Los Angeles Business Journal

Pioneer Pushes Invite Envelope

INTERNET: Evite puts price on premium, ad-free service. By Natalie Jarvey Monday, November 5, 2012

“In the last couple of years there’s been a shift away from Evite to a more customized invitation,” she said. “It’s a more unique invitation experience. It feels more professional.”

But the paid-invitation sites face the challenge of trying to compete against free products such as Evite, which has close to 50 million registered users. Shawn Gold, founder and former chief executive of Cocodot, said it’s harder to build a big audience with a paid service.

“It’s very difficult to make significant money in the paid online space when there are free options,” said Gold, who is now on Cocodot’s board. “It’s hard to raise money and scale.”

As such, Cocodot has started offering its online invitations for free while charging for printed products. Meanwhile, Paperless Post has moved to a freemium model, in which it offers basic invites for free but charges for customization. It has also begun selling printed invitations.

Gold said Evite is already behind competitors by launching its paid product. It will need to provide a freemium model or other paid services, such as printed cards, to find success.

“I’m very doubtful that Evite will be able to make a successful business on paid invitations,” he said. “To be competitive, they have to offer a better product. But I don’t think the pay-to-play model is going to work.”

Evite has trailed competitors in offering customized invites due to limitations from its old technology platform, Woolley said. As part of the website’s redesign in 2010, the company upgraded to technology that made it easier to launch products.

First test

The company tested its first Postmark products during last year’s Academy Awards with specially designed invites for Oscars viewing parties. The company also partnered with designer Marc Friedland, who designed the official Oscars envelope, to create a set of special invites for Postmark’s launch.

As Evite expands into new products, its staff is growing. The company, which is owned by Liberty Media in Englewood, Colo., and does not disclose revenue, recently moved into a bigger office in its building overlooking Sunset Boulevard.

Woolley said the office comfortably holds Evite’s 35 employees, but he expects to outgrow the space in the next six months.

Now that Evite has launched Postmark, he said the company plans to roll out several products in the coming months, including an upgraded mobile app that will also work on iPads.

“We’re taking the experience of online invitations and we’re trying to innovate,” he said. “It’s good to finally get it out the door and start talking about what the future looks like.”

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