Anna Heim is the founder of MonoLibre and a freelance writer for various tech and startup publications. She is a polyglot French news junkie Anna Heim is the founder of MonoLibre and a freelance writer for various tech and startup publications. She is a polyglot French news junkie with a love for technology.
Sometimes, we stumble upon a foreign site and can’t wait for it to go global. This is the case with Kupz, a Brazilian service that lets you design and order personalized mugs.
While it isn’t exactly new, what makes Kupz immediately interesting is real-time simulation – think CafePress on 3D steroids. Yet, the platform is also fun and simple enough for anyone to use:
Once you are done, you can order as many mugs you want, and Kupz will them deliver to your door it for free, as long as it is in Brazil – at the moment, the site only operates within its home country.
It also adapted its payment process to Brazilian users; thanks to PagSeguro, it also accepts payments via bank deposits (“boleto bancario“), a common practice in Brazil, where many people don’t have a credit card.
In other words, Kupz may have only launched a couple weeks ago, but it already got many things right. Even better, its team has been constantly updating the website over the last days, listening to feedback from early adopters in real-time to fix bugs and improve the site’s features.
As a matter of fact, Kupz is also very much focused on building a community. Once you are done designing your mug, you can share it with your friends via Facebook. You can also choose to add it to the site’s Designs section, where you can also vote for your favorite designs and order your own copies.
Looking at the designs that are already available, you can see that many of the beta testers are part of the Brazilian community. This is hardly a surprise; Kupz’s founder Patrick Negri is a Brazilian serial entrepreneur, and Kupz is only the latest of several ventures he has launched.
From lean experiment to full-blown startup?
Kupz actually started as a side project for Negri and his personal company, Iugu. Both he and his co-founder Marcelo Paez have well-paid full-time developer jobs at other companies, and initially saw Kupz as a fun experiment.
Since then, two other people have joined the team – another developer and a sales executive – and Negri is now seeking investors to boost Kupz’s growth.
While Kupz could soon become much more than a hobby for Negri and his team, it is still run as a lean venture. To guarantee swift delivery, the products are manufactured in a loft near São Paulo’s Avenida Paulista.
The semi-automated production process is quite original, Negri explains:
“Once you place an order through our site, it goes to an automated list to get the process started. We used XCode for iOS to develop a custom app for the iPod that we annexed to our production line, which also uses AirPrinting.
Our full production line consists of an iPod Touch 4G, a special printer, and a press/oven. The line operator manufactures the process, and uses a special wrapping that already carriers the client’s name. We then box it, and send it to logistics.”
The team made sure to keep the process as simple as possible, another sign of its big ambitions:
“In the future, our workforce won’t even have to know how to use a computer. All they need for production to start is to press the ‘Process next order’ button on the iPod. This is crucial, because we always wanted our business model to be scalable – and cheap to scale. We also wanted to make sure it could also work in other countries, and we are currently talking to Chinese suppliers to bring our prices down.”
Internationalization is the obvious next big step for Kupz, and Negri is seeking ways for the site to go worldwide, starting with Europe and the US. At the moment, the site receives twice as many visitors from abroad as from Brazil, even if it is only available in Portuguese.
However, Kupz is currently bootstrapped, and will wait to find investors before it expands outside Brazil. At the moment, its initial proposal remains its top priority. New features are coming soon, such as tutorials, templates and personalized packaging.
Still, the team is also working on bigger projects behind the scenes, such as iOS and Android versions of the site. Even more interestingly, it hopes to soon go beyond mugs and handle new product types, such as bottles, plates, mouse pads and T-shirts. But all in time; for now, Negri’s main goal is to make sure Kupz gains traction thanks to its mugs.
One thing is for sure, it seems Negri and his team have made very good use of their free time, and is an interesting example of a side project that could soon become a cool startup.
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