Prototype no more, Instaprint is hitting the event circuit and makes an appearance at CES

instaprint at cesTo say Instaprint jumped on the Instagram accessory trend is putting it lightly. Back in the spring of 2011, shortly before SXSW and weeks before Instagram released its API, the team came up with the idea to create a device that integrates with the service to print your images.

“We knew that Instagram was putting out the API and we had just come up with the idea… so it was a bit of a sprint to get the prototype going and we really had no specific plans other than to just take it to SXSW and try to get some people interested,” Michael Lipton of Breakfast, the collective idea lab behind Instaprint, told us. “We just knocked on doors and took it to parties [at SXSW] to see what people thought.”

People thought good things, apparently, because two years later Instaprint is here at CES giving life to all of the many Instagrams the show’s attendees are busy taking. The team comes and installs the rental units that leverage the Instagram API to collect your Instagrams labeled with your specifically-made hashtag (for CES, send a tweet or Instagram to @ThePCDCo with the hashtag #2013cespcd). Then the sleek machines deliver handheld prints of all your favorite filtered moments.

instaprint table cesInstaprint is quickly becoming a darling in the event space, and the team is even taking it to the Super Bowl in New Orleans next month. “We’re really all over the place,” Lipton says. “In the next two months we probably have 20 events.”

“Having not really done stuff in the event space before, it’s a big learning experience. Things like Fashion Week, I realized that, wow… that’s a massive thing and we booked up to capacity during that week.”

The team is growing to new regions, and now has a representative on the West Coast (Breakfast is based in New York) to help handle demand. Despite the growth and interest, Lipton says Instaprint units are still not for sale. “It totally changes the business model,” he tells me. “We need to take the price down significantly and we’re not really comfortable cutting corners.” He says that the team doesn’t have the support to keep customers’ products in working order, and if they were to sell units they’d want to have the infrastructure totally read, keep the price high, and only sell a handful of Instaprints.

But for the time being they remain rentals. A half day costs $5,000, and a full day $7,500 (for longer events, price is up for discussion) — steep, right? Keep in mind the team sends someone to help you with the unit and make sure everything works like it should. Right now, there are 15-20 in Instaprint’s arsenal, so renting one is based on availability.

If you’ve followered Instaprint’s story, you might remember its Kickstarter campaign — which was ultimately unsuccessful. “The strategy behind the Kickstarter campaign was to see if we should be selling them. When we would bring them to renters, they would tell us they wanted it in their homes,” says Lipton. The buy-in behind the crowdfunding campaign as high: As in a $400 contibution to get a unit high. The goal, at $500,000, was even higher. “We were realistic about the odds of getting successfully funded.” In the end, Instaprint raised $250k and went home with the assertion that the rental market is currently the sweet spot for its product.

While Instagram is a niche market, to be sure, with the platform’s seemingly unstoppable growth, it’s a powerful one to leverage — and Instaprint is here two year’s later realizing that idea.