‘My Moment’ In The Daily Telegraph

We asked 15 high-profile professionals about the times that mattered most in their lives, the times that provided them with singular moments – euphoric moments – that they would never forget . Here, Moo.com founder Richard Moross recalls when Mr Hankey told him he’d made it.

Interviews by Paul Kendall and Ruth Caven
Published: 12 Nov 2009

Moo.com founder Richard Moross: ‘My product sounded like some weird sex accessory’

For some businessmen the sound of success is the ringing of a cash register. For me it’s Mr Hankey, the Christmas Poo, exclaiming ‘Heigh-di-ho!’ in a high-pitched squeak. Anyone who’s familiar with the cartoon series South Park will know Mr Hankey. He’s something of a cult figure and his ‘Heigh-di-ho’ greeting is one of the most quoted lines among South Park fans.

Just before Moo.com launched on September 19 2006, someone on my team downloaded a recording of Mr Hankey and programmed it to go off every time we made a sale.

The site prints customised business cards, among other things, and when we went live, at around midday, we all sat in the office, eyeing each other nervously and wondering how long it would take for Mr Hankey to speak to us. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long. At the sound of the first ‘Heigh-di-ho!’ the room erupted. After that, the Mr Hankey recording went off pretty much every 60 seconds. It was like a dam collapsing, and a torrent of water rushing through. From that moment on, we were inundated with orders. Getting to that point, however, was not easy. When I set up the business, at the age of 25, I spent the first 18 months making pretty much every mistake in the book. For a start, the original name of the company was Pleasure Cards. At the time, the idea was to provide an alternative to business cards, for people to use in their social lives, and I thought: ‘What’s the opposite of business? Pleasure.’ But, unfortunately, in today’s world, the word ‘pleasure’ has been hijacked by the porn industry and my product sounded like some weird sex accessory. So that didn’t work.

In 2006, I completely transformed my business model. I changed the name to Moo.com: short, memorable, inoffensive.

As an entrepreneur you have to believe in your product, but I had no proof that it would work. It was only when we flicked the switch and Mr Hankey started squeaking that I knew we had a hit.

Read on the Telegraph’s website

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Interview in Management Today

The printing entrepreneur on trips to the US, hiring a new CFO, and Friday drinks on the terrace…

My week: Richard Moross of Moo.com

This morning I had a breakfast meeting with our chairman, Robin Klein, where I went through all the executive team planning for 2010. He was one of the first people I presented the business to in 2004 and he invested in the company later that year, before becoming chairman in 2006. We have a fantastic relationship, which is pretty lucky considering he’s our chairman!

I’ve also been busy preparing for the arrival of our new CFO, who’s joining us tomorrow. We appointed her last week and she’s coming in for a few days from tomorrow and then starting full-time from January. It’s actually a new role. We’ve been working with an interim FD for the last three years but now we’ve reached a certain size, there are complexities of running a profitable, high-growth manufacturing business. Now we’re manufacturing in the USA and in Europe, with customers all around the world, it’s important that we have someone with international financial experience who can help us manage our business in multiple locations.

Every day at about 5.30 I have a video call with our VP of operations, Brian, who’s based on the East Coast. At the end of every day (around lunch time for him) we catch up on how each business is doing. We will also talk about any issues in the US office or anything that they’ve made progress on. In addition, he’ll come over from the US once a month and I’ll probably go to the US once a month to see him. The business is more operational in the US; our marketing, product and technology teams are here in London.

Business in the States is booming: around 40% of our revenue comes from sales there. We don’t have all of our products available in the US, for various reasons, but we sell all our major ones there. We find the UK is more seasonal for us, in terms of the mix of the products we sell at Christmas for example. In terms of new customers that we’re acquiring, and growth, the US is really driving the business at the moment.

I spend a lot of time the other side of the Atlantic. We have partners who are based in the US – people who we do marketing with, or have other relationships with – so I like to check in to see what they think of the service. It’s also about the network – being a business that trades internationally we have ongoing relationships with people that we may form partnerships with in the future. I’ll also try to schedule meetings with journalists while I’m over there. There are also a lot of conferences in the US, including two or three major ones that I’ll go to every year – SXSW and Web 2.0 for instance. And I’ll sometimes go over for speaking opportunities too: for example. I’m speaking at the PMA10 (photo marketing association 2010) conference in California in February.

Also this week I have a catch-up meeting with Nick Jenkins, the chief exec of Moonpig, the greeting cards company. I met Nick for the first time when I was first starting up my business and Moonpig was still relatively small. Despite what some people may think, there’s not really any rivalry there. Nick’s company is consumer-focused whereas we’re b2b. So we sell to hundreds and thousands of small businesses, often in the creative industries – customers can be anyone from artists designers, illustrators, and photographers to tech start-ups.

Every Friday the entire UK team will sit down and have lunch together – and they do the same in the US five hours later. We’ll order some food in from a restaurant or a local market and will usually follow the food with a presentation or two on cool new things we’ve built or designed recently. Also, I’ll usually be there to give a brief overview of how the business is doing and give any feedback from the most recent board meeting. During the summer we tend to have events after work on a Friday as well. We have a big outside terrace, on the back of our office and we’ll invite people from outside the company to come and hang out with us and have a beer. We’re a pretty welcoming bunch. We’re very international too – there are probably about 10 or 12 nationalities in the company, which is pretty good for a 50-person business. One thing we’re very good at is hiring personalities. Everyone is quite unique and brings something different, which makes for a great blend of interesting people.

Richard Moross is founder and chief executive of Moo.com, a b2b printing company.

MOO on GigaOM

“Moross said the company is now getting a much better return on its marketing dollars; it’s seeing triple-digit annual revenue growth and has become profitable. Moo, which raised $5 million from Atlas Ventures and Index Ventures three years ago, has also set up an operation in the U.S., which now accounts for about 40 percent of its revenues and includes 10 of its 50 employees.”

Read more here

Me in the Telegraph’s ‘Top 50 Most Influential Britons in Technology’

Link to the article on the Telegraph website

Number 41: Richard Moross
Moo.com
Richard Moross is the man who made business cards cool. As the founder and chief executive of Moo.com, he’s turned on-demand stationery printing in to an art form, allowing Moo customers to personalise their business cards, greetings cards, and almost everything else in between. In an age of Bluetooth and email, the old-fashioned business card may have been an unlikely candidate for a renaissance, but having struck deals with the likes of Flickr and Bebo to allow people to easily import photos and information from their social-networking site on to a card, Moross has shown that the digital age and the printed press can happily co-exist. Not bad for a debut business venture.

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.”

MOO April Fools in the NYT blog

New Products for April 1st! (Kinda)

April 1st is often a great way to peer into the future. What is silly and impossible today may just turn out to be real in a few years. Here’s a roundup of some of the best gadget gags:
• Moo offers a do-it-yourself business-card recycling kit that lets you paste new letters and pictures on the unwanted card that you would normally throw in the trash. Producing a pack of 50 cards is estimated to take only 20 hours.
Read more on the NYT Gadget Blog