Summary:

The Berlin startup is now offering cloud-based printer management for companies, as its previous pitch — easy printing from mobile devices while staying at hotels and the like — proved to be less than successful.

Ezeep CEO Sascha Kellert

Last time we covered Ezeep about 15 months ago, the Berlin-based startup was all about printing from mobile devices — the company provided organizations such as hotels with a simple way to let guests print documents from their tablets and smartphones and then charge them for it. However, things have changed.

Ezeep has now repositioned itself to target the enterprise, specifically companies that have a heterogeneous mix of printers and want a hosted service to manage them all. It’s not quite a pivot, as the technology is essentially the same — like Google Cloud Print, Ezeep abstracts the printer drivers to the cloud in order to avoid installing drivers on each client device — but it’s certainly a shift away from consumer-related services.

According to Ezeep CEO Sascha Kellert, there’s just not enough demand from consumers for the ability to print to paper from a mobile device, while on the move:

“The market thought, at least from the software company side, that there would be strong demand for consumer mobile printing, but we really didn’t see it… We even worked with one of Europe’s largest Wi-Fi providers to bring it into hotel chains, but even then we didn’t see much usage.

“People are looking for an easy connection between the device and printer, and we can offer that, but you’ve increasingly got Wi-Fi-enabled printers, and Android and iOS have got it built in.”

That’s a bit of a pity — Ezeep offered a broader alternative to the platform-specific likes of Google Cloud Print (Chrome) and Apple AirPrint (iOS and OS X) — but lack of demand is lack of demand.

Happily for Ezeep, which is funded by Mangrove Capital and others, the enterprise space is also fairly fragmented when it comes to printing: there are plenty of managed print services out there, but they tend to come from the printer vendors themselves. Kellert said this situation leaves a gap:

“People saw [the original Ezeep] as an innovative service but overall, when we also started selling to companies, we saw the actual pain was somewhere else: in infrastructure management. Companies are wasting a lot of resources on maintaining a functioning printing infrastructure. Not much has changed – you still have to walk into the office and install drivers on [all the client machines].”

Kellert suggested that a managed printing service such as his would save time on the IT and system administration front, while also saving resources such as ink and paper thanks to centralized policy management.

It’s not hugely surprising that the consumer mobile cloud printing play fell through — as tablets gain in popularity, the need to print things out to show people diminishes. Nonetheless, it does seem that Ezeep may have now found its niche: its first major customer since the service’s repurposing is none other than the revered Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is what one might call a good (second) start.

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