PaperKarma’s Mobile App Tries to Eliminate Junk From Your Mailbox

PaperKarma is a new app that helps you reduce the amount of unwanted coupons, catalogs and postcards that clog your mailbox.

Users download the app to their iOS, Android or Windows Phone device; register, and then start snapping photos of the unwanted mail.

Once a photo is taken, the user taps the “Unsubscribe Me” button, and then PaperKarma does the legwork.

Sean Mortazavi, the CEO and founder of PaperKarma, who also works full-time at Microsoft, has spent countless hours and weekends tracking down 10,000 of the biggest junk-mail offenders so that you don’t have to.

The only full-time employee PaperKarma has is Brendan Ribera, an engineer formerly from Urbanspoon and iLike. He is also co-founder. Currently, Mortazavi, who works on open-source projects in Microsoft’s Visual Studio division, is self-funding the project.

Mortazavi said more than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are sent every year in the U.S. alone, making it both time-consuming and a waste of natural resources.

The company already has a long list of companies in its database, but if users submit requests for something that isn’t on file, PaperKarma will use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to track down the culprit. The Turk typically can track down people for hire at a reasonable price.

PaperKarma’s mobile apps, which are free, launched 10 days ago.

Mortazavi imagines being able to make money in the future by partnering with various businesses.

For instance, you may not want the flyer from Costco, but you may be willing to opt in for electronic coupons. PaperKarma could then charge the business for finding that customer, because it also would be saving them printing costs and mailing fees.

A couple of services like this already exist, but Mortazavi said it’s the first one to create a mobile solution.

Doxo and Earth Class Mail, two other Seattle companies, are addressing the problem in different ways.

Doxo encourages users to sign up for electronic communications with companies, which in turn saves those companies money. Earth Class Mail will accept all of your mail at its warehouses; if the mail is not junk, Earth Class Mail will open it, scan it, and send you an electronic version.

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