easier and more convenient for customers to receive deliveries or for users to send stuff to friends.
The problem that it’s setting out to solve – if it is a problem – is that a postal address should no longer be a fixed place, but something much more dynamic, because it frequently changes depending on where you are, at different times. In contrast, a social ID has the potential to remain fixed forever.
“An address should be where you are, or where you want things to be sent, rather than the last postcode somebody has for you,” says SoPost founder Jonathan Grubin. “SoPost is about turning the things that we know and that rarely change – like our social IDs and email addresses – into our physical locations, creating almost a proxy for postal addresses in the process.”
Upon signing up via one of their social IDs, users can add addresses (such as home, work, university halls, locker boxes, etc.) to their SoPost accounts and create a schedule so that the service knows where they’re going to be when a delivery is on its way. To the sender, the ‘place’ that they’re sending to (e.g. a Facebook account) remains a constant, with the re-routing happening behind the scenes.
One advantage of using SoPost’s system is that it could cut down on missed deliveries. “This isn’t just an annoyance to consumers – failed first-time delivery is something that has direct costs of almost £1 billion (and that’s in the UK alone). Part of the reason for this is because we don’t have full knowledge of people’s movements or where they want things to go,” says Grubin.
There other potential benefits, too. For people who don’t want to give their personal details away to brands, but would love to get free merchandise and product samples, Grubin says that SoPost sits in the middle, protecting the user’s personal information, and will have strict privacy terms for companies and e-commerce sites using its service.
“When we launch our e-commerce integrations, we’ll be disclosing the delivery address to the retailer for the sole purpose of fulfilling a delivery (with very strict rules around what they can and cannot do with that data). The purchaser will never see the delivery address, and items will be delivered directly from the retailer. There will be an integration required, but no real changes to the fulfilment process.”
Also, once you have a SoPost account you can accept things with one click, which takes away the pain of filling in forms/checking your details are correct, etc.
Initially, SoPost is handling the fulfilment, though it plans to eventually put this in the hands of its e-commerce partners, and kicks off with a partnership with the musician Noel Gallager for a social gifting campaign being run by his record label. Fans can purchase a copy of the limited-edition Noel Gallagher High Flying Birds Live DVD for their friends without needing more than a Facebook name or Twitter handle for the recipient.
Other partnerships in the pipeline include the Play It Again Sam label, which has created a limited run of 5,000 CDs featuring new music from 10 of their artists, including The Jezabels and Andy Burrows, and will be giving these away for free to fans who tweet with their campaign hashtag. Additionally, SendGrid’s UK developer evangelism team is going to be using SoPost to send gifts and merchandise to UK-based partners, and We Are Tea is using SoPost to get samples of their products out to bloggers and other key influencers.
SoPost is currently self-funded but is looking to raise a seed round in the region of less than £100K.