In fight versus junk mail, new PaperKarma app struggles to keep up with demand

A couple weeks ago, we told you the story of PaperKarma, a new mobile application that allows recipients of junk mail to snap a photo of the offer, catalog or flyer and, in a few simple clicks, unsubscribe from the distributor’s list.

We were impressed with the simplicity of the app, as were many of our readers who made the PaperKarma story one of the most popular on GeekWire. People seemed to like the company’s easy-to-remember mantra: “Kill junk mail, save trees.”

Maybe too much.

PaperKarma — founded by Seattle software developers Brendan Ribera and Sean Mortazavi – notified customers late last week that they were having trouble keeping up with demand.

“We are touching base to let you know that, due to this nearly overwhelming growth, some of your uploads may be in a “pending” state for longer than expected. We thought 24 hours was an achievable timeframe, but this incredible growth is proving otherwise. It may take us a few weeks to clear the backlog. Thank you for being patient while we adjust to this awesome growth spurt (all thanks to you!). We’re adding some more staff to help us through the backlog, and we’re building new features to help our semi-automated system process images and locate companies faster.”

The rapid pace of adoption coupled with the positive press — the app was also featured in All Things D, Lifehacker and CNET — is usually what entrepreneurs would call “a good problem to have.”

But Mortazavi, who holds a day job at Microsoft, tells GeekWire that going national was a “shock to the system.”

“There’s a lot of junk mail out there and people hate it at a primal level… so it’s flooding in,” said Mortazavi, who declined to say how many people have downloaded the app to date.

Nonetheless, PaperKarma is taking steps to catch up, asking users to limit uploads to materials that the company has the best chance of processing. It is also asking users to avoid uploading images of junk mail that is “carpet bombed on a zip code basis,” since those materials are harder to remove.

“We are confident that PaperKarma will reduce your junk mail,” the company writes in the message, “and you’ll soon be enjoying a much lighter trip in from the mailbox,”

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations, Brendan and Sean!

  • Anonymous

    Sweet, I didn’t know about this app before and it is an answer to my problem! Downloading now.

  • Doloresbuy

    This is great.   I see a big difference in my overloaded mail box. Thank you Dolores

  • Red Flag

    Since most mailers generate from Zip Code lists, the company doing the mailing doesn’t have the recipient in their database. The notification to the business who hired a mailing company to send the mailer can’t stop that recipient from getting future mailings from them or any other company who selects that zip code to mail to. It will only be frustrating to the recipient and the business utilizing the service since now the recipient thinks the business is ignoring them when they have no control over who is on the Zip Code list.

  • DP

    I see. Paper Karma will now be flooding
    my phone with “great deals” most likely from the same companies that
    they have suppressed direct mail. Wake up people! You can ignore the mail if
    you choose; you can’t ignore your phone. The mail only touches my day at the
    point I pull it from my mail box and I read what I want to read. If companies
    like these are allowed to reach into my Smartphone that wonderful tool will
    turn into what email has become…an annoyance.

    • Skyler Conklin

      They don’t send any “great deals”. Nice try, troll.