Investing in Customization

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Venture capitalists John Doerr and Ram Shriram, known for their expertise in investing in business gold mines such as search engine Google Inc., might have found their next gem in Zazzle: a startup that makes customized T-shirts, posters and postage stamps.


The two, who sit on Google's board of directors, also will sit on the board of the Palo Alto, CA-based company since they and their respective investment firm are reported to be investing $16 million into the customization business.


Zazzle customers pick an image to be printed on a piece of merchandise, select a phrase from a menu and wait for their order to be completed in 24 hours.


Though most people have never heard of the company, Zazzle has amassed a library of 500,000 digital images and more than 3,500 copyrighted materials from the Walt Disney Co.


In partnership with Pitney Bowes, Zazzle will sell customized postage stamps. The U.S. Postal Service is hoping the popularity of customized postage will help revitalize snail mail in this era dominated by electronic communication.


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