Industry News Desk
Swiss Post First to the Cloud
Showing incredible foresight and leadership, Swiss Post is going to pilot Earth Class Mail’s online postal mail service
By: Maureen O'Gara
Oct. 29, 2008 05:15 AM
Showing incredible foresight and leadership, Swiss Post is going to pilot Earth Class Mail's online postal mail service, starting in five Western European countries - Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy and Austria.
If its guess is right and the market proves receptive - its customers have been saying they don't want any more paper - Swiss Post will broaden the exercise out to 16 countries.
The post has signed a non-binding letter of intent to license Earth Class Mail's cloud-like digital postal-mail delivery platform. The companies are working on a definitive agreement expecting to have all the terms hammered out by the end of the year so the pilot can start in January and run for nine months.
The Earth Class Mail (ECM) platform lets customers get, read and manage their postal mail over the Internet at any time from anywhere. It also enables licensees like Swiss Post to co-brand the web-based client widgetry and employ its proprietary back-end automation technology for managing large inventories of cached envelopes and scanning mail content with what is said to be "extraordinary" security and confidentiality assurance.
Swiss Post intends to target corporations, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, small businesses and individual customers from all over the world who seek mail service or addresses in Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy and Austria.
After the pilot, it expects to roll out online postal mail in all countries in which Swiss Post International has a presence, including Belgium, Denmark, the UK, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Holland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the U.S.
There are reportedly customers already signed up.
Earth Class Mail is forecast to bring significant cost reductions and productivity improvements to Swiss Post's enterprise customers, as well as convenience and mobility to small businesses and residential consumers who prefer to get most of their postal mail in digital, not physical, form.
Swiss Post itself will be able to achieve a cost savings - and do less harm to the environment - by drastically reducing the amount of fuel needed to make physical deliveries especially to rural areas.
Swiss Post has created a separate unit, based in Zurich and called Swiss Class Mail, to manage the new venture and has put Benoît Stroelin, the charming young head of finance at Swiss Post Solutions AG, in charge.
Benoît believes that Swiss Post can capitalize on Switzerland's reputation for being precise, trustworthy and secure - Switzerland is after all where people send their money and he intends to "export Swiss-ness." Who would you rather have archive your data, he asks, Swiss Post or Google?
Although it will mean new revenue, he still believes that ECM is a "niche product" and that people will need to be convinced.
The Swiss Post intends to use the facility in Zurich where its SwissSign unit, its public key infrastructure (PKI) and privacy operation, already does high-security scanning for the experiment although ECM's servers in the U.S. may be involved. SwissSign is already licensed to open and electronically deliver certain pre-defined customer mail, a charter (the trick is in the barcode) that will be broadened with ECM.
Benoît said it wasn't worth Swiss Post's effort to reinvent ECM when ECM was "exactly what we were looking for."
"We are excited to be the first post to move forward. The Internet and digital content are here to stay. Paper mail will always be an important part in customer communication, but we intend to augment our traditional mail delivery by growing with the media our mail-receiving customers are asking for," said Frank Marthaler, a member of Swiss Post's executive management team.
Earth Class Mail, which is backed by Ignition Partners and angel investors, just got $5.1 million in bridge capital, bringing total investment to $21.4 million. The start-up is pursuing a full-blow Series B institutional financing round for around $15 million-$30 million.
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