In Riga, Latvia, an 80-person startup called Printify is reimagining the on-demand printing business.
Gone are the days where small merchants have to sell their customized products on platforms like Zazzle, Society6, CafePress, or Teespring . Using Printify, e-commerce business owners can create clothes, accessories and more fixed with their own designs, logos, art or photos, then sell them directly on their very own online stores.
The “first wave” of on-demand printing companies, Printify founder and chief executive officer James Berdigans explained to TechCrunch, typically forced merchants to sell their items on the provider’s platforms.
“The problem is that these merchants don’t have the capability to build their own brand,” Berdigans said. “At the end of the day, you end up building the Teespring brand, not your own brand.”
Printify, a graduate of the 500 Startups accelerator, has attracted a $3 million investment from Bling Capital, a venture capital fund launched five months ago by Ben Ling, a former general partner at Khosla Ventures.
“Printify is perfectly positioned to enable the new trend of micro and boutique brands,” Ling said in a statement. “Consumers and SMBs alike can benefit from Printify’s high-quality, low-cost, and fast printing platform — and create their own micro-brands.”
Founded in 2015 by Berdigans, Artis Kehris and Gatis Dukurs, Printify had previously raised a $1 million round following a big pivot. Initially, the business “pretended to be the manufacturer,” opting to be less transparent as a means to entice customers.
“That was a terrible idea,” Berdigans said. “Even though you aren’t lying, you end up not being a very honest company and that’s not the business model we wanted.”
Now, Printify operates as a B2B marketplace that connects manufacturers with ecommerce stores. Plus, the startup handles the mundane tasks of fulfilling orders, including billing, manufacturing requests and shipping so store owners can focus on brand building. The switch allowed the startup to begin growing 30 percent year-over-year, as well as add hundreds of unique products to its catalog.
The founders say Printify most often caters to political campaign employees, designers & artists, and influencers & “hustlers,” or people who are self-taught experts on managing digital sales. With a fixed pricing scheme, merchants know exactly what they are paying Printify but have the flexibility of pricing their own product. Other print-on-demand marketplaces, like the aforementioned “first wave” businesses, don’t give merchants the ability to determine their own margins.
“If you use Zazzle, for example, you only get a small portion of revenue share but on Printify, you pay us a small fee,” Berdigans said. “If you were selling t-shirts for $25 and the average production cost is $10, our sellers will see a 50 to 60 percent margin.”
Dozens of angel investors, including YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, ClassPass co-founder Fritz Lanman, DoorDash co-founder Evan Moore, Google AdSense pioneer Gokul Rajaram and Facebook’s vice president of product Kevin Weil, also participated in the company’s latest round.
“What Airbnb did for the hospitality industry, that’s basically what we can do for the print-on-demand industry,” said Kehris, Printify’s chief operating officer.