This is the latest in a series of founder interviews from abroad from our roving international reporters Roy Malkin and Don Oparah
Turning digital into real life can be a lucrative business, especially when it comes to pictures. Swedish startup Postify has created a desktop and mobile app which allows users to turn their digital images into physical photos and postcards in quicktime. So, for example, within 45 seconds of taking a photo during your Miami Beach vacation, the postcard is in the mail – on its way to tease your friends and loved ones stuck in a grey and freezing Germany.
Postify is far from the only player in this space, but tries to differentiate itself by not only catering to individual users but working with corporations and non-profits to reach and communicate with a userbase through creative campaigns.
It hasn’t had trouble finding money, with a €155,000 angel round in 2012 followed up recently by an undisclosed new funding. Silicon Allee caught up with founder and CEO Fredrik Schöön at the recent Dublin Web Summit.
SILICON ALLEE: Why did you found Postify?
FREDRIK SCHÖÖN: My partner and I , we both had babies and we realised that people are taking so many pictures nowadays, but they don’t do anything interesting with them. You snap loads of photos everyday and then you share them on Twitter or Facebook but there is nothing that stays, really. So we thought maybe there was an opportunity to create something where companies can engage their fans, followers and customers with pictures.
We created our Facebook app, where users can go to a company’s Facebook page and send a real postcard directly from their page. The idea here was that the companies would sponsor the postcards and let their fans and users send their postcards for free, which means the users can choose their own image for the motif of the postcard, write their message and address and the brand gets their postage experience as they get their logo or their message on the back of the postcard.
SA: Was this your first venture into founding a company?
FS: No, I had three companies in Spain. One was successful, one not very successful and one so-so. We were living in Spain for five years and it’s a very interesting market, but it’s a little bit different to the Swedish and US market.
SA: How do you see the Postify product evolving?
FS: Obviously the [Christmas] holidays are the most important time of the year for us, but as we are both a business and a business consumer product, we are trying to make sure our products are interesting all year round. What we are focusing on now is making sure all our products are mobile-friendly, so all our apps are working on every smartphone. That’s priority number one. Today we have apps for both the iPhone and Android, but we are now building a responsive app which will help up capitalise [on] more markets.
SA: How many markets are you in right now?
FS: We have had business campaigns in four countries, but for our consumer app, we are in 25 markets in the App Store and Google Play, so you can send a postcard from any of these countries to anywhere around the world. We have printers in four countries – the Netherlands, the UK, the US and Sweden – and we will be launching with a premier partner in Germany in January.
SA: What’s the benefit of working with local printers?
FS: The first and most important thing is that we want the postcard to arrive quickly. If a brand is sponsoring a campaign and they need to send a postcard to Germany, it’s very important that the recipient of that postcard gets it as soon as possible, during the campaign. If it’s too late, then the brand is getting attention at an irrelevant moment. The second aspect is the cost. It’s much cheaper for us to pay for local stamps. And also, it’s much more eco-friendly.
Today, when somebody receives a postcard, people often thank you with a phone call and it’s such a nice feeling to receive a phone call or an email just the day after you send something. That’s also important for us, to get that Postify feeling that you want to send more postcards.
Aside from the postcards, we have a second product called Postify Prints where you can create physical prints of your smart phone images. But we are also working on an API now that will be released in the first quarter of 2014. We hope that other apps will use our API to create other products, so what we’re working on is creating a global platform where you can basically print anything. These are still early days, and postcards and prints are still our first products, but it’s clear to see that we can make any kind of prints.
SA: Will 3D printing come into play?
FS: Maybe. We don’t have that experience yet, but that market is evolving very quickly so that’s an interesting thing and I think if it fits with what we’re doing. It’s a bit early to judge, but I strongly believe that 3D printing is the future. Whether it will be part of Postify’s future, it’s too early to say. It has to fit into using your digital images from everyday life.
SA: What lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur from Postify?
FS: The most important thing is maybe to just do it. Start. We had a venture in Spain where we researched for six months and built a website for six months and then during this time, the whole market went upside down so the product we built was for a different market. Whereas with Postify, we collected a little bit of money, created a small minimum viable product to show the market, to show your friends and to show potential customers. If they like it, then maybe you can think about more investment or just creating the company. The most important this is to stop talking and start producing something, even if it’s just a mock-up or just registering a domain, to have something to show for it.
The second part is that failures are good. I think that we have a lot to learn from the US where everybody has a failure. It’s not always a bad thing. In Sweden, it’s a little bit frowned upon to have a bankruptcy or to have failures. People don’t talk about it too much and you rarely read about failures in Sweden. It’s very low-key, but I think I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the failures before because you can only afford so many failures economically so you have to choose a little bit more carefully what you focus on. You cannot just do things that are fun or that continue forever to chase good ideas just because you think they might pay off somewhere in the future. It’s very important to count your losses.
SA: What about the people you work with?
FS: Choosing you team is also very important. It’s not always the best idea to start a company with your friends. It could work, but it’s more important that you find a partner that really complements you.