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The Most Influential Women in Technology 2011 - Alexa Hirschfeld

Would people use the Internet to send wedding invites? That was the question Alexa and James Hirschfeld's formal digital invitation service Paperless Post hinged on. "People don't use Evite or Facebook events for their weddings," Alexa says. "But they do use Paperless Post. It's the sign of a paradigm because it is the most momentous occasion in most people's lives. It represents the most formal type of offline communication."

A native New Yorker and child of the Internet revolution, Hirschfeld remembers spending all of her time on the Web when she was growing up. Before starting Paperless Post with her brother in April 2009, she was working for CBS News with Katie Couric. And although she had little technology experience beforehand, she felt very in tune with the domain. "The Web is extremely native to us," Hirschfeld says of her generation. "There are all these opportunities for transitioning existing business from the offline world to the online world."

One of the things that sets Paperless apart is its lack of advertising support. Revenue comes from the sale of coins that allow customers to customize their card designs, and stamps for sending each invite (30 for $5.00). Since starting, the company closed three rounds of funding totaling $6.3 million and became profitable in December 2010. Hirschfeld believes the future of formal communication will be digital.

"There'll be a hybrid market for a while," Hirschfeld says of the move to paperless. "It's definitely possible for it to transition if customers continue to be as excited as we've seen by the ability to send formal invitations for less than five percent of the cost and without getting up from their desks."