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!