There once was a time when people sent postcards to friends, family members, and significant others in order to share their thoughts, experiences, ideas, and emotions. Now fast forward to today — when was the last time you sent out a postcard in the mail? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, one man is on a mission to try and change all of that. Recently, Jetcomx was lucky enough to chat with Nikhil Sethi, co-founder/CEO of blurtt.
Andrew Boni: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you call home? What school do you do to? What are you studying?
Nikhil Sethi: My names Nikhil Sethi, I grew up around the Bay Area, a little bit from San Francisco, in a small town called Saratoga. Currently I’m going to school at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL studying Electrical Engineering and Law.
AB: Alright, so give us the low-down on blurtt. Maybe some people have heard of it, while others haven’t. What exactly is blurtt? What does blurtt do? What makes it special?
NS: So blurtt.com is tackling the problem of creating emotion in day to day communication. You may go online and send a few emails to your friends, or send a couple of text messages, but its not easy to quickly get across real emotion. We’ve created a simple, easy to use online interface that lets you send real, printed postcards with YOUR handwriting to your friends anywhere in the world. The best part is you don’t even need to know your friend’s addresses to send a postcard to them. As long as they are on Facebook or Twitter, or even have an email address, it’s easy to send them a message on a real postcard that has real emotional impact, as its something that arrives to them in a physical form.
AB: Pretty clever. So when and how did you come up with the concept behind blurtt? Was it like a cliche light-bulb-over-the-head moment? Or was it an idea that kind of came to fruition over a long period of time?
NS: So i I was actually in the shower one day, and at the time I had a friend that lived in New York. We would always exchange emails and text messages, but after awhile that just got dull and unappealing. So we started writing letters and postcards, and eventually the pain of getting materials, keeping an address-book, finding stamps, and actually going to the post office grew on me. I knew there had to be a better way. So with blurtt, we automate all the headache associated with sending physical media in the mail, and just leave you with more time to be creative in writing and decorating your messages.
AB: How did you come up with the name? Were the two Ts intentional? Or was it a case of blurt.com being taken?
NS: Haha, good question. The idea behind the name blurtt is really back to trying to create as simple an experience for the user as possible. We want people to be able to send physical mail as easily as you send an email or text message today. Just blurtt it out. You can think of postcards as the retro Twitter, accept you have a lot more than 140 characters in which to express yourself. The two t’s worked well in our logo design so we left it.
AB: Is blurtt the first startup that you’ve been involved with? Or have you been with others in the past?
NS: Blurtt is the second company I’ve started. I started a company called ublot back in high school. Ublot was built around my personal frustration with trying to write a book. I wanted to get multiple authors to work on a single piece of fiction with me. In the end we had thousands of stories and millions of words written.
AB: That’s awesome. On blurtt’s website, there are several other people listed as part of the company. What’s the story behind them? How did you meet these people? Are they lifelong friends, or more along the lines of strictly business partners?
NS: Blurtt was built by myself and my co-founder Kuba Tymula, we met at Northwestern, while he was getting his MBA from Kellogg. We worked well together and decided to start blurtt. Eventually we got to the point where we hired a few other team members to help us with graphic design and some of the more complicated automated print and delivery systems we built. All in all we’ve all become quite close friends.
AB: Was it hard to raise the necessary capital to get blurtt off of the ground/up and running?
NS: Not at all, that’s one of the best decisions I made with blurtt. We never raised any money. We bootstrapped the entire thing. Eventually as we scale and add more components to our business there may be an opportunity for us to raise some capital. But I am a firm believer in the idea that you should build out as much of your business as you can and start getting some revenue in before you start running around pitching to VCs. All too often entrepreneurs focus on the, “How much money they can I raise?” question versus the “How good of a product can I build?” question, early on in their startup’s life.
AB: I’ve read somewhere that blurtt will plant a tree for every postcard sent. Tell us more about the environmentally friendly side of blurtt.
We love trees. And aim to plant more than we consume through our postcards. Its a win-win situation.
