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Ink raises $ 7 million to make printing on college campuses less painful

Ink, a Nebraska-based start-up specializing in the modernization of campus printing, raised $ 7 million from VTF Capital, SQN Venture Partners, Invest Nebraska and NE Angeles. This brings the total funding to $ 15 million, with the participation of Warner Brothers advisors Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Greg Silverman.

If you are a student or a recent graduate, you already understand how frustrating it is to print on campus. But for everyone, here is a little explanatory:

Most colleges allow students to print by deploying giant printers at the corporate level (as in a law firm) and linking them to a terminal adjacent or to a computer lab where a student logs in, pays and selects his print job. But it is often very difficult to get a document from the laptop to this terminal. Students usually end up having to send the document via email, use a flash drive or even download it from the printer's website. If a school is "high-tech", there may be a wireless solution that involves downloading a half-cooked printer driver that works about 50% of the time.

Why is the process so bad? First of all, the campus usually uses software supposed to work with thousands of different types of printers – and this quest for compatibility usually results in very high error percentages. Another reason – the user interface is almost always horrible, since the print management software was probably built ten years ago for a law firm or office, and was reorganized randomly for a campus environment.

It is here that both products Ink intervene. The first, SmartStation, is a giant touch screen that connects only to HP printers (the startup has a partnership with them), which means that software error rates There is also a product called inkTouch that works with them. existing printers, but still provides the cloud services available on the SmartStation.

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For printing, students tap or swipe their campus identity card to authenticate, then access their Dropbox or Google Drive account or a set of other cloud services to select a document to print. And they only need to connect to these services once, because Ink will create a keychain that is on the student campus identity card to automatically connect them to these services the next time they will want to print.

There are some other cool features: you can scan a document and make it appear on the giant touch screen where you can sign it with your finger and send it directly via email to a recipient , or edit and print photos. And students can also wirelessly use AirPrint if they run a new version of iOS or MacOS, which is a novel convenience in the scale-up of the printer. business.

Essentially, the startup is trying to take the only ~ 10 minutes printing process on campus (if you've tried it recently, you know it's not an exaggeration) and to have it happen in a minute.

Ink has two pricing models: it will deploy free machines and charge $ 0.09 per page to students, or rent the machines to the school and let them manage students' payment options. They will be in about 30 schools by the end of the year, including Stanford, UCLA, SUNY and more.

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