In the latest attempt to make an industry more efficient, San Mateo, Calif.-based Keen Systems is today launching a public beta of its PrintMo marketplace for finding and booking local printers.
This first phase of the market-by-market rollout, CEO and founder Vitaly Golomb told VentureBeat, begins with several dozen local printers in the San Francisco Bay area. There’s no charge for printers to join.
The marketplace is “essentially a [printing] broker on steroids,” he said. Printers set wholesale prices for specific services and quantities; PrintMo presents a retail price to the user and keeps the difference.
The marketplace can handle promotional product printing like t-shirts, along with such basics as business cards, greeting cards, or brochures. 3-D printing will be offered as soon as it is more widely available, Golomb said. Customers can create their designs online, or they can upload design files.
Users can rate local printers, although at launch the Bay Area printers have been rated from a synthesis of existing online ratings, Golomb said, such as Yelp’s. Printers have to maintain a rating of three stars or above (out of four) to stay on the site. Ratings from PrintMo users will be weighted more heavily than outside ones and will eventually replace them.
Although there’s not much evidence yet of a price break in using the marketplace, Golomb said the advantages include the ability to conveniently conduct a quick survey of area prices at quality printers and present order information all at once to printers, instead of via emails and phone calls back and forth.
“Most businesses,” he told us, are not “necessarily looking for the cheapest price,” but rather are more interested in quality and convenience.
Communication tools include an indicator of a job’s status and a private bulletin board. A customer’s payment to the marketplace is not released to the printer until 24 hours after the order has been picked up, Golomb said.
Companies with over $250,000 in annual business get an account manager assigned to them. At launch, 500 Startups — a Keen backer — and Singularity University are the only two in that category.
Competitors, Golomb said, are brick-and-mortar local printers, online printers like Vistaprint, and Fedex Office. But he said VistaPrint offers few choices and long turnarounds, and Fedex Office and smaller printers are “not set up for more complex printing.”
Founded in 2010, Keen has previously raised $2.6 million from 500 Startups, IDG-Accel, and angels. Its first major product was a software-as-a-service e-commerce printing solution for print shops.