Email First Startups

Last month, Ryan Hoover had a great post about building email into your startup first, before moving on to other platforms. His awesome points:

  • Email lets you validate ideas quickly
  • Since email is async, you can fake functionality with manual processes
  • Forces focus
  • Email is a part of users daily habits
  • Email is ubiquitous
  • You can use email to upsell users to other platforms when you’re ready

Posterous was the ultimate email first product. I started the project because I wanted to email photos from my iPhone to my blog. I wrote thousands of lines of email code, which posted to my Blogger blog, before I ever wrote a line of web code.

There are a few other reasons why I think email an amazing platform to build on top of:

  • Email has identity built in. Email is identity. Whether you’re sending or receiving email from users, you don’t need a login system. Posterous was able to completely eliminate signup from our flow.
  • Email is mobile. It’s on every device, including super low end feature phones. Even people in developing countries on slow internet connections can use email.
  • Email isn’t blocked in China. You open your service up to another billlion users.
  • Email is integrated in all the apps you use. You can email photos from iPhoto, or a link from Safari, or a Tweet from Twitter.
  • Email supports rich content. You can send photos, documents, video, audio, and any arbitrary attachment. There’s nothing email won’t transfer.
  • iPhones will send email in the background. If you’re sending a video and your internet is slow, the iPhone will keep uploading while Mail is in the background.
  • Users get notifications instantly, on all devices, without managing extra notification permissions or settings.
  • So easy, your mom can do it.

Email is a powerful and flexible platform used by billions of people around the world. Start your company with email first in mind, and integrate it deeply in everything you do.

The first ever Posterous post

Almost six years ago, I started hacking on some Java code so I could email photos from my iPhone to my blog on Blogger. This is long before there was anything called “Posterous”.

I was just a photo blogger in New York, and I wanted to go mobile. So I started building, just for myself.

Here’s the very first post, running through the code that would later become Posterous At this point it was just me, working from my couch in NYC.

I hacked together a little code that lets me blog directly from my
iPhone, with pictures!

Stay tuned for more late night, drunk blogging. This could be a bad


What an incredible journey it has been. Over the past 5 years, I’ve worked with some of the best investors in the valley, collaborated with the best founders and startups in the world, and listened to and learned from an incredible set of users.

Most importantly, I get to work with the greatest team ever. It was all the hard work by the Posterous team that made the product loved by millions. Good times and bad, they stuck through it.

Thanks to everyone for the love and support. Especially my wife, Kate. It wasn’t easy dealing with the work hours, the late night pages, and the unreal amount of stress.

The team is thrilled to be a part of Twitter, and continuing on our mission here.

Use Posterous at Graduation to Create an Instant, Collaborative Event Photo Album

Before you hit the ceremonies and post-grad party scene, make sure your iPhone is photo-ready with the best iPhone app for group celebrations. Posterous for the iPhone lets you create a event photo album to which everyone attending your event can share, instantly and effortlessly. It’s perfect for graduation because all the photos are showcased in a beautiful archive for later viewing.

I wish something like Posterous had existed when I was in college. Every class I was in, every dorm I lived in, every group I was a part of had an email list. But it was a dumb list serve, and I have none of those emails today.

How cool would it be if today I could:

  • View the photos everyone took at each dorm I lived in
  • See the old handouts and assignments from the classes I took
  • Relive the memories from all the amazing basketball and football games I attended

It’s 2011 and it’s still too hard to share photos together.

But we’re getting there. You can use Posterous for the iPhone to create a collaborative photo site based around a location. Very cool for an event like graduation! Check it out.

More info is here.

My wedding website is online. And it’s built entirely on Posterous.

Kate and I are getting married in September, so we needed a wedding website. Wedding website creation services are a disaster. Most seem like they were built 5 years ago and never updated.

I decided to run our entire site on Posterous. It’s an easy way to have a fully customizable site that both Kate and I can update. Kate designed all the graphics and icons, and Posterous theme designer Cory Watilo created the website and Posterous theme. Thanks, Cory!

There are two main components to our site that make it stand out:

1. There’s a blog. But here’s the cool part: I added all our wedding guests as subscribers to the blog. So when we post updates about the wedding, hotel, or flights, all our guests will get that information automatically by email. Most people don’t check websites or RSS feeds.

2. Our guestbook is a “post by moderation” Posterous site. That means anyone can post photos and video by emailing Our guests can update it now, live during the wedding, and they can send their photos there after the event.

We had to “hack” a couple things to make this work, like use tags to create static pages. But for the most part, this is a Posterous site anyone can build. Maybe we should go after this market :).

Check out the site, let me know what you think!


