Lob: Building the Web’s Print API Layer

Lob LogoVeteran VCs will often recall their first venture investment with a sense of fondness, and I will likely be no exception.  After being named a Venture Partner at Polaris in April of this year, I’m thrilled to announce the firm’s Series A  investment in Lob – the web’s print API layer. Polaris is leading Lob’s $7M round with a great group of co-investors including Rob Hayes at FRC and Mike Maples of Floodgate and I’m joining the company’s board of directors.

Even if this wasn’t my inaugural deal at Polaris, I would still be extremely excited about this company.  I first met Lob’s founders, Harry and Leore, in the fall of 2013. They had just completed Y-Combinator and were raising their seed round.  I had just sold my company, Spindle, to Twitter and was looking to make angel investments. In our first phone call, I knew I liked the team and wanted to engage further with them. Leore and Harry were hyper focused on validating their market, hiring against a plan, and building a beachhead. I invested in Lob’s seed round, as did Polaris and an amazing set of other angel investors.

It’s a cliché, but entrepreneurship is about teams. Everyone knows a team needs to be functionally complete, but I have come to appreciate that teams are about individual relationships. As an investor, not only did I assess if Harry and Leore could carry Lob forward, but I also assessed whether  I would want to join the effort and work with them for years to come to build something really important.

Harry and Leore pulled me into their company. As I learned more about them, I became compelled to work with them. Many entrepreneurs underestimate how important it is to bond with a prospective investor and are hurt when they treat a Series A transactionally. Harry and Leore didn’t make this mistake. They focused on enhancing their team through this financing. Early on, they identified their core challenges and sought help from their angel investors. This transparency was an instant draw to the company as its impossible to help people who don’t seek it. It also gave me great exposure to the technology and business model , which helped me appreciate how robust and scalable their solution is. Their maturity and rigor in gathering the right people to support their vision was extremely impressive. I’ve taken away  a great deal from Leore and Harry already and am honored to join them for the journey ahead.

At Polaris, in addition to finding teams we want to work with, we seek out companies that we can contribute to in meaningful ways. With over 40 SaaS companies in our portfolio, we believe we can help Lob package software on top of its printing capabilities. We also focus on innovative business models that have the potential to disrupt inefficient processes.  With Recurly, Bitium and other fast growing API providers in our portfolio, we’re confident we can help Lob explore new and innovative ways of delivering value. And I’m thrilled to marshal my colleagues’ experiences, specifically Dave Barrett and Gary Swart, as we help Lob scale its sales and marketing efforts to realize the company’s enormous potential.

Print is an entirely untapped opportunity for software developers. Today’s applications can spread globally and scale wildly in short order. To leverage print, developers need a highly scalable solution that works everywhere. By offering a developer friendly, pay-as-you-go service, Lob has helped developers realize print is an important and easily achievable part of their application or service. With Lob, it is now trivial for developers to blanket a zip code; print and mail checks, documents, postcards, and other items; and integrate trigger based documents into their service.

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When I spoke to  Lob’s customers, it became quickly clear that most of them had been waiting for Lob. They knew print could be a transformative addition to their product, but never tackled it. Developers are simply too busy and ill-equipped to find vendors, negotiate contracts, guarantee order volumes, process and batch jobs, source global availability, and ensure quality. But Lob eliminates all of this needless complexity and hassle.  As is true for most API solutions, many of their customers registered for Lob, experimented with its APIs, and deployed new Lob-enabled capabilities without ever having to speak to the company. These developers have been able to seamlessly build scenarios on top of Lob that are more diverse than I imagined. And they are  thrilled with the results so far.

Developers will do amazing things with a powerful API. Through Lob, I believe that print is about to become a major component within the software ecosystem.  I couldn’t be happier to help lead the charge alongside such an amazing set of founders.



Categories: Polaris, Technology

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