In 1840, Sir Rowland Hill invented the first postage stamp, the Penny Black. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 1⁄2 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance. Sir Rowland was actually just an English teacher but he recognised that if letters were cheaper to send, people, including the poorer classes, would send more of them, thus eventually profits would go up. In 1840, the first year of Penny Post, the number of letters sent in the UK more than doubled. Within three years postage stamps were introduced in Switzerland and Brazil, a little later in the US, and by 1860, they were in 90 countries. Sir Rowland disrupted global postal services in a way no one has before or since.
In the summer of 2018, our founder drove in the pouring rain to a supermarket to buy a stamp for a letter. He sat in the supermarket car park struck by the sheer stupidity of the fact that in this digital age, he needed to drive several miles and queue to buy a stamp to post his letter. Yet for an email or text, he could send his message instantly at no cost, to anyone anywhere in the world. Hugh likewise didn’t work for a postal company but he could see that very little had changed since the days of Sir Rowland Hill. He came up with the idea of using your phone to buy digital postage, and then post your letter or parcel in the normal way. From that supermarket car park, the Stamp Free Digital Postage Solution™ was born….
Initially established in Edinburgh, over the past 12 months Stamp Free has forged connections with Cambridge and is now based in these two cities, the UK’s two main centres of technology innovation. The company is working with one of our investors Dr. Ronjon Nag based in Silicon Valley, the pioneer of machine handwriting recognition as we further develop the Stamp Free Digital Postage Solution.