Online shopping is booming this holiday season, and many of us have tons of email messages in our inboxes right now with information on the purchases we’ve been making from various sites. But is email really the best place to get a handle on all of our e-commerce activities?
A new Seattle-based startup called Fara is betting there’s a better way. It’s starting with a free online dashboard and app that lets people track their packages by forwarding shipping confirmation emails to the Fara service, which can extract the shipping confirmation number. Features include automated shipping updates via email, SMS or Twitter.
Founded by Josh Chen and Leo Chen, two (unrelated) entrepreneurs in their late 20s, Fara is based on the successful Packagetrackr service that was previously a side project for Josh Chen, with more than 1 million packages tracked to date.
Packagetrackr remains online, but they’ve also repackaged the service as Fara, and they aim to build it into a more comprehensive service over time — a way for people to visualize a variety of e-commerce activities from a single interface.
Leo Chen, who moved to the U.S. from his native China at age 9, is a veteran of the Seattle startup scene, previously one of the co-founders of Cheddr Media. Josh Chen is a software engineer who grew up in China and has worked for companies including New Egg. This is his first startup.
The two founders met last year, when Leo was traveling in China on a Geeks on a Plane trip, and Josh happened to meet their group during one leg of the trip. Leo ended up working in China as a product manager for Amazon.com, and then for DianDian.com, a Chinese version of the Tumblr blogging service. They reconnected in April when Leo was looking to borrow a telephoto lens for a concert and put out a call to his friends online, which Josh answered.
After working on Fara for a few months in their spare time, they’re now both full time, and to get the company off the ground they recently came to Seattle, where Leo’s parents live.
The name of the company is derived from Faraday’s Law, and the ability to create an electrical current by moving a copper coil around a magnetic field. Leo remembers thinking that it was more magic than science when he first learned about Faraday’s experiments in college physics, and he says the company is aiming to create something similarly magical.
The two founders are bootstrapping the venture so far, funding it out of their own pockets and Packagetrackr ad revenue.