Pressplane Breaks Out Of Stealth Mode With A New Name (Inkd) And A Solid Product

Pressplane, they very stealth Seattle startup we covered when they raised $1.7 million from Second Avenue Partners along with a slew of hot-shot individual angel investors exactly 6 months ago, is turning the lights on today with a different brand name and a seemingly strong offering for businesses. The new name is Inkd, and the service will be officially announced this morning (the kick-off blog post was published last Friday).

So we already knew Curious Office, the incubator behind Pressplane / Inkd, was working on a service geared towards businesses yet centered around a user-generated community, which is no surprise given their previous success applying that same strategy building Imagekind, an online marketplace for art (acquired by Cafepress for $15-$20 million in cash and stock in July 2008) and seeding Shelfari, a community for book lovers (acquired by Amazon in August 2008). We also found out early that Curious Office was betting on something to do with dead trees, and both have checked out.

Inkd is essentially a buy and sell marketplace for printed materials (think brochures, business cards, flyers, envelopes, etc.) where business owners can cherry pick original templates made by professional designers. Each creative is unique and gets screened by the Inkd team before ending up in the marketplace. If a business owner or marketer doesn’t find what they’re looking for, they can put out a request to Inkd (not directly to designers) and the startup will take it from there. Creatives who submit material to the design collection are paid a 20% percent royalty fee on the total retail sale for each transaction that ensues, but in the future Inkd plans to debut an ‘exclusive’ membership with higher commission fees.

Inkd print templates (of which 800 are already present) are made available for immediate download in a wide variety of file formats and include page layout files, along with photos and artwork. The files are fully editable and can be customized to suit any project. You can get some free samples from the Inkd website (hover over the ‘Learn’ tab) to see how they come out.

What Curious Office has done is apply a well thought-out business model that has already proven its value in other fields (iStockphoto for stock images and Logoworks for logos spring to mind) to an industry that’s dying for some innovation and execute it extremely well. The advantages for business in terms of cost and time saving are clear, the lay-out and copy of the Inkd website are great, pricing seems reasonable and there are some very smart and accomplished people involved with this company. I’m having trouble finding competitors with an equally strong offering too, although BrandDoozie may come closest.

That said, Inkd’s biggest challenges will be attracting enough professional designers to keep the flow going (and keep them coming back for more), and marketing its services to the plethora of business owners who could benefit from the marketplace but may not realize services like this exist at all or are stuck to the traditional model of working with communication agencies and freelance graphic designers.

Yet somehow, I think we’ve got a winner on our hands, and it’s great to see the Seattle startup and investment ecoystem at work.