Tuesday, September 25, 2012

GeekWire: A yearbook for the Facebook generation: Rich Barton, Mike McCue back TreeRing


A yearbook for the Facebook generation: Rich Barton, Mike McCue back TreeRing

By John Cook
Call it a yearbook for the Facebook generation.TreeRing, a San Mateo, California startup, has landed $3.6 million from some heavy hitters in the tech industry to radically upend the traditional yearbook industry.
Among the backers of the company are Zillow co-founder Rich Barton; Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and Seattle area venture capital firms Second Avenue Partners (Mike Slade) and Cedar Grove Investments (Tom Hughes).
TreeRing’s proposition is pretty simple. The company allows yearbooks to be built online through one’s online social network and printed on demand with personalized pages for each student. More than 1,200 schools have already signed on to the program, with 125,000 yearbooks printed to date.
Prices are comparable to traditional yearbooks. For example, an 80-page hardcover yearbook with two custom pages for the student costs $28.94. There are no minimum orders or commitments for schools, meaning that schools don’t get stuck with a lot of leftover inventory.
“TreeRing has ingeniously combined the new capabilities of print, social, and design technologies. Not only does this change the American yearbook forever, but this will change how students capture their memories and remember their youth in years to come,” said Flipboard CEO Mike McCue.
The idea is interesting in part because TreeRing isn’t looking to eliminate the physical yearbook altogether, but rather use technologies to make it better.

Press Release: Social Yearbook Company, TreeRing, Raises $3.6 Million in Series A Funding


Social Yearbook Company, TreeRing, Raises $3.6 Million in Series A Funding
With 3.3 Million Photos Shared and 1,200 customers and growing, TreeRing is changing the way students capture and share their memories.

San Mateo, CA, September 25, 2012 – TreeRing, the world’s first social yearbook company, today announced it has closed a $3.6 million investment led by their angel funder Mike McCue (CEO of Flipboard), Second Ave Partners and Cedar Grove Investments.  Additionally, several angel investors participated in the round, most notably the Expedia and Zillow Founder, Rich Barton.

As another school year starts and students set out to create another year of memories, one thing is clear: traditional yearbooks are a thing of the past. Since launching in 2010, schools have been changing the way they are capturing their memories.  TreeRing’s new model allows yearbooks to be built online through their online social network and printed on demand with personalized pages for each student.  The company now has over 1,200 schools across 49 states and Canada.  Additionally, TreeRing has printed more than 125,000 yearbooks, and users are sharing more than 3.3M photos.

With this funding, TreeRing will continue to expand its team and grow its marketing across the country.  TreeRing has recently expanded its platform to allow students, parents, and teachers to not only share photos and page content with each other, but students can also sign one another’s yearbooks, share memories, and send each other graphic based messages, which TreeRing has dubbed “book bling.”

“TreeRing has ingeniously combined the new capabilities of print, social, and design technologies.  Not only does this change the American yearbook forever, but this will change how students capture their memories and remember their youth in years to come,” said Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard.

“We’ve brought the $5 billion custom memory book industry to the $2 billion yearbook industry and glued them together with the power of online social networks. Most importantly we are allowing kids to capture and share their memories in a much more meaningful way and saving schools money while doing it,” according to TreeRing CEO and Co-Founder Aaron Greco.   

TreeRing also has overturned the traditional pricing model of the yearbook industry, which usually charges schools advance deposits, makes them guarantee a certain number of sales, and puts schools in the business of collecting payment from families.  TreeRing offers its tool at zero cost to schools, and families purchase books directly online, taking schools out of the middleman role and ensuring that no one has to juggle excess yearbook inventory at the end of the school year.  That saves schools time, space, as well as paper waste. 

Through a partnership with the nonprofit organization, Trees for the Future, TreeRing also plants a tree for each yearbook that is purchased.  And schools have the option of tacking a fundraiser premium onto their yearbook price, allowing them to raise a couple of dollars per book purchased without any additional work, serving as an easy and effective fundraising tool at a time when schools are increasingly crunched for funding.  This past year alone TreeRing schools raised over $130K.