(Photo by Tyler Woods)
It’s a CMS for empathy, a CMS for family. Gratitude as a service. Above all, it’s a company (a new one) that sends you greeting cards a week before your brother’s birthday or Mother’s Day or your niece’s graduation which are customized specifically for your brother, mother and niece, based on their data and social media presence.
It’s called Greetpoint, the name a portmanteau of “greeting” and “Greenpoint,” where the company is based.
One year and 21 days ago the lives of James Cox and his cofounder, Megan Stembridge, changed when their son, Owen, was born. Among the very many time-intensive tasks in the weeks and months that followed this event, one stood out: writing thank you notes, announcements of the birth and Christmas cards to family members.
“I found myself writing a lot, ‘I haven’t talked to you in awhile, how are you?’” Cox said in an interview over cold beers one recent, humid Friday evening after work. “We get caught up in work in family and life and we don’t keep up with people.”
The husband and wife sat down and said, “‘This kinda sucks,’” said Cox. “We wanted to find a way to do it better.”
And so, after a few ideas of how, exactly to do it better, they’ve settled on the subscription service, designer, card stock, and printing press that make up Greetpoint. “We’re two introverts starting a business helping us send messages to people.”
Cox was born in London and grew up in Hertfordshire, a commuter town 20 minutes outside the city. He spent school holidays with his grandmother, who lived not far away, in the town of Essex. His grandmother had a friend from church, named Ruth, who was blind. Cox’s grandmother would transcribe biblical texts into braille for Ruth, and, as a 12-year-old, the braille machine caught Cox’s imagination. On the machine, Cox wrote Ruth letters. The letters were about the weather, his school, whatever was going on. Memory of writing the letters has a permanent place in Cox’s mind, and remains impactful when he thinks of the power of handwritten cards and the tactile experience of sending paper to someone.
But most of Cox’s professional life has been spent in the paperless world. Foregoing college, Cox taught himself to code. He made websites for local businesses, like the butcher, and for local political campaigns. He got a job leading the dev team for a company called Global Reach Technology. In the early days of Twitter he built software that would take the headlines from CNN’s breaking news emails and automatically tweet them out on an account he made called @cnnbrk.
As Twitter exploded, the account accreted users, and Cox recalls the race with Ashton Kutcher to be the first account with a million followers (@aplusk won narrowly). Soon after, he sold the account to CNN for an undisclosed amount and was hired by CNN to be a Twitter consultant. The account now has 42 million users, or 10 times more than @CBSNews (4.75 million) and @NBCNews (3.7 million) and nearly as many as cultural pillar @KimKardashian (47.9 million).
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) September 12, 2016
What he and Stembridge are building with Greetpoint takes that creative approach to software and applies it to cards. The software he’s building is a type of machine learning that will track your loved ones’ social media posts and learn about them enough to suggest which kinds of cards would be a fit for them.
“You look at what colors she likes, what kind of posts she shares. Is she Republican or Democrat? Does she like funny things or serious things? Does she like cat photos? Does she know what a GIF is? These are the kind of things that we can find cards to know what she’ll like,” Cox explained.
He and Stembridge have partnered with Brooklyn illustrator Mike Shea for the design of the cards, and with a Williamsburg friend with a printing press — where the cards are printed out on a 1950s-era Heidelberg Windmill letterpress and cut by hand.
For now, the software is still in the works, but you can get a monthly subscription for the cards for $8 a month, which includes an envelope and stamp.
“What we struggle to do as humans is actually send something to say, ‘This is an important relationship.’ To send something to say, ‘Hey, I care about you,'” Cox said in the interview.
Cox said he’d like to offer readers of Technical.ly Brooklyn a discount, as early customers of the site. If you’re interested, he’s created a promo code, CMS4EMPATHY, which is good for 20 percent off for the first three months of the subscription.-30-
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