We started Handwrytten seven years ago with a passion for handwritten correspondence, and a mission to bring back handwritten communication to business. We knew that if we made it easy for people to send handwritten notes, through direct mail automation tools and integrations, easy-to-use platforms, and great customer service, we could build a viable niche business and dominate the market.
Now, we handle over 250,000 written pieces per month and are the largest player in our space. To accomplish this goal, we had to fully vertically integrate, develop all of the technology ourselves, and truly take a first-principles approach to architecting the company. The complexities we encounter at our scale are very different than the issues we encountered a few years ago when we were producing 10,000 cards per month.
As an entrepreneur, I love the challenges associated with this growth. I want to take a moment to share a peek behind the curtain of our company. While the end result of our systems is a simple, authentic-looking handwritten note, the processes that go into that are staggering and hopefully interesting to you all.
Here are just a few ways we are bringing innovation and technology to the “old-fashioned” handwritten notes space.
When we started, we used off-the-shelf handwriting machines to fulfill our orders. While autopens write in pen, the handwriting does not look truly authentic. There are even still some videos of our old robots in action that we can’t seem to remove from the internet.
Beyond the authenticity, the machines themselves were a bear to work with. Every time we introduced a new paper size, it was a guessing game on how to set up the machine. The machines ran out of ink and kept writing, had small paper feeds, and had to be networked to a Windows PC in such a way that if the PC restarted (which they often do) all of the machines stopped. Additionally, if we needed handwriting styles or signatures, we were beholden to the manufacturer of the autopen who was slow to respond and expensive. It just was not a long-term solution.
We then spent nearly two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars designing our own robot technology from scratch to be the best in the industry. In addition to hardware, we developed our own handwriting font engine as well. Unlike autopens and other solutions out there, our system randomizes characters so no two characters look the same. The robots have robust kerning to make the text look real and we vary line-height and starting position so the writing doesn’t look like it popped out of a typewriter.
The hardware and software that went into this development are unlike anything I have ever undertaken. We build the robots from laser-cut and 3D-printed parts that we manufacture in-house. This speeds our design and iteration process when we refine the machines.
Nearly everything on the robot is custom. Beyond the parts we fabricate, the rubber wheels on the robot, the conveyor belt, and even the pen are made for us.
As of this writing, we have 115 autonomous handwriting robots. Each one even monitors its ink levels and communicates with us via Slack if it jams or runs out of ink. Most importantly, these patent-pending robots are the most reliable and provide the highest quality in the world. We plan to double our capacity this year.
Early on, we partnered with a local print shop in Phoenix to deliver our stationery. Three times a week, the truck would deliver the new batch of cards, either designed by us or designed by our clients. In order to generate economies of scale, we’d need to place our orders in bulk; if a client plans on using 10,000 cards over the course of a year, we’d order 10,000 cards at once and store them until they were needed.
As we grew, this became more and more difficult. The boxes started stacking up. Just managing inventory became a full-time task. Furthermore, clients expect a quick turnaround, and having to wait three to five days for the stationery to arrive became a real issue.
Now, our printing operation is vertically-integrated as well.
In January of 2021, we invested in a full printing press. We can now print cards of the same quality, faster, and in smaller quantities. Thanks to custom imposition integration, we can print full-bleed cards on-demand, and design custom sizes (large tri-folds or small cards) as needed.
Now, the in-house press serves as a true point of difference. Not only can we turn around orders faster, but we can offer physical proofs in record time. Our costs to manage inventory have drastically reduced as we are storing less printed stationery and we are able to better utilize our facility for writing notes and QA.
Speaking of QA (quality assurance), at Handwrytten, we see quality assurance as a critical part of the organization. Every order is manually reviewed for quality and accuracy prior to stuffing and stamping. We have developed custom software for our QA staff to use to double-check orders and report issues.
To improve speed and efficiencies even further, last year we began developing a computer vision machine learning system. While we currently do a phenomenal job of manually reviewing each and every note, this computer vision system serves as a second check of each order. It is capable of comparing a photo of the note to the vectors of what should have been written at high speed and incredible accuracy. Currently, it is capable of detecting a single missing or wrong character in a 500 character note in just over half a second. We are currently patenting this system as well and see it as a true differentiator for our company.
Prior to Handwrytten, I founded a mobile technology company that sent millions of messages a day on behalf of Fortune 100 companies. While that company was tech-centered, the amount of innovation in Handwrytten is ten times greater. It is truly exciting to see my team conquer the challenges of providing our solutions at an unprecedented scale.
I hope you were a bit surprised by what you learned from this post. At first glance, people think we “just” write notes. While of course, this is the end product, the path we take to get there has become substantially complex due to the growth of the company.
All of this is to support you and your business. We want to ensure the highest quality note, with the fastest turnaround time while maintaining the highest quality standards. We are happy to give you a private tour as well! If you’re interested in seeing our operation in action, we are happy to give tours. If you’re in the Phoenix area just contact us and we’ll gladly show you how we’ve revolutionized the handwritten notes space.
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