Posterous founder targets normal bloggers

Sachin Agarwal believes he has the solution for all those who have tried, and failed, to sign their parents up for a Facebook account so they could see photos of their grandchildren: Posterous.

“No one has solved the problem of how does my 60-year-old dad see my photos,” said Agarwal, who launched the San Francisco-based blog publishing platform two years ago with friend and former Stanford University alum Garry Tan.

He said it was important for him that Posterous appealed to people who may be intimidated by the terms “blogging” and “social media.”

“We don’t want to be thought of as a tech toy for Silicon Valley geeks,” he said. “We’re surrounded by a lot of crazy tech, but our goal is to be so much more universal and applicable to normal people.”

Posterous simplifies the process by allowing users to post their content—text, photos and video—directly via email to a central Posterous email address, which is then immediately published online in the form of a blog.

Agarwal, who worked at Apple for six years prior to launching Posterous, said he has always blogged, but found the process too labor-intensive. A few years ago he got serious about photography and started using Flickr and other photo-sharing sites, but again found it too frustrating.

“I thought if this is too complicated for me, how is a normal person, how is my mom, going to do this?” he said.

Agarwal looked around at the options online and found them all lacking simplicity and eventually found the answer to his dilemma in his inbox.

“There are more people on the Internet using email than there are surfing the Web,” said Agarwal, who added that Posterous users can subscribe friends and family members, or anyone else they wish, to receive their updates so that anytime they post, their mother, brother or friend receives an email alerting them to the new content.

Users also have the option to import their various email and social media contacts, such as Outlook and Gmail contacts, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and have their content on Posterous “auto-posted” to everyone in their cyber universe.

The name Posterous sprang from Tan, who shortened their original tag line: “the preposterously easy way to blog.”

Since coming out Y Combinator incubator program, where they received $15,000 in seed money in return for a small equity stake in the company, Posterous has grown rapidly and now boasts more than 15 million monthly unique users who account for nearly 35 million monthly page views, Agarwal said,

About six months after launching, Posterous raised another $750,000 from a prominent group of angel investors that included Web celebrities, such as blogger Guy Kawasaki, venture capitalist Mitch Kapor and Tim Ferriss, author of the bestselling “The 4-Hour Workweek.”

In March, the startup raised another $4.4 million in venture capital in a Series A round from Redpoint Ventures, Trinity Ventures, SV Angel, Founder Collective, Lowercase Capital, XG Ventures and individual investors Brian Pokorny and Aydin Senkut.

“Over the first year and a half we were able to prove that the concept works. So now we have the money to take Posterous to the next level,” said Agarwal, who intends to double his staff from 6 to 12 over the next year and start spending on marketing and advertising.

Agarwal said the biggest challenge Posterous faces is trying to differentiate itself in the melting pot of social networking sites that has grown to include all manner of blogs and digital publishing platforms. He said Posterous is neither a pure blog like WordPress, nor a social media site like Twitter.

“It’s definitely just educating people about what we are, who we are, what we do and why we’re useful,” he said, adding that the company, which is not yet profitable, hopes to become more attractive to businesses going forward.

“If some percentage of [our users] converts to using it for their business website, then that’s where the revenue will come from,” he said. —Jon Cook