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Why you need a supercomputer to build a house

When the hell did building a house become so complicated? Don’t let the folks on HGTV fool you. The process of building a home nowadays is incredibly painful. Just applying for the necessary permits can be a soul-crushing undertaking that’ll have you running around the city, filling out useless forms, and waiting in motionless lines under fluorescent lights at City Hall wondering whether you should have just moved back in with your parents. Consider this an ongoing discussion about Urban Tech, its intersection with regulation, issues of public service, and other complexities that people have full PHDs on. I’m just a bitter, born-and-bred New Yorker trying to figure out why I’ve been stuck in between subway stops for the last 15 minutes, so please reach out with your take on any of these thoughts: @Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com. And to actually get approval for those permits, your future home will have to satisfy a set of conditions that is a factorial of complex and conflicting federal, state and city building codes, separate sets of fire and energy requirements, and quasi-legal construction standards set by various independent agencies. It wasn’t always this hard – remember when you’d hear people say “my grandparents built this house with their bare hands?” These proliferating rules have been among the main causes of the rapidly rising cost of housing in America and other developed nations. The good news is that a new generation of startups is identifying and simplifying these thickets of rules, and the future of housing may be determined as much by machine learning as woodworking. When directions become deterrents Photo by Bill Oxford via Getty Images Cities once solely created the building codes that dictate the requirements for almost every aspect of a building’s design, and they structured those guidelines based on local terrain, climates and risks. Over time, townships, states, federally-recognized organizations and independent groups that sprouted from the insurance industry further created their own “model” building codes. The complexity starts here. The federal codes and independent agency standards are optional for states, who have their own codes which are optional for cities, who have their own…

Mail digitizing service Earth Class Mail acquires receipt digitizing service Shoeboxed

Earth Class Mail, a company that digitizes your physical mail so you don’t have to go to the mailbox every day, today announced that it has acquired receipt scanning and expense tracking service Shoeboxed. The reason Earth Class Mail would be interested in Shoeboxed is pretty obvious, given that both companies focus on taking the pain out of dealing with paper. Both services will continue to operate as usual, though we’ll likely see some deep integrations between the two over time. Shoeboxed, which launched 11 years ago, currently digitizes over five million documents per year for its more than 1 million customers in 90 countries. Its main market is small businesses in the U.S., which make up 500,000 of its users. “When we started in 2008 and put the first iPhone app in the app store to scan receipts, there was one other powerhouse around helping small business go digital — Earth Class Mail,” the company’s CEO and co-founder Tobias Walter tells us. “The combined power of our two companies will be a massive shift for small businesses to finally become paperless and say goodbye to old workflows that cost them hours of their productivity. I could not be happier with the new home we found for the company, the team and our customers!” What sets Earth Class Mail apart from the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery service is that it not only scans the outside of the envelopes that you are about to receive but that you can also give the company permission to scan all the documents inside, too (and the price you pay for the service depends mostly on how many of these full scans you want per month). While Oregon-based Earth Class Mail had to file for bankruptcy protection in 2015, its new leadership team turned the company around. The company says that its annual run rate is now $10 million, up 20 percent since Jess Garza become its new CEO last December. Walter also notes that users would occasionally send unopened envelopes, too, but the company wasn’t allowed to open them. These customers can now easily…

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