It’s the moment that every entrepreneur both fears and anticipates. The hosting platform — be it Facebook, Google, Apple or Twitter — comes in with a competing product that could knock their nascent business off a pedestal.
This happened this week to Sincerely, the company behind popular Instagram photo-printing app Postagram, when Apple showed off a Cards app that lets iPhone owners mail cards featuring their personal photos to friends and family.
But Sincerely already had another strategy set in place. Two months ago, the company announced an API that lets third-party developers incorporate photo printing into their apps. It’s a way for other mobile developers to let their users send screenshots or photos in the form of real, physical postcards and build an additional revenue stream. Sincerely let developers keep 70 percent of revenues above the 99 cent mark.
Today the company is actually launching the library — called Ship — with 200 developers signed up and 12 major partners including Lonely Planet and Kleiner Perkins-backed Path.
The user flow for the photo-printing experience is pretty simple. In example app Pic Collage, a user can put together a mix of personal photographs from an event:
Then they can pull up a button to either share with friends on Facebook and Twitter or send an actual postcard to friends. They’ll log into a Sincerely account or create one, pick an address and then confirm billing information. Photos take two to find days to receive in the U.S. and two to three weeks in the rest of the world.
It’s an interesting alternative monetization scheme to what many developers have been using to date through advertising, charging for their apps or selling virtual currency. While Sincerely seems naturally positioned to help developers of other photo apps, it’s possible that companies in other categories might want to use this as well. Gamers could use this to send screenshots of their virtual characters, cities, zoos or farms. It’s also a savvy way for Sincerely to accumulate payments information on consumers through a third-party network that could lay the groundwork for other types of applications.