Maybe you’re the type who is forever intending to mail thank-you cards. Maybe you even compose them in your head and yet, when the time comes to actually write them, you don’t have any stamps, or the post office is closed, or you’re stuck at the airport without your stationery. Maybe it’s not the sort of thing you delegate to an assistant, who has handwriting much better than yours. Maybe you just don’t like licking envelope glue.
Enter Bond, a New York startup founded in 2013, which will do it all for you, in your own handwriting to boot. “Inconvenience doesn’t make something more thoughtful,” says Sonny Caberwal, the founder and chief executive of the company. “The content of the card is what makes it thoughtful. But there are all these friction points in the process.”
The company started out as a straightforward gifting service, with an extension that allowed you to send a handwritten note to accompany the gift. It turned out to be the most popular option available. Caberwal spent 2014 perfecting new technology with his chief technology officer, Kenji Larsen, developing hardware and software systems that could re-create the look and feel of a handwritten note.
They built their own hardware, a writing machine that has robotic arms for holding a pen, a paintbrush, or a marker. Download the basic version of the Bond app and you can type out a message, pick a card and handwriting style—ranging from the messy cursive of "Gramercy" to the clean all-caps "Hudson"—and upload your signature and address. Then everything else, from postage, envelope stuffing, sealing, and drop-off, is taken care of by Bond.
More recently, the company has offered a concierge service as part of Bond Black, which in addition to digitizing your own handwriting, will help you find addresses, schedule notes, send reminders, and expedite deliveries. For $1,500, you can get your handwriting digitized, have your stationery engraved, and send 125 notes, including postage and concierge service for a year. (To get your handwriting digitized, you submit samples of your own penmanship, which is then replicated by the machines.)
Bond has 85 employees and investment from a variety of thought leaders, including Gary Cohn, now former COO of Goldman Sachs, as well as rapper Nas. One early investor, Indicator Ventures’ Geoff Bernstein, says he was concerned that people would find it inauthentic if they knew his notes were written by robots, but found out quickly that they didn’t care.
“What I’ve realized is that it’s not about who actually wrote the note,” he says. “It’s about showing the recipient how you feel about them, or whatever your message is.”
And ironically, some of the most enthusiastic adopters of the technology are in social media, though Caberwal doesn’t find it odd. “There’s a value for physical things and digital things and how those live harmoniously is fascinating to me,” he says. “You would never use handwritten notes the way you use Facebook anyway. Or at least I hope not.”
By James Gaddy