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Updated at 2:17 p.m. Pacific with comment from the startup.
Few developers boast of their ability to incorporate printing functions into applications, because they can focus on more interesting tasks and worry about ancillary tooling.
Today Lob, a startup that makes printing into a simple external service, is touting a $7 million supply of new venture funding, making it a more viable option for developers and the companies where they work.
Lob has created APIs (application programming interfaces) for printing on and then shipping standard paper, postcards, and checks. The startup also provides an API for correcting addresses and sending mail to everyone in a geographical area.
While printing out paper might seem like a stone-age-style service for a startup, the APIs from Lob do match up with a real trend in Web development: the rise of dedicated services that engineers can call on whenever they want. With Lob, they don’t need to wade into the isolated world of a mailing company. It’s as easy as adding in a line or two of code. This has become possible for email services, image processing, machine learning, and other many other tasks. Why not printing?
And that process could be just a starting point for Lob.
“What if every time someone signed up for your site, you sent them a cool postcard, or bands could automatically send customized posters to the venues they are playing at in advance?” co-founder Harry Zhang told VentureBeat last year. “Mail is a small portion of what we do, it’s a beachhead to get us into the enterprises, but we believe the next step is communicating orders via API.”
Having described itself once as “the Amazon Web Services for printing,” San Francisco-based Lob charges based on how much people use it, just like Amazon’s market-leading public cloud service. It cost 95 cents to print a black and white document through Lob, according to the startup’s website. Indeed, the Amazon connection is fair, at least based on Lob’s DNA. Leore Avidar worked at the Amazon cloud as a technical business developer before creating Lob with Zhang.
Polaris Partners led the new round in Lob, which participated in Y Combinator’s summer 2013 batch. First Round Capital, Floodgate, and other investors also participated. Lob announced a $2.4 million seed round in November.
The startup claims to have more than 3,500 customers, including Intuit, Drchrono, LendUp, and ZenPayroll.
The new money will help Lob move into more markets, including Australia and the United Kingdom, and it will cover the construction of more APIs, Zhang wrote in an email to VentureBeat.
“On the roadmap and down the line we will be introducing tracing and tracking features for our APIs,” Zhang wrote. “We will also continue to build other related APIs (address verification is an example) to help our customers streamline their processes.”
Nine people work full-time for the startup, and the head count should hit 25 a year from now, he wrote.
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