CafePress Buys Imagekind: Is This A Win-Win or A Lose-Lose?

by Dan in Misc > Art Opinion

Published on Jul. 14th 2008


Ah Imagekind. . . you sold out. But I’m not disappointed—far from it. I think now you’ve got a chance to really take off (fingers crossed). And that 15-20 million selling price was obviously a good deal for the founders. . .

If you haven’t heard yet, Imagekind (an on-demand fine art printing company) was recently bought by CafePress (an on-demand t-shirt, mug, and novelty printing company) for a large chunk of change.

Imagekind was founded in September of 2006, right about the same time I started EmptyEasel, so I’ve been watching their progress from the very beginning. At first I was hopefully optimistic, then excited, then just so-so. . . and I’m not the only one.

Check out Katherine Tyrrell’s take on the Imagekind/CafePress deal and you’ll get a feel for her waning enthusiasm as well.

But now after being bought by CafePress, a whole new world of opportunity is opening for Imagekind and its artists. (As you can see, I’m back to being hopefully optimistic.)

One benefit to this deal is that CafePress is a functioning online business and has been for almost a decadeNOT a relatively new startup like Imagekind which just took 2.6 million in investment dollars a year ago.

Whether Imagekind is even profitable on its own at this point, nobody’s saying. . . but latching onto a profitable company like CafePress is sure to help out.

What I hope I DON’T see is CafePress simply consuming Imagekind. In my opinion, letting both companies grow somewhat separately could still be the best solution. It would allow better branding of the high-quality stuff on Imagekind, better targeting of customers for both companies, and it seems like a simpler process overall.

I’d even like to suggest to CafePress that they turn Imagekind into their own juried fine art website, and raise the quality of the work on Imagekind even more. I know, I know, that won’t be popular among some artists, but with two websites and two brands to work with, it certainly makes sense from a business perspective.

Ultimately, this acquisition could be a win-win for both Imagekind and CafePress.

The problems I’ve seen with Imagekind have been mostly functional (less relevant search results, for example) while the problem with CafePress is the “information overload” from millions of members selling 30 different products at once.

But if the CafePress team helps Imagekind with a new search tool, and Imagekind gives CafePress a boost in the fine art department, both sides will be much better off than before.

So if I didn’t exactly say it already, congratulations to both Imagekind and CafePress. You’ve got a good thing going, and I sincerely hope you can make it work.

For more details, check out Imagekind’s announcements here and here or read CafePress’s blog post about the purchase.

By the way, I do want to mention that I’m a bit disappointed that Google didn’t join in the bidding war for Imagekind. I’ve always wished that someday there’d be a Google Art in addition to Google Maps, Books, News, etc, and I think that Imagekind would have been a great jumping off platform.

On the other hand, I guess Google could still go for RedBubble. . . : )

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