Startups is a new column about new companies, big ideas and bold discoveries happening in the L.A. area.
The idea was simple: Take all those moments captured on smartphones and make something tangible out of them, fusing the online and the offline world. That's what Josh Brooks set out to do when he created Postcard on the Run last year.
The application converts any picture on an Android or IOS device to a real-world postcard. Users can write notes on the back and sign their names with a finger. They can choose to add a GPS-tagged location or even a small scratch-and-sniff sticker. "Basically, I cold-called the company that was making scratch-and-sniff back in the '80s and said, 'Please tell me you've innovated, because this is what I want,' " Brooks explains.
The company now offers 11 smells ranging from popcorn to ocean breeze to teen spirit --which, according to Brooks,"smells like a combination of band sweat and rotten stale drinks, with hints of skunk. It stinks, but it's funny."
The postcards are printed at a West Coast printer and mailed -- no need to deal with stamps. The cards cost $1.49, or $1.99 with the scratch-and-sniff. Cards sent overseas cost $1.69.
But what about the hardest part of sending mail these days: keeping up with friends who constantly move? The app automatically sends a text or email to the person receiving the card. "Say that you want to send me a card," Brooks explains. "I get an alert via text or email, and I have 48 hours to respond with my address. That information goes to the printer, and also sends the address back to you to input into your contacts."
Brooks' five-man team launched the app on the iPhone platform in September and produced a version for the Android in October.
Los Angeles has recently gotten attention as a boomtown for startups, a place where entrepreneurs can pull people and ideas from established tech companies like Google and Yahoo. Silicon Beach, as it's called, has a more diverse workforce than tech-centric Silicon Valley. It also offers good living -- and that's nothing trivial. "I think L.A. is actually on fire," Brooks says. "There's an influx of startup labs with smart guys who have rallied money."
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While online apps are a new game, Brooks, 35, is no neophyte when it comes to media. The L.A. native worked for musicians like Queens of the Stone Age and Tori Amos for years, ran marketing at MySpace and did time in the other Silicon (Valley, that is) at Playlist.com. He now lives in Hollywood.
There's a natural connection between technology and the entertainment industry. "iTunes and Apple have built themselves around media, and guess what? That media is here. This is the epicenter of the content people are battling over -- it's all here," Brooks says.