HubCast, an Amazon.com for Commercial Print Jobs, Takes a Traditional Process to the Cloud

8/31/10Follow @xconomy

It’s no surprise that many traditionally brick-and-mortar industries and activities are being improved or even replaced by Internet technologies. Wakefield, MA-based HubCast is looking to do the same thing for commercial printing, which is far more complex than the few clicks required for printing an essay off of a personal computer, say.

Traditionally, commercial printing has been a “very manual, antiquated process,” says HubCast founder and CEO Toby LaVigne, whose family has been in the printing business for four generations. He says that for companies looking to put out marketing materials—from catalogues to brochures to posters—working with traditional printers bears some similarities to serving as the general contractor on a kitchen remodeling job: lots of phone tag, voicemails, and ad hoc instructions. And it all has to be done during the course of workdays. Plus, if your printer is in one city and you wanted your material in another, you’d just have to ship it.

So LaVigne started HubCast to make printing commercial material far more akin to printing personal documents from your desktop. The startup got off the ground in 2007, with $8.1 million in Series A funding, from Commonwealth Capital Partners and Ascent Venture Partners. Earlier this year it rolled out a professional version, designed to give companies more printing inventory and preferred pricing from printers.

“The HubCast experience feels a lot more like having an Amazon account,” says LaVigne.

Here’s how it works: Companies can handle all their commercial print jobs through their online HubCast accounts, in much the same way that customers would shop in other forms of e-commerce. HubCast helps print “whatever companies use to communicate with customers for sales and marketing,” LaVigne says.

The HubCast service enables companies to store and manage the files they eventually want to send to the printers in the Internet cloud. They can dictate all the printing specifications via an online interface that would have traditionally been handled via multiple phone calls, and it doesn’t have to be within normal business hours. Printing customers can choose same-day, next-day, or five-day delivery for their products.

“You can literally place an order any time, day or night, from anywhere to anywhere,” LaVigne says.

Anywhere within the HubCast printer network, that is. LaVigne says HubCast has identified the top 135 cities by per-capita GDP across the globe to determine where the bulk of commercial activity happens, and is adding printshops in those areas as part of the HubCast network to take orders. For example, if you’re a Boston company that needs … Next Page »

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