MailLift Joins the 500 Startups Accelerator With a Handwritten Letter Business

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MailLift is a company from Austin and is joining 500 Startups. 500 Startups is one of the hottest accelerators in Silicon Valley, and investing $50,000 into MailLift.

MailLift is solving real business problems. Not Silicon-Valley-bubble problems.

MailLift, a startup personalizing sales follow-ups launched by Austin tech entrepreneurs Brian Curliss and Daniel Jurek, is called up to the big leagues -- of business accelerators.

On October 7th, 2013, MailLift officially joined the next class at 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley-based business accelerator considered one of the world's pre-eminent programs of its kind. Curliss was first to make the announcement on his Twitter feed.

In March, Forbes spotlighted MailLift’s business model. MailLift is a handwritten letter service that sends handwritten letters and cards automatically. MailLift’s customers are business who use them to send real handwritten letters to prospects, new customers, on anniversaries, and prior to annual billings. Why handwritten letters? Curliss explained that "a handwritten letter is impactful; it has emotion and it’s not spam!"

Founded by Dave McClure in 2010, 500 Startups invested $50 million in more than 500 startups in the past few years, and recruits entrepreneurs and mentors from across the globe to be in its program. In June, The Wall Street Journal profiled McClure and 500 Startups unique model. With acceptance rates of 3 to 5%, applicants are twice as likely to get into Harvard Business School than 500 Startups. According to McClure, 500 Startups’ "ground zero for startups in Silicon Valley."

Curliss, Jurek and MailLift will take up residence in Silicon Valley for four months during the program. Along with work-space and mentoring from global experts in design, distribution and every aspect of launching a business, MailLift received $50,000 in funding as part of the program. This is in addition to the assistance they receive in making pitches to Silicon Valley’s top investor groups. McClure says of his handpicked startups, "We try and help [each one of] them raise over $250,000 to $1,000,000 from investors."

According to the 500 Startups blog, 130 companies were interviewed for the spots in the upcoming fall program that include MailLift. The last 500 Startups class included 28 companies, and over 70 percent of the companies selected were from outside of the U.S.

"We're excited to see one of our most talented, emerging companies join a world-class program like 500 Startups." said Joe Kirgues, co-founder of the accelerator MailLift went through prior to 500 Startups.

MailLift’s mentor Andy Nunemaker said, “I really look at MailLift as a technology enabled solution. They took a conventional product and really allowed technology to streamline it.”

"We are very excited about the level of visibility, expertise and distribution a program like 500 Startups brings to MailLift," said Daniel Jurek, co-founder and CTO of MailLift. "This is another example of people taking notice of what's happening in Austin.”

“MailLift is solving real business problems.” Jurek later said in an interview, “Not Silicon-Valley-bubble problems."

For those of you who think visually, this infographic on 500 Startups in PandoDaily offers good insight into the program's global reach.

What is MailLift?

MailLift is unique as it's one of few companies that combines technology and personal touch to change direct mail. Handwritten letters are somewhat of a lost art, and MailLift’s operations are finely tuned to provide orders in the thousands. The letter writers are mostly teachers and artists here in the U.S., and as Curliss points out, they all have excellent handwriting.

In an early trial of MailLift, Granite MedSystems reached out to potential customers that had ignored all previous sales campaigns. With MailLift, Granite MedSystems saw saw a 35% response rate: 8 times the average response for direct mail. Hans Dittmar, the director of marketing at Granite Medsystems, said, “We used MailLift to reach out to prospects that had gone cold through previous campaigns, and were very surprised at the number of responses. MailLift really works!”

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Brian Curliss
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