Me in the MediaGuardian 100

MediaGuardian 100

Number 85 on the overall list. Featured in the top ten of digital media here.

Job: founder and chief executive, Moo.com
Age:
31
Industry: digital media
Staff: 40
New entry

Richard-Moross-001

In the age of email and mobile phones, the old-fashioned business card was an unlikely inspiration for a burgeoning internet startup. Richard Moross‘s on-demand online print company Moo.com launched in 2006 and has set its sights on becoming “Hallmark 2.0”.

Having started out with trendy tiny business cards – anyone who is anyone on the web startup scene has a Moo card – Moo.com has expanded into stickers, postcards and greetings cards, striking deals with firms such as Flickr, Bebo and Fotolog.

Combining very new technology – digital media – with very old – the printing press – Moo.com is backed by investors Accelerator Group, Atlas Ventures and Index Ventures and is enjoying triple-digit growth in revenue. Based in London, it opened its first US office this year.

“He is a rising star,” said one of our panellists. “He is at the epicentre of Silicon Roundabout, a very good businessman and a real symbol of the London startup scene.”

But why business cards? “It’s 300 years old and despite wireless and Bluetooth and mobile phones, it’s still here, because it’s the single most successful networking tool of all time,” said Moross, who had never run a business before he set up Moo.com.

He originally had the idea for a “Pleasurecard”, a business card for people who weren’t in business. “I thought, ‘God, it’s wasted on business people. It’s just as applicable in the social sphere, and kids don’t have it – they’re still writing their bloody numbers down on a piece of paper when they meet people’,” he told the Guardian.

The cards originally came with a website on which users could store information, but Moross said “it sucked”.

Moross is rarely seen wearing anything other than the colour black, and once confessed to owning 36 black shirts. “I do like to accessorise with colour,” he said. “But there’s something reassuring about black.”

He has said he will move on to a new business within the next four or five years. “I think my work here will be done and I’ll have taken this to a profitable exit. I will have taken my unique blend of sarcasm and laziness to some other organisation.”

But a stock market flotation or buyout is unlikely in the current economic climate. Moross said at the beginning of the year that a downturn was not necessarily bad for business. “There’s less noise: with fewer competitors around jostling for position, customers’ choices are narrowed in your favour,” he said.

Me in the Financial Times

Me in the FT

Read article on ft.com

Back to the future for e-commerce

By Tim Bradshaw

Published: July 10 2009 03:00

Ten years after the first dotcom boom, digital-media investors have come full circle: e-commerce is again the buzzword on the lips of London’s venture capital community.

When it comes to spotting the dotcom stars of the future, they are once again turning their attention to companies that sell goods or services, rather than those that hope to make money from advertising.

Revenues from social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are still lagging the rapid growth in their user bases, and even the mighty Google is still working out how to extract the most value from its $1.65bn (£1bn) acquisition of YouTube . While e-commerce might sound a little dated, for investors it offers the comfort of a familiar business model – selling things for more than they cost to make.

“People have a perception that e-commerce has been done but it’s just starting,” says Fred Destin, partner at venture capitalist Atlas Venture. He predicts the rise of “super-niche, high-quality sites” that sell a much greater range of products or services in their chosen niches than the high street could offer.

In addition, “the web gives people the ability to deliver a much more personalised experience”, says Saul Klein, partner at Index Ventures.

Popular second-generation e-commerce sites include Richard Moross’ Moo.com , which prints individually customised business and greeting cards, and Glasses Direct , which is exploiting the untapped market for online spectacle sales. Online event ticket resellers Viagogo and Seatwave have also attracted substantial investment.

Investors are less confident when it comes to selling digital media such as music and movies online. While online jukeboxes such as Spotify are attracting millions of users with their promise of unlimited free music, the strength of their business models remains unclear.

“Right now there is not enough [advertising] money to keep subsidising these free offerings,” says Nic Brisbourne, partner at DFJ Esprit. “People have to start paying or make the ads pay better.”

But Julie Meyer, chief executive of Ariadne Capital, says Spotify “does look like one that has potential”.

Ms Meyer is also bullish on mobile services, which have long been seen as a “black hole” for investors. Ariadne has backed Monitise, a mobile banking company, and Spinvox , which converts voicemail into text messages.

Video games are another popular investment. Online video-gaming services such as Playfish are expanding beyond the PlayStation demographic by offering their games (and selling products related to them) on social networking sites such as Facebook.

“Most of our users haven’t played video games before,” says Sebastien de Halleux, chief operating officer and co-founder of Playfish. In its first 18 months, 100m Playfish games have been installed, a growth rate which has attracted $21m in venture funding from Accel Partners and Index.

Investors in ” social gaming ” are betting that the internet will disrupt the video gaming market as much as it has disrupted the music and movie markets. “Gaming is bigger than TV, bigger than music . . . it’s a phenomenal media,” says Mr Destin.

“The next stage will be start-ups going after the core business model of Electronic Arts”, one of the world’s largest console games publishers.

Online business applications are also popular with venture capitalists. As people become more used to the slick user experiences provided by Google, Yahoo and Facebook, they become less tolerant of older, clunkier business applicationsSAP.

Huddle , an online collaboration service, is among the British companies tapping into this “consumerisation of the enterprise”.

“Users and revenues are doubling every three to four months at the moment,” says co-founder Andy McLoughlin, with customers including Centrica and Diageo.

Huddle also runs DrinkTank , a regular informal gathering of tech entrepreneurs. Mr McLoughlin says he has seen valuations “really dip” for start-ups raising new funds, with investors demanding more equity for less money.

In spite of that, many entrepreneurs see the recession as the best time to launch a business. It is cheaper to hire staff and marketing costs are lower.

“There’s a massive difference in the cost of setting up a business today”, compared with 10 years ago, says Michael Acton Smith, who founded Firebox.com, the online gadget seller, in 1998. “Now one or two guys with a few hundred or thousand pounds can set up a site and test it. And a lot more people are trying.”