Google investors find new project

John Doerr and Ram Shriram invest $16 million in an online marketplace where people can buy and sell artwork.

Google rainmakers and venture capitalists John Doerr and Ram Shriram are pinning their hopes--and millions--on yet another Stanford University spin-off with a nonsensical name.

Doerr and Shriram, whose early investment in search giant Google paid off in spades, have invested $16 million in Menlo Park, Calif.-based Zazzle, a 2-year-old online marketplace where people can buy and sell artwork in the form of customized gifts, T-shirts, stamps, posters and prints.

On Monday, Doerr's Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Shriram's Sherpalo Ventures will announce they've led Zazzle's series A funding, and the two men have joined the company's board of directors.

"Zazzle represents a significant breakthrough in e-commerce and is the ideal advocate for every individual who wants to create products that are as unique as they are," Doerr said in a statement.

Zazzle's online store taps into the notion of mass customization, in which people can be the creative force in tailoring goods to buy. Billed as a cross between auctioneer eBay and PC manufacturer Dell, the service combines a buyers' and sellers' marketplace with customized manufacturing of prints, apparel and gifts.

Zazzle draws on the creative works of community members and more than 10,000 contributing artists, along with images from partners like Walt Disney, the Library of Congress and others. People can search for and choose an image and then augment it with online design tools before ordering it as a T-shirt, framed canvas, or other item. In turn, Zazzle pays a royalty fee to the artist or content partner.

On Monday, the company will announce a partnership with Pitney Bowes that allows members to buy customized stamps.

Like Google's humble beginnings in a Palo Alto garage, Zazzle started in a pool house of the company's founders, Robert Beaver and his two sons, Bobby and Jeff. The two sons were still attending Stanford University as economics majors when they began fleshing out the idea for Zazzle.

The name Zazzle means "to embellish something" from the root word "zazz."

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