Monday, November 21, 2011

Evite Cries Y(h)elp! Copies Paperless Post Pixel By Pixel

Mike Arrington still has that thing that made him build the top tech blog in the world. Now no longer with TechCrunch, look at what this dude has dug out!
Mike Arrington: Uncrunched: Embattled Evite Clones Startup Paperless Post In Quest For Survival: For the last few years, though, a small startup called Paperless Post has emerged that lets people create beautiful event invitations online. Paperless Post isn’t free. In fact, that seems to be part of the attraction....... There’s been very little tech press about Paperless Post ...... The company has sent some 50 million invitations, has raised $6.3 million in funding and is break even with 35 employees in New York and San Francisco. Marissa Mayer uses Paperless Post for her events. Metropolitan Museum of Art, The White House executive branch, The National Gallery and even The Prince of Wales have all used the premium invitation service. ...... It’s a fascinating case study against the notion that people will always choose free over for pay online services. ..... an outright rip off of Paperless Post’s business. Evite’s Postmark hasn’t officially launched yet, but they promote it on the evite home page and people have noticed it. ...... “Evite’s Postmark looks like someone hired a programmer and told them to copy every aspect of Paperless Post,” says the person who pointed it out to me. And that’s true. The business model is identical – charge for every invitation sent, plus optional fees for specialized designs and other customizations. The pricing is nearly identical. ...... Evite has also copied the exact look and feel of a number of the Paperless Post invitations as well. ...... I particularly like the line they use at the bottom of the Postmark website – “The comfort from knowing that Evite Postmark is as reliable, effective and innovative as Evite.” .... Innovative, indeed....... And I certainly don’t weep for Paperless Post. In fact, this is great for their business. As much as Postmark has retreated from the stain of the evite brand on its website, most people will still understand where this service came from and remember the years of horror using the evite service.
What is happening to Paperless Post now has happened to FourSquare several times over, and they are stronger than ever before. Paperless Post knows this space, and Evite is just imitating. It feels like a total copy and paste. When you did that with term papers at college, you got into trouble.

In elementary school the guy sitting next to me in an exam copied everything I wrote down without my realizing he was doing so, including my name! That is how he got caught! Hello Mohan! You want to know how Evite got caught? Check out this video.

I agree with Mike Arrington's conclusion.
My guess is Postmark will just raise awareness of Paperless Post, and even more people will flock to the service when they want to send a premium event invitation.
The day Facebook Places was launched FourSquare had its best day ever. That's there, but I still have a bad taste in my mouth. Somebody explain why! Mikie?

Evite is Plaxo, no disrespect for Sean Parker intended. This stunt will not save them. I think this episode, at the end of the day, will go down in history as someone else having launched a PR campaign on behalf of Paperless Post.

Alexa Is Paperless (1)
Alexa Is Paperless (2)
Alexa Is Paperless (3)
Alexa Is Paperless (4)
Alexa's PaperlessPost
Alexa Hirschfeld: CNN 2010 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs

