Ron Wiener of Earth Class Mail on raising more cash

John Shinal · April 3, 2008 · Short URL:

Ron Wiener and Earth Class Mail have a big goal -- to convince consumers, businesses -- and entire countries -- around the world to start getting their mail electronically.

The Seattle-based company provides an electronic service that accepts delivery of, scans and opens mail, then e-mails an image of it to its customers. Earth Class Mail even destroys junk mail so its customers never have to touch any piece of mail they don't want to.

That kind of service has broad appeal, and the company has a wide-ranging customer base -- lots of mid-sized businesses, regular consumers and "people who live in RVs," Wiener says.

The company is also starting to make headway with large enterprises and national postal systems -- several of which are in trials with Earth Class Mail. 

All that takes a lot of investment in people, software and equipment, which is why Earth Class Mail, which has raised just shy of $20 million, including a $3.25 million angel round in 2006 and a $16.3 million Series A round last year, is raising a lot more cash.

Wiener says the company is in the process of raising another $20 - $30 million in a Series B round that will be led by "European strategic investors," meaning postal systems that will invest as limited partners with VC firms.

The week Wiener visited our studio in late March, he had just pitched to the Keiretsu Forum, an angel group that has already invested in the company, as has the VC firm Ignition Partners. The angel group was getting a special "sweetener" in the form of a convertible component, Wiener said.

When I asked him about valuation, Wiener at first said he had "no idea" what it will be, since the company was still getting term sheets and the round likely won't close for at least another month. Later, though, he said it "could be anywhere from $60 to $100 million, but it depends on how many people are bidding." 

In this interview, Wiener also talked about the mixed bag experience of being the subject of a reality show, Startup Junkies, which aired on the MOJO high-definition satellite network. The project gave the company early visibility, but it also ended with a dramatic, "Apprentice-style walk of shame" that showed a number of executives leaving the company.

"We were a little surprised to see how it was all cut together in the end," Wiener says. 

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