Hail Mary Pitch On Shark Tank Season Finale Saves Tech Startup
This article was originally published by Forbes.com, by Ky Trang Ho
May 21, 2016
E-cards, Evites, and emails bombard us every day in a digital world making handwritten messages all the rarer and all the more special. If Tomer Alpert has his way, handwritten cards will be the wave of the future. The CEO and co-founder of tech startup Felt spent the past three years working without pay and invested $90,000 of his money in addition to others’ to kickstart a trend toward handwritten notes with his iOS app.
“For me it’s about having Freedom,” Alpert said. “So being in the hole was fine as long as I felt like it was getting me closer to that dream. And in fact, while I was in the hole I was free. So it was worth it, and now it’s even more stressful, and still worth it. Freedom over money. Freedom in the face of fear. Freedom is worth it all.”
Felt, only available for Apple (AAPL) devices, lets you create handwritten cards using your finger or a stylus. You even personalize the envelope by handwriting the to and from addresses with the app, which also stores your addresses. Add your photos or choose one of its designs. A boutique print shop in Dallas prints your custom-made card on premium Mohawk paper, stuffs it into a kraft-paper envelope, applies a first-class stamp by hand and mails it via the U.S. Postal Service. It costs $3 per card, or you can mail up to four cards in one envelope to one recipient for $6. Felt also offers a subscription service in which customers can send three cards a month for $5.
Seeking Stamp of Approval on Shark Tank
Alpert appeared in the season finale of ABC’s hit business reality show Shark Tank Friday night in a last-ditch effort to save his cash-starved company. He sought a $200,000 investment for 6% of the company, valuing it at $3.3 million. Felt was “out of cash and out of steam” after going through two major product changes. Money from other investors including the Foundry Group in Boulder, Colo. had apparently dried up.
“Shark Tank was my hail mary to save Felt,” Alpert said. “I was so stressed because I couldn’t afford to screw it up.”
“Preparing for my appearance on the show was the most stressful thing I have ever done,” Alpert added. “And I was evicted from two apartments while building my first company, so I know stress.”
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban dismissed Felt’s 60,000 app downloads as a pittance especially given that many other online competitors offer customizable greeting cards. Alpert said he wanted to target professionals and brides, who on average send 75 handwritten thank notes after a wedding. Felt could partner with online wedding registries. It also provides a marketplace for designers to sell their card designs. Cyber security king Robert Herjavec passed, contending that there was nothing proprietary.