Hallmark spends some $60 million a year on designs for its greeting cards, and yet - with apologies to those artists - it can still be quite a challenge to find the just the right card. Frankly, a lot of cards are ugly. They're tacky. They're sappy.
So Y Combinator alum Chirply is taking on the greeting card industry by crowdsourcing stationery designs. Chirply had its soft launch a few weeks ago, soliciting designs and voting, and the startup is now ready to open its doors to the retail business.
Crowdsourcing has become a popular alternative to the pre-packaged imagery that appears on clothing, with companies like Threadless offering crowdsourced designs on t-shirts and clothing. Chirply works in a similar fashion: designers submit their images. Visitors to the site get to vote on submissions. And the most popular designs become products for sale.
Chirply's greeting card cost $4 (with shipping included in the U.S.) and users can buy any 10 designs in a mix-and-match pack for $25. The cards are all 100% recucled, 100% post-consumer waste. In addition to greeting cards, Chirply also offers the designs printed on notebooks and on wrapping paper.
This is great news for consumers (because, come on, we are socially obligated to buy greeting cards and we spend an inordinate amount of time sighing at the selection). But more importantly, Chirply is great news for designers.
Co-founders Gagan and Neel Palrecha care a lot about the design community, and they want to insure not only that the Chirply has beautiful designs for consumers to vote on and purchase, but that designers can participate in a site that showcases their work and compensates them fairly. Chirply doesn't ask designers to submit their original files, for example, just composites (until their submissions are voted on to be printed, of course). And Chirply pays artists a flat fee ($300) up front when their designs are selected, in addition to paying royalties based on sales.
Since Chirply's soft launch, this approach does seem to be working, as the startup has attracted some high quality submissions. That has piqued visitors interest, who on average cast about 30 votes, often over multiple sessions. The top cards on the sites have received well over 500 votes, in just under 5 weeks.
In addition to opening its retail store today, Chirply is announcing a round of funding, from a lost list of investors including Keith Rabois, Dave McClure, Mitch Kapor, Charles River Ventures, and others.
An added bonus: ReadWriteWeb readers can get 30% off their orders if they use the code "RWW" during checkout.