When you’re building a company, you sometimes have to leave your original user base behind and focus on mass appeal

See, Twitter decided early on that it wasn’t going to pander to its original base. Smartly, Twitter decided to ignore the demands of edge-case geek users like Robert Scoble, and instead focus on mass appeal, celebrities, and building out the core platform. The robust and easy-to-use Twitter API has spurred a flourishing ecosystem of third-party apps.

Tumblr’s doing the opposite. Rather than focusing on expanding its audience and making it into a valuable platform, it’s coiling in on itself, doubling down on the un-monetizable memes that its core users love — like pictures of sharks and cats. A non-Tumblr user joining the site would have no idea what the fascination with cats and sharks is all about. It’s totally self-referential.


An interesting article about how Tumblr is really focusing on their core user base and adding features *those users* find valuable.

This is definitely an important concern when building a new company, but not as black and white as this post makes it seem. Posterous was always meant to have mass appeal, get millions of *new* people blogging. But at the same time, we have to take care of the early adopters, without them we wouldn’t be here today.

We’ve had to make some hard decisions already, to work on features that will really help us grow rather than features that are fun or were requested by a prominent user. This is only going to get harder from here. It’s all about balance.

Very exciting day! Released our first iPhone app, PicPosterous. Makes it easier than ever to post photos online

PicPosterous was my pet project. I really wanted to do some iPhone development and build a better way to publish photos. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the the workflow of posting photos via email. Yeah, that’s what Posterous is all about, but I felt it needed to be better.

So just as Posterous came about to fill our personal need for better web publishing, PicPosterous was built to solve my own publishing frustrations.

  • Why is my Camera app separate from the app I use to post online (Mail)? 
  • I just want all the photos I take to get posted, automatically 
  • I want to build sets of photos as I take them, not at the end 
  • Basically, I want to remove the explicit “Ok, now I need to post these” 

I designed PicPosterous to replace the Camera app on my iPhone. PicPosterous is my camera in the cloud, it’s connected, it breaks down the separation of shooting photos and posting photos. If I could delete Camera from my phone, I would.
I’ve been using the app for a couple months now while it was still under development. When the first Posterous prototype was built, the number of photos on my blog went up 10x. Similarly, I’m now posting more photos thanks to PicPosterous.

You can see my photo site here:

I used the app a ton on my last trip to New York. I created an album for each restaurant/bar/attraction I went to and posted the photos as I took them. By the end of the weekend, my photos were already organized and published online:
Developing for the iPhone was a really great experience. The SDK and development tools are phenomenal. I prefer desktop and mobile development over web stuff. There were some really interesting details to tackle with iPhone development:

  • The iPhone is very resource limited. It’s slow and has little memory 
  • I threaded *everything*. The app basically never blocks 
  • Uploads queue and resume if you quit the app and relaunch (or get a phone call) 
  • PicPosterous was designed to let you shoot as fast as possible, and let everything else happen in the background
  • You can even take photos and video with no internet. They will queue for upload later
  • The app is fast, smooth, and stable

If you haven’t already, please download it here.
Many thanks to Kate for designing the awesome icon!


We got offices in North Beach. I guess we’re not cool enough to be in SOMA. I sound like one of the new Microsoft ads

We’ve looked at a lot of office space in the past few weeks. Locations fell into 3 buckets:

1. SOMA. SOMA (south of market) is where all the cool, new web 2.0 companies are based. Twitter is there, and a whole slew of Y Combinator startups. Places we saw were generally awkward or expensive. People are sharing space with lots of companies, many guys all piled into small rooms.

But I don’t get the appeal. There’s nothing around there. The food SUCKS. It’s like, the place to be because it’s “cool” but really, there are better places. Everyone is quoting “$1 per square foot!” but when you actually find space, it’s a lot more expensive than that.

Believe me, i’m not going to overpay just so I can be a little closer to Twitter HQ.

2. Financial District. We saw some REALLY sweet spaces around Union Square. Places have been empty for a while and people are willing to negotiate on rent pretty liberally. Unfortunately places were just a little too large and too expensive for what we need. But in a year, I can totally see us growing into an office there. And there’s good food to eat!

3. North Beach. It’s a little more out of the way from transportation like Bart. But it’s a beautiful neighborhood with LOTS of great food. And since we have a connection with a building owner there (my girlfriend, Kate, works in a building with openings), we got a sweet deal on a space that’s the perfect size for us.

So we’ll be in North Beach starting August 1st. I’m really looking forward to setting up the office, in particular building a kegerator. I’ve wanted my own kegerator ever since I started drinking (good) beer. When I learned Brett shares the same love, we decided this is a must for Posterous HQ. Not that North Beach is lacking in great bars…