AB: Good point. Where do you see yourself and blurtt in a year from now? How about 3 years?
NS: A year from now I’d like to have planted half a million trees through blurtt and our ongoing relationship with American Forests. The best part of running blurtt is being able to use our brand and awareness to solve bigger and more pressing problems. Three years from now I’d like that number to pass a few million new trees.
AB: Explain to us the different types of blurtts that exist (blurttences, photography, etc).
NS: So we have a number of different categories of designs that you can use on your blurtt. From vector art, to photography, to blurttences which are essentially clever sentences you can write onto the front of the postcards or choose some from our existing catalog. We have domestic USA blurtts which send for $.99 INCLUDING postage, and international blurtts that go for $1.50 same deal. We are working on adding a few new types in the next few weeks. I’ll give you a clue: sparkles.
AB: Blurtt has a huge database of designs. What are your some of your favorite ones?
Oh man, that’s a tough choice. I like one photography one of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, and one of the blurttences that says “AHH SPIDER POISON IS PEOPLE POISON!”
AB: Have you yourself created any designs? If so, can we take a look?
NS: Haha, yeah I’ve been into photography ever since I can imagine. Although im probably not the best by any standards. One of my favorites is one I took of my piano on a dark day. Another is one I took high in the mountains in northern India. Art is a big part of blurtt, not only do we want to create smiles on the receiving end of the postcard, but also use postcards as a new means to spread the amazing creativity that artists have come up with online. For every blurtt sent out, our designers get a cut.
AB: Blurtt’s central idea revolves around sharing messages and artwork with others. Without artists, blurtt couldn’t really function. How do you find your artists? Is it difficult to sustain an active artistic community within blurtt?
NS: You know, I really thought that would be a big challenge for us when building blurtt. But artist communities are very tight and connected. When you get one artist on board and in love with the postcards, they tend to tell their friends, and even send some of their artist buddies a couple postcards!
Also by using our API, other websites can integrate the postcard sending functionality into their own domain and for their own users. This way artists can participate with blurtt not necessarily though blurtt.com
AB: Would you ever consider bringing in a celebrity artist to create some designs? Maybe someone like David Choe? Or even Banksy?
NS: Yeah, we are definitely open to talking with celebrity designers that can use blurtt to spread word about a new gallery or exhibition.
AB: The new API stuff that you guys are rolling out seems pretty neat. What are some other ways that you are trying to make Blurtt more interactive?
NS: So the API is one aspect. It can be integrated in a really quick and easy way as a small piece of code you add to your site, and blurtt will pickup every image on your page and overlay a small stamp, allowing your users to send your content as a postcard, bringing you dollars. But also can be integrated in a much deeper level, where our whole interface can be embedded into your website, allowing for full control around the creation of the postcards. We handle the printing and mailing.
AB: Nowadays it seems like everyone is leveraging the popularity of Twitter. How is blurtt taking advantage of it?
NS: So we’ve made it super easy to send postcards through twitter. All you have to do is follow @blurtt, and tweet “@blurtt @yourfriend Hey, how are you?” And blurtt will take this and automatically create a postcard for you!
You’ll get a DM with a link to your blurtt, where you can customize it further, add a longer message, and checkout. That simple.
And now for a few off-topic questions:
AB: What are your thoughts on Kanye West’s latest stunt with Taylor Swift at the VMAs?
NS: That was a nightmare. I hope he was on something that skewed his judgment. If I was him, I would go buy some remote island and live there for the rest of my life.
AB: Give us your top 3 albums of 2009.
NS: Top 3 would have to be “My Maudlin Career” by Camera Obscura, “Veckatimest” by Grizzly Bear, and “Merriweather Post Pavillion” by Animal Collective.
AB: Who deserves the title of best new artist of 2009?
NS: Hm, you know 2009 isn’t over yet, so I’m going to wait to answer that one.
You can follow Nikhil Sethi here on Twitter.
Send out a free blurtt! Use the code jetcomx at checkout.
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