Ink Labs, a Silicon Valley company that provides smart printing solutions for college campuses, has announced the relocation of their corporate headquarters to FUSE Coworking in Lincoln, Nebraska. Company representatives were joined by Governor Pete Ricketts, Lincoln Chamber President Wendy Birdsall, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chief Information Officer Mark Askren for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the UNL campus Wednesday afternoon.
“Lincoln was the most attractive choice,” said CEO Jonathon Manzi. “We will be part of a burgeoning startup and innovation culture.”
Manzi also announced the closing of $6.65 million in seed round funding. A Nebraska investors syndicate led by Invest Nebraska participated in the round, including Nelnet, Sipidan Capital, Speedway and the Nebraska Angels.
“We’re deeply committed to growing Nebraska’s economy by assisting entrepreneurs and cultivating unique startups with innovative ideas,” said Dan Hoffman, CEO of Invest Nebraska, in a news release. “We believe the Ink team has significant potential to contribute to the Silicon Prairie and effectively implement big ideas that have a positive impact for Nebraska students and residents.”
Ink’s Smart Station kiosk provides all the features of traditional printer/scanner/copiers, and is designed to leverage the explosion of mobile devices used by college students.
“Today’s student comes to college with an average of seven unique smart devices,” Manzi said. “That’s a trend we’re looking to support. It’s the Internet of Things, connected devices that we can integrate with.”
Like many startups, the idea originated with a personal pain point for Manzi during his time as a student at Stanford.
“I’d have to wake up 20-30 minutes early, go to a computer lab at the library, login and download a document from Google drive, transfer it to a usb drive, take it to a printer somewhere else on campus, log in again, plug in the USB drive and release the job,” Manzi said. “Now, the Google drive account is linked to a device, and you can download and print in 30 seconds or less.”
The company was started in April 2014. The link with UNL came about through a library trade show a year later.
“The Dean of the library at UNL really liked the product,” Manzi said. “They had issued an RFP for new printers and we were invited to submit a proposal.”
In what can be described as an act of corporate innovation by the university, UNL “took the bet” and awarded the contract to Ink – but with a stipulation.
“We deployed in the fall of 2015 on a pilot basis until January 2016, going head-to-head with the previous print solution,” Manzi said. “It provided a remarkable case study. Our solution doubled the amount of printing, tripled the amount of engagement and jammed six times less.”
With UNL as the first customer, Ink has rapidly expanded its marked in just a few months.
“Since January, we’ve deployed with 12 more universities,” Manzi said. “Additionally, this summer we have a huge ramp schedule.”
Besides the connection with UNL, were there other factors leading the company to relocate to Nebraska?
“For us, the Midwest has always been on the radar,” Manzi said. “The type of business we run is very operational-intensive, and it’s super challenging to recruit in Silicon Valley.”
Relationships developed in Nebraska through the exploratory process were also important.
“Invest Nebraska put us in touch with companies like Nelnet and Speedway,” Manzi said. “They mentored us, helped us walk through the exploratory process, and invested in us.”
Manzi said the company is excited to join the Lincoln startup community.
“We’re just excited to be here, and we appreciate all the support and backing we’ve had with the relocation,” he said. “Along with Hudl and others, we hope that we’re pioneering a movement in Lincoln.”
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.