The Broke Socialite: May 2010: Where Have I Been? Paperless Post
The Huffington Post: June 2009: Paperless Post: Online Invitation Company Becomes Evite For Glam Set
Kate Primrose: January 2010: How Cool Is This?
Brand Infection: Copy/Paste Innovation: Paperless Post vs. Evite Postmark
The New York Enterprise Report: October 2011: Paperless Post Grows Up: Within a month of the founder’s 21st birthday party, the president of Harvard was using this product for alumni events...... a tool that allows users to create online cards that combine the convenience of email with the aesthetics of traditional stationery ...... officially launched in April 2009 and, according to FastCompany, closed three rounds of funding totaling $6.3 million. They’ve been cash-flow positive since the 2010 holiday season. As of September 2011, 42 million Paperless Post cards have been sent, up from fewer than 1.5 million at the end of 2009. ......... Email is wonderful and it’s revolutionized the way that we communicate, but if there’s one drawback, it’s that all emails look the same. If you see any email from two feet away, you can’t tell them apart. ....... is tied into a backend that stores the responses, and when people say, “Oh, what a beautiful baby,” that gets stored forever. ...... It’s what stationery would have been if it could have been interactive. ...... In the offline world, these products are, in large part, virtual goods, too. In the case of greeting cards, they’re sold for 300 times their physical value, because the value is the design or the joke. ....... we never really changed what our core was. We just kept changing the model for distribution, revenue, and market reasons. ...... we are creating this suite of products that’ll range from free, where we never had free products before, to premium. ...... We have a very strong conversion rate from registered user to paying users, about 25 percent of our registered users have converted, which is a lot higher than average for an ecommerce site. ....... We’re not going to have ads. The free products are a way to proliferate. Basically it’s a way to trade revenue for growth. This also will open us up to more casual and more frequent use by people who love us. ...... We partnered with Eventbrite and I never thought we would be chummy partners with them, because at one point, we kind of wanted them to die. Before we launched, we were going to be this useful tool for 501(c)(3)s with operating budgets of less than $1 million; but we didn’t really do very careful market research. We just wanted to make the product. Eventbrite was out ahead of us and they were doing a great job. We had a lot of respect for them, but we were desperate for a business model. Now they’re great partner for us because they do something we learned that we can’t do very well. And we do things that they aren’t doing, so we complement each other. .......... we are working with Ralph Lauren, who has the Pink Pony charity, to offer a line of breast cancer awareness cards. ...... We’re also doing invitations to Bella and Edward’s wedding for the new Twilight movie. It’s really cool because in the movie trailer, they use the same invitation ...... Fifty percent of our new users have received at least one invitation before. It’s a viral product. This is a product that started at Harvard with one party in May and by June the president of Harvard was using it. ........ In the beginning we were the only two people in the company and we were both capable of designing different aspects of the product. ....... Now, James manages the creative team, which is the brand, the definition of the brand, the design tools that allow people to create cards, and the product lines. I started out hiring everybody else—a lot of really talented technologists, web developers, and later, product managers. I work very closely with our CTO. We both work very closely with Lucy Deland, our COO and our first employee, who is really focused on all sorts of analytics and business metrics. ........ when you are in growth stage, or when you’re no longer fledgling, you start to realize that the kind of person who thrives when starting a company from nothing is not necessarily the same kind of person who is good at running a 40-person company or a 200-person company. It’s interesting to have to redefine what your focus is in order to stay relevant and to stay useful to the company. ....... It’s not like someone says, “For the next three years, you’re going to be a founder, then the next three years, you’re going to be a manager, and for the three years after that, you’re going to be a board member. Operating in any one of those roles is challenging in and of itself. But it doesn’t happen in three years. You’re changing gears all the time. And for someone who is 25, like me, each gear is a new one. It’s the most engaging job you could possibly have, but it’s constantly redefining itself. ....... It’s a process of eliminating what you’re not as good at. You need to have a thick skin to be able to continually know what to cut out of your day-today and what to keep. You’re basically writing yourself out of the equation, so that you can focus only on what you really need to bring to the company. ...... You always need to put someone underneath you who’s going to do what you were doing before, but better, more intensely, and with more experience and passion. ...... In the beginning, it’s obvious who you’re going to hire. For us, it was obvious we were going to hire the person who can code better than we can. Maybe you’re going to hire the person who can crunch numbers in Excel better than you can, and that’s obvious for you. And when you fill those positions, it’s like, “Oh, thank God.” But the more people you hire, the closer it hits to home. That’s when you come up against what defines whether you’re going to be a successful entrepreneur, which is, do you have the humility to see someone and know that they’re better than you at something? Do you meet them and want them on your team instead of wanting to hire someone that makes you feel good about yourself and you can control what they’re doing? ........ or a great time to go public. ...... Starting a company is a very trying and emotionally intense endeavor, particularly when you have no track record and you’re young. I think it’s difficult to see someone who you’re really close to putting themselves through that hardship. You think, did I lead you down this really difficult road when you could have been working at Goldman Sachs and making a larger salary? But that feeling is counterbalanced by so many advantages. The level of trust that we have in each other is something that I don’t know we could ever have so quickly with another partner. Not only are we siblings, but we’ve always been especially close, and we’ve always been especially tuned into each other’s heads. So I know what I can trust Alexa on implicitly and what I can’t trust her on implicitly. And I think she has the same level of awareness about me. So we can operate very freely and very competently within our domains. There is also a forgiveness and understanding that’s incredibly helpful in difficult times. ........ The ability to operate freely extends to communication also. A large part of running a fledgling company is constant course correction and having hard conversations and dark conversations. You’ve got to discuss all different types of unpleasantness. So, if you were dealing with somebody that you couldn’t be straight with because you thought you might hurt their feelings or make them think that you didn’t believe in them, then that would be just another thing to have to manage. But if you never have to walk on eggshells because you can rapid fire bad things back and forth without it being personal, that is actually hugely valuable. ...... My grades fell when I started the company, but that was the only sacrifice. ..... My relationship ended. But these were all things that could have happened naturally. We had absolutely no fear and we thought everything was going to be really easy. We had a lot of energy and nothing to lose—literally no money and no opportunity cost to lose. ...... Half the employees of Paperless Post are women, and several of those people are on the technology side in senior roles. These women have very technical and logical minds. ........ My advice to women in any industry is to just be really good at what you do, irrespective of your gender. Start-ups provide good opportunities because they don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing based on a profile. They just want someone to solve their problems. If you can solve the company’s problems, you’ll be valued. Nobody cares if you’re a man or a woman.
TechCrunch: August 2010: Evite Introduces Redesign, Tries Not To Suck, Fails: “Evite sucks” is not a revolutionary opinion. The online invitation company has been the subject of substantial vitriol for how much their site design feels like it’s from 1998, when they launched.
Techlicious: August 2009: Paperless Post Adds Class to Online Invitations

This episode reminds me of when Yelp went after FourSquare. My advice to Alexa Hirschfeld: sit down with Dennis Crowley for coffee.
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