Printi’s Florian Hagenbuch: “Our principal objective is to automate ordering”

Brazilian company Printi launched Tuesday, setting out to take on the offline competition with its online platform. Based on the Web2Print market concept, Printi offers over 6,000 products and is backed by investments by a number of major players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Printi co-founder and CEO Florian Hagenbuch delved into the ins and outs of the company with us, giving us his perspective on the printing niche in the Brazilian market and idea of where Printi will be headed next.

Emily Stewart: The printing industry is one that has generally remained offline. Why have you chosen to make a go at it online? What are the advantages of doing so? What are the complexities involved?

Florian Hagenbuch: The general tendency across all industries is online migration, and the printing industry is one of the few that hasn’t yet completed that migration. In the United States, many have already made the transition, it isn’t anything new.

The online channel has several advantages, such as speed and comfort, which can be applied to the graphics sector. One of the principal complexities of our work is the question of pricing products online, considering the variables involved: size, color, number of impressions, type of paper, etc. The biggest challenge has been the translation of prices online. Another important issue is the weight of the orders. When an order reaches 5,000 products, its weight can hit thousands of pounds, and delivery becomes a complicated feat. Our principal objective is to automate ordering, foregoing human interference.

ES: While Brazil is definitely a growing marketplace, it also poses a number of challenges – shipping logistics, set-up costs, bureaucracy, consumers who remain somewhat reluctant about purchasing online. How are you dealing with these issues? Given the challenges involved, why have you chosen Brazil regardless?

FH: Logistics is the issue that is easiest to tackle as we have several alternatives with e-commerce sites specialized in the segment. The diversification of suppliers has also helped us to avoid big problems.

Having grown up in Brazil, I have been able to anticipate many of the obstacles towards creating a corporation in the country. I was already familiar with the bureaucracy involved in opening a company here, and we were able to get through everything in about a month – something that foreign entrepreneurs often tell us takes nine months.

Brazil still isn’t accustomed to e-commerce. Consumers remain reluctant to purchase online, and we are focused on providing them with security in doing so. We are concentrated on demonstrating that the benefits of buying online outweigh the risks. When we tell customers that they can get a quote in five minutes, they understand the potential of the business and tend to buy more. Our entrepreneurial mission is to contribute to society.

ES: You launched with an important seed round of funding. How necessary do you think the funding has been for the company? Do you think you would have been able to go it alone? When will you seek more investments?

FH: As we are principally a B2B company, investment has been necessary to demonstrate credibility to clients. Moreover, our employees don’t have a startup background, and this gives clients a certain amount of tranquility and assurance as well. We still don’t know when we’ll look for more investments, but with the natural evolution of the business, we will seek individuals who are more relevant in the investment market. This is necessary for growing and improving our business.

ES: What kind of reaction did you receive to your launch? What are your expectations here on out?

FH: The reaction was very, very positive. Prior to launch, we were concerned that the server wouldn’t be able to support the amount of hits, but fortunately, the system ran normally. The calculations tool, which is an essential feature of Printi, worked correctly as well.

We prefer not to speak concretely about our expectations for right now. What I can say, however, is that the graphics market is worth billions of dollars, with the sector’s production topping US$ 15 billion in 2011. This is the scenario in which we’re launching Printi.

ES: Do you have plans to move beyond Brazil? How do you see Printi evolving technologically?

FH: For the time being, we’re focused on the Brazilian market. We’re all about automation, automation, automation. Much of the website is automated, such as the calculation process. Our principal goal is to automate everything in order to perfect customer experience, from order to delivery.

The Printi team has certainly chosen a challenging market, in terms of both niche and location. What is most exceptional about them, however, is their clear understanding of exactly that.