Each week leading up to the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) finals on June 5th, where the runner-up will be decided via live online public vote at SB '13, we will feature an article on one of our SBIO semi-finalists. This week, meet the SBIO Public Vote Semi-finalist winner, PrintEco.
Frustrated at how much paper was being wasted in computer labs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but too time-strapped on his way to class to reformat his documents, Arpan Shah decided to turn this frustration into an innovative business idea. He wanted to determine a way of reducing unnecessary printed content, such as unwanted photos and advertisements, but without the need for much reformatting. The goal? Save paper, but with the least amount of time and effort.
After doing some research, he discovered that almost one out of five printed pages were discarded. He also noticed a gap in the market for a solution. With the help of a business competition at the University of Illinois, Shah was able to refine his initial idea into PrintEco.
Currently implemented as a plug-in in commonly used applications such as Microsoft Office, and browsers such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, PrintEco software automatically optimizes the content of your documents to fit on a smaller number of pages. This allows the consumer to reduce printing costs, and save paper.
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Like most start-ups, CEO Shah and his co-founder Tom Patterson experienced the familiar growing pains that come with an entrepreneurial venture. Their biggest challenges were the technical issues that arose as they attempted to translate their vision into a tangible product, and most importantly, convincing investors to part with their money to get PrintEco off the ground.
Almost three years later, PrintEco has definitely made progress. With a team of four full-time employees and a few part-time staff members, PrintEco has acquired some key partnerships, including investors and participating universities, and a few accolades on the way.
While the market for print optimization is still nascent, PrintEco has a few competitors, including GreenPrint and Adobe’s Lean Print. However, the PrintEco team maintains that their competitive advantage is the product’s user-friendly interface and one-click process. They pride themselves on the usability and practicality of PrintEco, particularly its analytics feature, which allows consumers to measure their savings in pages, dollars, trees and pounds of carbon dioxide. They plan to generate revenue through a subscription model — on a per user per year basis — as well as small ads placed throughout the free version. PrintEco is very particular about its advertisers and aims to focus on companies where sustainability is a core tenet. The team has has already signed on two companies that match their criteria.
So what’s next for PrintEco? The Chicago-based team has some ambitious goals in mind, and they are hoping that pitching at SBIO 2013 will help in realizing them. Shah says that their objective is to save one billion pages by 2020, and to reach at least 100,000 total users within the next couple of years. They entered the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open because they see the SB community as the perfect opportunity to showcase their innovative way of saving paper — and a few dollars.
The free version of PrintEco is available for download on its website, as well as its two subscription models that targets small businesses and the enterprise market.
Visit PrintEco to learn how to save paper and check out their demo video.