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The Disruptive Adventure 3: One Adventure Leads to Another!

This is the final part of The Disruptive Adventure, where we see that the whole adventure led to something good, even though it didn’t go as initially planned. This post makes more sense if you have read part1 and part2 first.

From the beginning we had all the time planned to sell photo books in PiX’n’PaLs. At this point we had built the software needed to setup a store selling customized photo products. Additionally, we had sold the software to customers, who had all the capabilities to print photo books and other products. Customers of StoreFront were more than happy to handle our production. This was also technically easy for us. All we had to do was transfer our own orders to our production partner’s account. We could charge our end users whatever we wanted for their products and then pay the production partner an agreed amount.

We thought that others would also be interested in such a feature for their website, that made it possible to sell print products from all their pictures. Therefore, we decided to build something more generic, that everyone else could use as well. The new service was called PiX’n’PaLs PhotoProducts, which helped publishers monetize their website by selling print products from images. We took care of payment, shipping and everything else. The publisher got paid a 20% commission.

The service had two main features:

  1. A publisher could add our code snippet to their website, making it possible for users to buy print products directly from an image. Clicking on the buy link opened a small shop, where the user could select which photo product to order from the image and use basic image editing tools, such as cropping, rotating and resizing the image.
  2. Integrate our whole e-commerce solution to their website. When a user ordered print products, they had all the photos immediately available. This was practical in PiX’n’PaLs, where users had access to all their pictures and their friends’ pictures from the shared events. The events appeared as directories in the shop.

PiX'n'PaLs PhotoProducts feature allowed any website owner to sell photo products from an image. It opened a box from which the user could select which product the image was to be printed on.

We launched with one of the biggest Finnish websites, Riemurasia, which enabled this feature for all its photos. The launch looked really promising and we immediately got lots of orders. Unfortunately our luck ended pretty soon when our feature had to be limited to only certain photos, due to potential copyright issues. Later it also turned out to be so that many orders got canceled, so in the long run it wasn’t that easy money after all. We would have needed many more big websites and better products with higher margins. Finland was definitely too small.

Launching this globally would have required lots of funding in order to get production and logistics to work well internationally. Getting deals with big international companies was hard and plugging into their production pipeline turned out to be technically impossible, since they did not have any APIs. It’s hard to tell whether this would have worked, since we were running out of money and had to leave it there. Potential investors were not too crazy about investing in a declining market either. The numbers did not fully work out.

The safe way to fail for many entrepreneurs is to start doing consultancy. This is what we did. We started doing projects for others to get some cash quickly. This seemed more comfortable after a long adventure with very high risks, so we kept doing it for full time until we joined one of our customers (Kiosked) as partners. We had already built the first version of their software and had all knowledge to take it forward from there. Today I am working there as the Chief Technology Officer and living really exciting times now that the company is growing rapidly.

PiX’n’PaLs is still running and used regularly by a lot of users and PiX’n’PaLs StoreFront is still used by two print-labs. These products are not developed further anymore. Some maintenance work is done every now and then to keep paying customers happy. If we would want to continue one day, we would have to update the UI and graphics completely, since they were optimized for IE6 and other ancient browsers. We have shut down the PhotoProducts and our own store (EasyKuva) which was one service built on the PhotoProducts API.

Well, you probably wonder: was it worth it? Absolutely! I don’t regret anything. The things I experienced and learned could not have come from any normal nine-to-five job. And as it turned out to be, one adventure led to another.