CanvasPop dips into first VC, taking $3.3M for growth and product dev

Print service CanvasPop has been making money inking photos onto all sorts of substrates, from canvas to cushions, for years. But the largely boostrapped, Canada-based, 2009-founded company has just announced its first VC round — taking in $3.3M.

The funding (call it a seed I guess?) is led by Celtic House Venture Partners and BDC’s Growth & Transition Capital group, a division of BDC. Also on board: Angel investors including (Shopify founder) Tobi Lutke and Cody Fauser, and Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard L’Abbé.

While largely bootstrapped, CanvasPop has also taken rounds of debt and mezzanine financing (from BDC) over the years. It reports having more than 450,000 customers at this stage. So why the late-stage urge for an investor fuel injection?

Co-founder Adrian Salamunovic says it wants to focus on growth and innovation in what he couches as a “highly fragmented” space that hasn’t seen a whole lot of innovation.

“We’re using the money to expand into a new product category that we will be announcing soon,” he tells TechCrunch. “It will be combing mobile, photos, AI/ML (of course) and physical output (we’re still a printing company after all).”

He won’t be drawn further on the new product plan. So we can but speculate what kind of ‘tintovation’ he’s thinking will go down well with the photo-printing masses. (Maybe custom temporary tattoos? Or edible face-inked birthday cakes? Or — wildcard option — a future family photo feature that uses AI to visually age your loved ones so you can have advanced fun framing what everyone will look like in 2049… )

After name-checking a long list of competitors also playing in the piecemeal photo-printing space — such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, Framebridge, Circle Graphics,, Mixbook, Vistaprint, Photobox, and Picanova — Salamunovic specifies that M&A is also forming part of CanvasPop’s expansion plans. So brace yourself for a little niche market consolidation too.