A startup that gets paid to read your mail

LogoOne of the reasons that profiling startups never gets boring is because of the constant stream of creative ideas and concepts that they come up with. Some create never-before-seen products, while others take ordinary, mundane processes and make them more interesting. Earth Class Mail, based out of Seattle, falls into the latter category.

The company deals with one of the common problem people face when they go out of town: their mail. And I’m talking about actual mail… you know, the kind that comes to your house. In the past, if you wanted to keep up on your snail mail while you were away from home, you would need to make an agreement with someone ahead of time to collect your mail and forward it to you.

Earth Class Mail changes that. By becoming their customer, you can arrange to have all of your mail (business, personal or both) forwarded to their massive warehouse located in Oregon. From there, they scan it all and put it online for your eyes only.

As a customer, you have the option of telling them what to do with each individual piece of mail. First, they scan each unopened envelope and display it to you. From there, you can tell them to open it and scan the contents into a PDF, shred it, or forward it to another location. The company is also planning to have a check-cashing feature up and running soon.

The company’s pricing plans run as low as $14.95 a month or $155 a year.

Earth Class Mail, which is being profiled on a new HD reality show called “Startup Junkies” on the MOJO network in January ‘08, is taking one step closer towards a paperless society. They just received $7.4 million in funding during a series A round.

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Hulu acquires video startup

TechCrunch reports that Hulu, an online video site that is a joint venture between News Corp. and NBC, just acquired Mojiti, another video platform based in Beijing. Rumored price? $10 million.

From Mojito’s website: Mojiti allows you to tell the story your way with any online video. Whether or not you created the video, you can now do more than just watch- you can dive into the experience and tell everyone what you really think. Moment by moment, Mojiti makes it easy to annotate scenes, highlight objects or add shapes, Flash art, audio or video on the screen to share your unique take on the video with everyone.

Basically, the site allows you to overlay custom objects onto already existing videos and then share the new product, either via email or embedding onto your own site. Arrington points out that “the annotation feature is somewhat similar to another startup, click.tv, which is rumored to have been acquired by Cisco.” They have other competitors as well: Veotag, BubblyPLY, Rakugaki, and Viddler all have the video annotation function.

Previously we wrote about Hulu, which will stream many of NBC’s popular television shows, possibly playing into NBC’s decision to pull their shows from Apple’s iTunes store.


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Google to invest $10M into green start-ups

Googleuse-2Google announced today that they are looking to invest $10 million into companies that are working towards creating “sustainable transportation solutions.” Previously, Google has given grants totaling $1 million to non-profit organizations also focused on reducing automobile emissions.

Google launched RechargeIT in June, a project “aimed at accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.” The search engine giant has contracted with Hymotion, a company that converts regular gas guzzling cars to hybrids, to modify six vehicles used for demonstration of the technology (you can see the actual vehicle data here).

The deadline to submit proposals is October 22nd, ‘07.

Earlier, we posted an article about Google putting itself into competition with VC’s by investing in a variety of start-ups that they eventually acquire. And recently we reported on two promising solar power start-ups.

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Ausra gets funding to create solar power plants


This solar start-up is attempting to use the sun to reach for the stars. Ausra, based out of Palo Alto, Calif., has just raised $40 million from Silicon Valley VC firms. But Ausra isn’t just any solar company; the firm aims to build utility-scale solar power plants to directly compete with traditional fossil fuel plants.

Here’s how it works: “Locally manufactured solar concentrators made of steel and glass focus sunlight to boil water, generating high-pressure steam that drives conventional turbine generators. New thermal energy storage systems using pressurized water and low cost materials will provide for on-demand generation day and night.” This means that the plant can provide energy even when the sun isn’t out, a point that Morgan, the company’s chief development officer, says is key for keeping costs low during times of peak demand.

A 1 megawatt prototype of the system was built in New South Wales in 2004. Now, the firm plans to complete a 38 megawatt field by 2009. According to Morgan, a 100-500 megawatt solar plant can run at 8 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to the 12 cents per kilowatt hour cost of traditional coal plants. The company currently has plans to build a large plant in central California.

According to Ausra, if they used their technology to build a 92 sq. mile plant it would be able to power the entire United States.

Their competitors include Brightsource and the Abengoa Group, which has already built a solar thermal plant in Spain, among others.

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