Pioneering a new kind of digital greeting card

Alex Exarhos ’10
    Alex Exarhos ’10

May 12, 2021 — In the early days of the pandemic, Alex Exarhos ’10 signed a group e-birthday card to his friend Francesco Balestra. 

That e-card reminded Exarhos of what was seen in the 1990s, and it dawned on him that e-card technology hadn’t substantially changed since then. “I wrote on [Francesco’s] card – ‘I think we found the idea, let’s do a group multimedia card company,’” he says, and soon after Exarhos and Balestra founded Ellacard. 

Ellacard’s digital greeting card feature has been most popular with users (more than 1 million of them) so far. The e-greeting cards offer a range of themes and animations. They also allow customers and users to add personalized audio and video to the cards. Exarhos believes the company’s group video technology is the most exciting feature. 

“The technology makes it possible for a group of people to make a professional quality video with no video editing skills and no coordination,” he says. “It automatically takes all this content and stitches it together into a single, coherent video instantly.” 

The group videos come in a variety of themes, including a Ken Burns documentary, comedy night, and others that are adaptable for birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings, and memorials. “This is what we intended Ellacard to be,” Exarhos says. “There are a lot of applications for something that leads to much more professional and higher quality videos.”  

While Exarhos has worked at tech behemoths (Amazon and Google) and start-ups (Arivale and Productiv), he’s gravitated toward start-up culture because “you’re expected to wear many hats” and the work is wide-ranging and collaborative. He ties this mindset back to Grinnell. 

Digital greeting cards created by Ellacards.
Ellacards, co-founded by Alex Exarhos ’10, offers a range of themes and animations for digital group greeting cards. 

“I took full advantage of the liberal arts ideal,” the computer science major says, recalling his work on an environmental studies project mapping the historic trajectory of the Skunk River through Iowa. He’s wanted to “start and build my own company to try and make an impact as an individual” since college, where he also did swing dance, picked up jazz guitar, and played soccer all four years. Exarhos continues to do all three in the Seattle area, and it was through soccer that he met Balestra.

Exarhos said the larger tech companies he’s worked for don’t always provide the room to think about things from a broader range of perspectives or to have the level of impact he wanted. At the same time, as much as he learned and continues to be inspired by mentors like Brian Jaworski, associate professor and head coach of the Grinnell men’s soccer and golf teams, and former Grinnell computer science professor Janet Davis and instructor Marge Coahran, there are things that can’t be learned at Grinnell. As an example, he cites the “architecture” of proprietary software infrastructure that increasingly governs and underpins much of the technology used every day. 

Ellacard hosted Tanmay Bothra ’24 for an externship this past spring break to help give a current student some insight. “I was absolutely bombarding him with information,” Exarhos says. Bothra stayed with Exarhos and his wife, accompanying him to his home office and nearby coffeeshops in Seattle. “I think it was a pretty realistic picture of what starting a company is like,” he says. “A lot of entrepreneurship is working by yourself and going to coffee shops.” 

For recent graduates and alumni who are contemplating a change after the upheaval of the last few years, Exarhos offers a note of encouragement. 

“Sometimes it’s easy to graduate, settle into a role in the professional world and get jaded,” he says. “You can lose that enthusiasm and motivation to change the world. I definitely went through tough periods where I felt beaten down and thought ‘I’m not making the impact I thought I could,’ but I finally think I’m at that point of feeling impactful and reaching my full potential.” 

— by Joe Engleman ’14

For your information:

Learn more about Ellacard on the company website.

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