Guardian Interview

The forecast for 2009: Richard Moross of Moo’s hot tips

Interview by Jemima Kiss.

We’ve invited some bright brains and sparkling executives to add their own touch of Christmas cheer to PDA with insights on the outlook for 2009.

First off – Richard Moross, chief executive of – the ‘small business card people’.

Richard Moross, chief executive of

“2009 is going to be rough for lots of businesses.

“But, for a fast-moving, focussed startup, who can run their operation as a real business and get to revenues quickly then the situation is actually pretty good.

There’s less noise: with fewer competitors around jostling for position, customers choices are narrowed in your favour. It’s also a great time to build an awesome team: with redundancies and recruitment freezes elsewhere, there’s so much more great talent to choose from. Furthermore, despite what you might think there’s still cash available to finance good teams with a solid plan: investors do need to keep investing – that’s what they do.

“So, if you’re currently running a small technology business based on the pre-downturn model (ie grow fast, then sell to Google) or thinking of starting a new business there are a few things you might want to think about.

“1 Be honest with yourself. Is this really a business? Is it really different? If the elevator pitch includes the words ”Twitter“, “social network” or “it’s web app X meets geek meme Y” you probably need to rethink things – those days are gone. Today your idea needs to be super-relevant: do people actually need this, or are you just a solution looking for a problem?

“2 Sell (something). The best way to prove your idea is a real business is get some money coming in, quickly. It doesn’t matter what your business is, but find someone to buy something, anything – ads, sponsorship, a product, a service. The first sale can be the hardest, but once you get your first customer and a little trickle of cash coming in it can be transformative. Your confidence will be sky high and investors will look at you very differently. Prove you can make money first, and then do a ‘private alpha’.

“3 Really cut costs. You’d be amazed what you can get for free, or for next to nothing. With other businesses shutting down there’s a glut of office furniture and PCs on the market. Property is going cheap too, with long rent-free periods and short-tem leases. You can even get software for free nowadays; with Microsoft’s BizSpark programme you can get MS Office Suite free for three years. Yes – Microsoft giving stuff for free. Start small, bring your lunch to work, and see how easy that was.

“Once you’re confident that you’ve got an idea that’s relevant, is an actual, real business that’s making money, has a rockstar team and runs on fumes then you’re there: this is the new downturn start-up paradigm. Go get ’em tiger!”

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