Talking tech since 2003

Printing may seem like a trivial task, but it’s a task that most people and companies do every day.  It’s also no joke, printing is a serious business: from postcards, invoices, posters, reports, to business cards and more, there are a lot of things that need to be printed, which explains why the printing industry is reported to be a $640 billion business — that’s 18x bigger than the video game industry ($33 billion industry).  So as you can see the printing industry is huge and ripe for disruption.  Enter Lob, a brand new Y Combinator startup which according to co-founder Leore Avidar, wants to do for printing what Amazon Web Services did for the cloud.

Another way to think of Lob is Stripe for printing, the service allows developers to easily integrate the ability to print (and mail) via the REST API directly into their apps and services.  Lob offers three key services, Simple Print Service, Simple Postcard Service, and Address Verification.

lob-servicesThe Simple Print Service is a highly scalable and cost-effective bulk and transactional printing service, which eliminates the need for in-house printing solutions, plus, there’s no long-term commitment required and it only costs as much as you print.  What would some use cases be for a company to utilize Lob?  Well, think about your HR department for instance, when you have a new hire, you can easily use Lob to have his/her 401k benefits printed, along with a welcome/on-boarding kit, and even a pack of 250 business cards.  Other use cases could include an insurance company printing insurance kits or a band having posters printed.

Like the Simple Print Service, the Simple Postcard Service has no required long-term commitment and no minimum order quantity.  The Simple Postcard Service allows people to print postcards and mail them for just $1.00.  Yep, just $1.00.

How much does Lob cost?

Speaking of cost, Lob’s pricing is very competitive.  You can see for yourself on the pricing page.  However, don’t let the pricing fool you, the quality of the paper and extensive partnerships Lob has made with industrial printing centers across the U.S. (and soon in Europe) mean your printed items will be of the best quality possible.  “This is the same printing Apple would use for one of its conferences,” I was told by co-founders Leore Avidar and Harry Zhang.

Depending on when the item is requested to be printed, items are either sent out same day or the next day.  Right now, time to delivery depends on the selected delivery options, however, I’m told by Lob that they plan to setup hubs across the world to ensure faster and more (cost) efficient deliveries, so depending on where you are, will affect where the item is printed and shipped from.

Implementing Lob into your app or service

Integrating Lob into your app or service is simple, the company recently released a Ruby wrapper and will soon release a Python wrapper as well to help developers implement Lob even easier.  One app which is currently using Lob to fulfill all of its poster orders is FanHero, a service that connects content creators with their fans.  The implementation of Lob into FanHero took just one weekend and best of all, everything is completely on demand, meaning FanHero doesn’t have to maintain any inventory, when a poster is ordered, it’s printed and mailed right then and there.

The last of the three key services Lob offers is address verification, which allows you to ensure that the street, city, state, and zip exists in the database provided by the postal service..  Lob is also currently the only service in the market to offer the REST API for international address verification.  While the service is free to for U.S.-based addresses, international address verifications cost $0.15 per verification and can be verified in over 150 countries.

As of right now, Lob is focused on just printing paper items, however, they also have a real interest in expanding to other offerings as well  (think iPhone cases, t-shirts, etc) to become a complete arsenal of printing services for literally every need.  The service is officially launching in two weeks, however, you can signup now and start printing right away.

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