Personera Receives $1.4 Million in Funding to Create Merchandise for Facebook Pages

Personera is a free Facebook application that allows Pages to create and sell custom calendars and other physical merchandise that integrates user content. Today it announced that it has received $1.4 million in funding from Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa, a South African firm backed by SAP’s co-founder Hasso Plattner. Personera could use the funding to increase the variety of its product offering, court more Facebook Pages, and grow its head start in the branded Facebook-content merchandise market.

The ability to make physical prints of Facebook photos has become popular lately, with apps like Gifted offering posters, mugs, mousepads, and magnets. CVS now allows users to upload photos through an app and pick up prints at a nearby store, while the new HP ePrintCenter makes it easy to print Facebook photos at home.

The merchandise model is lucrative to Pages looking to monetize their fans bases, as they can use print products as both a revenue source and a way to get their brand name inside people’s homes. However, it’s Personera that makes the bulk of the money, since Pages only receive a maximum of 25% of what customers pay for the goods. To help achieve wider distribution, Personera has partnered with Facebook Page tab application marketplace AppBistro.

When users visit the Your Calendar tab application on the Page of one of Personera’s clients, such as Woolworths South Africa or Fitness Magazine, they’ll grant the app extended permissions that allow it to pull their photos and the birthdays of their friends. The Page’s selected photos are shown full size,thumbnails of user photos appear at the beginning and end of each month’s calendar page, and birthdays are listed on the appropriate days. Users can opt to customize exactly which photos they want to appear, view or download a preview, and order a physical calendar for $19.95.

Personera will have to ensure that it doesn’t violate Section I.4 of Facebook’s Platform Policy that stipulates, “if you offer a service for a user that integrates user data into a physical product (such as a scrapbook or calendar), you must only create a physical product for that user’s personal and non-commercial use.” If users buy in bulk and resell the calendars, Personera could have to answer to Facebook’s enforcement team.

While Personera has an interesting business model, going through Pages instead of directly to users, its high 75% margin leaves it vulnerable to being undercut. Users may also want a better balance between branded and their own content. There is still plenty of room in this market for applications that integrate user content in a more innovative manner, especially since Facebook now allows high-resolution photo uploads.

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