Chatbooks raises $11.5 million to put photo printing on autopilot

Photo-printing services abound online, from dotcom-era brands like Shutterfly to services launched through the years by Apple, Amazon, Costco and Walgreens. Startups keep cropping up, too no surprise given the number of photos people take and share these days, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and social media.Now, one photo-printing startup called Chatbookshas raised $11.5 million in new venture funding to pull ahead of the pack. The round was led by Aries Capital Partners, and brings Chatbooks total equity funding to $20 million.

Photo-printing competitors like Blurb, Mpix, Snapfish, Picaboo, Sincerely andGroovebook promise users design tools, premium papers and the ability to send printed photos to loved ones by post. But Chatbooks has focused on taking the work out of designing a nice photo album, holiday cards or other printed matter. Their app lets users create custom photo albumsfrom the pictures theyve already posted to Instagram, Facebook, Google Photos or just stored in albums in their Camera Roll.

Users can opt for a one-off print or subscription service that automatically prints their favorite or most-liked photos over a given period in soft or hardcover albums. Over time, Chatbooks has expanded its offering from just albums to include prints and holiday cards. The startup works in partnership with stationers like Rifle Paper Co. to offer some premium products and classic designs.

Chatbooks photo albums.

Married co-founders of Chatbooks Nate and Vanessa Quigley intend to use the capital to develop new products and expand within the U.S. and international markets, they said. The couple was inspired to create Chatbooks when Vanessa Quigley found herself spending entirely too much time picking through digital photos of their seven children to print for various albums or holiday cards.

CEO Nate Quigley said, Vanessas original insight was that theres something about holding a picture in your handsSitting there looking at a photo album with no notifications, no screen light its likewhatever you captured hasbeen made more importantbecause its on a page. But it has to be beyond easy to make that happen or else youre just not going to do it. We say our appwas built to help people hold on to what matters most.’

Because videos and GIFs have become as easy to createand share as photos, Chatbooks plans touse some of its new round of funding to developproducts that help users turntheir videos into physical assets. What form that will take, exactly, he didnt specify. Based in Provo, Utah, the company employs about 40 full-time workers today and will also use some of its funding for hiring as-needed labor.

Aries Capital Partners investor Andy Dent tells TechCrunch his firm doesnt usually back consumer tech. It made an exception for Chatbooks because of the apps broad appeal. He said, Whether it is grandparents, parents or young college students, everyone takes photos these days.But wetake so many photos, we almost cantenjoy them like we did when we had to take them to the store and develop these rolls offilm. Chatbooks brings back that enjoyment without charging users an arm and a leg.

He expects Chatbooks to maintain its focus on a dead simple user experience, and affordable but high-quality products. He lauded Chatbooks for reeling in users who had never tried photo-printing services before. Almost half of the companys users fit that description, Quigley confirmed.

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