1. PAPER By Paperless Post
Paperless Post launched in 2008 to disrupt the stationery business. With over 60 million digital invitations sent, why start a print business at the same time that Hallmark is closing factories and snail mail invitations are dying?
“When 50% of your users ask for something that’s 10 times your price point, it would be a risk not to try it,” says CEO James Hirschfeld.
4. Warby Parker Showrooms
“When we launched Warby Parker, we intended to be a purely online business,” says one of the founders, “but we realized the biggest challenge to selling glasses online is getting the fit right.”
10. 50 Shades of Grey
50 Shades sprung from the dark side of the Internet — as a fan-fic installment by an author called “Snowqueen’s Icedragon.” Soon it was picked up by a virtual publisher in Australia, and knocked the boy wizard off Amazon UK’s charts. Gizmodo said the book was singlehandedly killing paper books. But after the erotica’s softcover release, it buoyed Barnes & Noble bookstore sales so much that company-wide earnings were pegged to “strong sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey series.”
11. Instagram Print Services
Instagram sold for $1 billion around the same time Kodak went bankrupt. While the photo-sharing app has yet to invest in film, a host of third-party services like Prinstagram, ImageSpan and Instamaker have rejuvenated the market for beautiful, printed photos.
12. HowAboutWe For Couples
Online dating is now the second-most popular form of matchmaking in the U.S. It’s essentially the business of keeping single people happy, and also keeping single people single.
“There’s no consequences online — people can promise you anything, so engagements are shorter and people are rushing in,” one divorce lawyer said of online couplings.
All of a sudden, dating sites want to suggest cute things to do with your spouse. Go figure.
13. “Shit My Dad Says,” The TV Show
Justin Halpern’s Shit My Dad Says feed is the apotheosis of Twitter-as-standalone-entertainment: three million followers strong, it’s a newfangled source of mirth, only possible because of the rise of microblogging. Then came the book, and the TV show starring William Shatner.
Canceled after one season, Halpern acknowledged: “It was crazy I got a show on the air in the first place.”
14. Bonobos Guideshop
Within its first year, Bonobos’ web-only store had 5,000 customers who bought more than 12,000 pairs of pants, and by 2010 was the Internet’s fastest growing mens clothing retailer.
But by April of this year, the company’s chief executive decided it was “foolish to contain this brand in one channel,” and started selling pants in Nordstrom and in shops across the country.
15. Newsweek Daily Beast
Tina Brown turned heads in 2010 when she merged her online magazine, The Daily Beast, with Newsweek, the longtime weekly media prognosticators were then already betting would fold. “Having done so much web news now, I can actually see what a magazine can offer,” Brown said at the time of her tree-killing gambit.
It didn’t pay off, and after declaring print costs an enormous albatross, the Beast is going all-digital.