Volly Co-founder Joins Competitive Startup Eco-mail

In December of 2010, John Schloff briefed me on a new service called Volly that Pitney Bowes was working on. He later left the company, and now after nearly a year and a half on the sidelines of the digital mailbox services market, Schloff has joined new entrant Eco-mail as Managing Director of Marketing. Unlike Digital Postal Mail, doxo, Manillaand Volly, Eco-mail has no intention to create its own consumer destination. Its goal is to act as an open architecture exchange that connects producers of mail (e.g., banks, insurance providers, telcos, utilities) to their customers through any company (e.g., bank, telco, email provider, eCommerce provider) that wants to be a distributor.

I caught up with Schloff ahead of the announcement to get his perspective on coming back into the market. Here is what he had to say:

“I learned a lot during the early days of Volly, and have been watching the market intently since. It’s clear to me that four things have to happen to open this market up. First, where consumers go to access their digital mail must be re-conceptualized. Distribution of digital mail must be through existing mega brands that already enjoy massive digital audiences. Second, the distribution approach must go well beyond simply placing a white label frame inside of a brand’s digital property. It’s going to take deeper integration that fully leverages the host’s core competencies, like a bank’s bill pay functionality. Third, the experience must be more complete and robust for the consumer, one that intuitively integrates multiple activities like bill receipt and bill pay. Finally, an industry-wide solution is required that benefits all three key stakeholders: producers, consumers and distributors of mail. Eco-mail is poised to deliver on all four of these critical concepts, and that’s why I am so excited about joining the team. We’re going to finally crack this market open.”

In addition to its B2C paperless mail exchange, Eco-mail is focusing on an enterprise B2B solution to help enterprises manage internal mail. Eco-mail was founded by three former Morgan Stanley executives, so it is no surprise that they are starting with the banking channel as producers and distributors of content via the Eco-mail platform. In fact, they have already completed an internal mail pilot of their enterprise offering with one of the big three banks. This is a good start, but the larger revenue opportunity is in getting the banks to be distributors of other companies’ mail. Fiserv’s CheckFree has already done this for bill delivery, where it is currently distributing more than 400 bills to over 4,000 banks and credit unions. What is missing from Fiserv’s model today are other types of communications—statements, notices, confirmations, and other content—as well as the rest of the billers outside of its 400+. We have also begun to see digital mailbox service providers embrace a distributor model, with Digital Postal Mail offered through eMoney Advisor and Manilla now powering AOL Bill Manager. These recent strategic shifts signal that Eco-mail may have more competition in this market than they had originally anticipated.

Schloff will be challenged to help make a name for Eco-mail and build momentum around the offering. The dual consumer and enterprise approach is beneficial in that they can steer enterprise conversations toward either solution (or both) depending on needs, but can also fragment the story that Eco-mail is trying to tell. Where Eco-mail’s founders have experience in the banking channel, Schloff brings extensive knowledge of the mailing market and, more specifically, of the early days of incubating a digital mailbox service. With this complementary expertise, Schloff makes a strong addition to the team.

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