If you want to remain successful in the future, you need innovative strength. Only those who reflect on their actions and are prepared to rethink everything will be able to find answers to the questions of increasingly demanding customers. At the OPS Insight Pitches, six creative start-ups showed just how much innovation and drive there is in online printing, AI and, above all, mass customization. It’s worth listening to you.
The core of innovation lies in approaching things in a new way and in a different manner than has been the case in the past. Which is exactly what the six start-ups featured in the Insight Pitches at the Online Print Symposium had in common, despite the fact that they each operate in completely different fields. While some set out to revolutionize the textile market with true mass customization, others are rethinking editors and the photo book market. One step at a time, though.
True individualization in textile production
Johannes Kautz and Philipp Hofmann, who may be familiar to beyond-print readers through abihome, founded “Hoodie Hoo” in the fall of 2021 – a start-up for completely customized textile production in small quantities. This is because until now, the options for designing individual textiles have been limited: On-demand finishing in digital printing usually only refers to printing on pre-manufactured wholesale goods, and the situation is similar in screen printing. So, as a rule, the garments are not truly customized. Large brands are producing abroad, including huge minimum quantities, delivery times lasting months, and textile designs from agencies. For end consumers, there’s no getting around it, and that’s exactly what the two young entrepreneurs want to change. “Hoodie Hoo’s mission is to make individual textile production available to everyone, quickly and with a low minimum purchase,” explained Philipp Hofmann and Johannes Kautz at OPS 2022.
To this end, the two have launched a production facility in Izmir in recent months, which will be further expanded in the coming months – both in terms of employees and finishing options. Because at Hoodie Hoo, customization doesn’t just mean the motif on a garment, but really every component: the fabric, the cut, the colour, plus hem and neck labels, silicone injections, embossing, terry embroidery, foam printing, embossed cords. All of this is possible because at Hoodie Hoo, the garment is made after the order is placed. Before the end of June, Kautz and Hofmann also plan to launch a native textile creator app that will significantly simplify individual design and trigger API-controlled production processes. AR and special features, for example for clubs, will then be included.
“Like an Indesign that runs on a cell phone”
Christoph Clermont from Printess described what makes a good print editor in 2022. He and his business partner Christoph Schacht are likewise no strangers to the industry and are the creative minds behind the well-known personalization software Directsmile. With Printess, the two launched a new print editor just under a year ago that was designed from the ground up and therefore aims to eradicate the flaws and shortcomings of previous solutions. “Printess is modular in design. You could call it a print editor, but it’s actually much more than that, because it maps the entire design processes,” Clermont explained. He described the different approaches of B2B and B2C, explained why one can’t simply be used for the other, and elaborated on what is expected of software today, “A good editor in B2C, maybe in B2B, is a little Indesign that also runs on a mobile phone” – and which, according to the Printess founder, also works the same way across different devices and displays projects identically. “Printess can do graphics, including text. Printess can print. Printess is serverless, scalable, fail-safe and, thanks to modern architecture, as easy to integrate as Google Maps. This currently makes Printess the most comprehensive editor solution available in the browser,” promised the developer. Curious about what else is behind Printess? Click here for the short video:
Savings in logistics
Dylan Hirsch from Lox Solution takes a completely different approach. This is because his solution focuses on savings opportunities in logistics – regardless of the production process. “We distinguish between two problems: on the one hand, delivery problems that show up on the invoice – but shouldn’t – and invoicing errors that result, for example, from incorrect prices, duplicate tracking numbers or incorrect surcharges,” Hirsch explained. Because of such inaccuracies, online printers would overpay by as much as 15 percent each year – and Lox Solution wants to help them save or get that back, thanks to artificial intelligence. Dylan Hirsch explained exactly how this works: “The invoices are automatically transferred to Lox on a weekly or monthly basis and analysed. If problematic areas are found, Dylan Hirsch’s team takes care of claiming and reclaiming the overpaid amount. “We take care of getting your money back, because otherwise we don’t get any money ourselves,” he said, describing his business model. There is also already one reference customer from the online print world: Helloprint.
Individualized beverage cans
Lukas Pflügl from Design’n Drink in Austria described how individualization is playing an increasingly important role, and not just in photo products or textiles. Together with his father, he has been active in the printing and packaging industry for over ten years, primarily in the area of flexible packaging. With the “Design’n Drink” brand, the company has also ventured into the direct printing of aluminium cans – and not only that, but depending on their needs, the start-up’s customers can choose in the configurator between ready-made graphics for various occasions, templates with the option of uploading photos or text, or a completely individual design. But it’s not just the online store with a design and shipping tool that comes from Pflügl’s team. The company was also actively involved in the development of the inkjet printing solution, the primer and the printing software, for example in the precise printing of the typical taper – the neck – of the can. Building on this know-how, Design’n Drink is on its way to industrial production. Initial talks are already underway with a Swiss machine manufacturer for even more powerful printing presses.
All resources in one platform
But even in the supposedly sophisticated world of photo products, there is still room for new approaches. Siegfried Trinker proved this with his FotoSystem solution – a seamless full-service platform for product personalization, but above all for the simple design of photo books. And simple in this case means really simple: because thanks to Cloud 4.0 and a range of innovative tools, users of the FotoSystem solution can not only edit and share, but also share their work with others and trigger an order without having to change the device they are using. In addition, he said, FotoSystem is particularly powerful and highly automated with the help of intelligent algorithms, which Trinker immediately described using a record-breaking customer. During the test phase before Christmas, this customer uploaded around 10,000 images and used them to create 3,000 pages in 20 photo books – all within two days. Why did it work so quickly? “Because all resources are bundled in one platform. A photo exists exactly once with us. We have no limits, and the scaling is endless,” says Siegfried Trinker. No wonder he wasn’t just talking about an editor, but a turnkey system that covers everything from the website to production.
Where “copy and paste” doesn’t work
At the end of the Insight Pitches, Miki Rubin, founder and CEO of Imprimu, explained that business models cannot be so easily transferred to other markets. The start-up from Panama is working on a print-on-demand dropshipping network for Latin America and is confronted with very different conditions there than in Europe. Much of the work is mobile-based, since the cell phone is often the only “computer,” logistics are very complicated, as addresses are virtually non-existent in some areas – and there is hardly any competition in the online print sector, both in the B2C segment and on B2B platforms. At the same time, the potential of the continent is huge, with more than 664 million inhabitants in 20 countries. The volume of the extremely fragmented print market is estimated at $70 billion, and according to Bloomberg, the fastest-growing regional e-commerce markets are located here. But, according to Miki Rubin, “The opportunities are clear, the only question is how to reach the potential customer without a ‘copy-and-paste strategy.'” With his Imprimu network and a three-pronged approach based on B2C, B2B, and B2B2C that works via “headless API,” he wants to successfully establish Online print in Latin America – and do so specifically according to local needs.