Extracted from an October 24, 2005 posting by Chris Shipley on Demo.com
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ZoomAlbum Operates Virtually
Chris Shipley
October 24, 2005

A funny thing happened on the way to pick up a pizza the other night. I ran into Doug Rowan, who I’d first met when he was CEO of Corbis, the massive digital image library. Doug is now the CEO of ZoomAlbum, a very clever printing product for digital pictures.

If, like me, you’ve found that by the time you’ve found a photo stored on your mobile phone the moment for sharing has passed, then you’ll like ZoomAlbum. This simple package provides everything you need to create a three-inch square photo album that easily slips into a pocket or purse.

The ZoomAlbum software helps you drag and drop photos onto a template that arranges them for printing onto the special glossy photo paper provided in the ZoomAlbum kit. Each sheet – and thus each album – holds 12 images. Once printed, clear instructions guide you in how to fold the paper and adhere the end pages to the provided cover.

Each kit contains paper and album covers for three mini-photo albums, a bargain at $19.99 at craft retailer Michael’s, the current exclusive retailer for ZoomAlbum. The kits cost $24.95 when purchased through the Web site.

Despite advances in digital photo frames, old-fashioned prints still trump digital displays. ZoomAlbum is a clever and creative way to transform gigabytes of digital images into albums that can be shared easily.

Certainly, the charm of this product is worth noting in this column. But it’s important to add that there is a very clever business strategy behind the company, as well. Rowan is building ZoomAlbum on a staff of about four people working in a virtual organization. He’s outsourced much of the operation, including the manufacturing of the product. And he doesn’t flip the switch on manufacturing until he gets the order, so he doesn't have to worry about excess inventory. Rowan claims a very attractive gross margin on the product and projects profitability in the near term.

Rowan was smart to bypass traditional computer stores as the first retail partners, and strike the deal with Micheal’s stores. By doing so, he reaches the demographic – women – who are the photo archivists of their families, and who – generally speaking – are less enchanted huddling around a laptop or other electronic device to show off the antics of their children.

The upcoming holiday season will deliver the verdict on this business. Rowan’s confident in the outcome, so much so that he has several follow-on products in the works. Our bet: this simple, elegant business is a blockbuster.