Minted.com: Print stationery not dead yet

Start-up officially launching Monday aims to personalize the $10 billion annual printed stationary market with do-it-yourself design sourced on the Web.

Think digital invitations and e-cards will kill the print stationary market? Start-up Minted.com is betting otherwise.

The San Francisco-based Minted.com, which will officially launch Monday, is aiming to personalize the $10 billion annual printed stationary market with do-it-yourself design sourced from the Web. The company is appealing to the professional design community to create high-end graphics for its site, which it can then resell to shoppers looking for wedding invitations, birth announcements and other special-occasion cards. The business model is known as "crowd-sourcing."

"When I thought about the ability to source sophisticated designs from hundreds of thousands of designers around the world, and print them on high quality paper, I thought it would be a killer application for crowd-sourcing," said Mariam Naficy, the founder of Minted.com, who also started the makeup retailer Eve.com during the dot-com heyday.

The 11-month-old company has competition from the likes of Finestationary.com, which features cards from high-end designers and more generalist sites like Zazzle.com. Zazzle, for example, sources graphics and art from the "crowd," or so-called crowd-sourcing, to sell physical goods like T-shirts and cards. But Naficy said that Minted.com differs from those in that it only wants to draw professional-level graphic designers.

To do that, it has run at least three design competitions that offer the winner $1,000 and a 5 percent cut of sales to create art for something like a bridal shower invitation. Through that method, it has drawn several hundred designers to its community since its beta launch in April.

Last August, Naficy raised $2.5 million from a group of dot-com entrepreneurs and business veterans. Those include eToys founder Toby Lenk; Epinions co-founder Nirav Tolia; Ben Elowitz, founder of WetPoint and Blue Nile; and Adrian Bellamy, chairman of The Body Shop International. Former Facebook executive Biren Gandhi joined Minted.com as vice president of engineering.

Naficy said the company won't need to raise more money until mid 2009.

As for the health of the print market, Naficy said that digital technology has changed the industry by making it more cost-effective to sell small orders of stationary or cards.

"This has opened the door for consumers to purchase custom printed products not just for special occasions but for more casual purposes," said Naficy.

 

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