“Business cards still work as well as they have worked for 300 years,” said Moo.com founder Richard Moross
Heard the one about business cards being dead in the digital age ? Moo.com founder and chief executive Richard Moross laughs.
”The good news is that they still work as well as they’ve worked for 300 years,” he says.
“Every culture in the world understands it. You don’t need an internet connection or batteries. It’s just completely utilitarian.”
Moo has an interest in the business card’s longevity. Founded by Moross in 2004 when he was 26, the company has become one of Britain’s leading online card providers .
“Printing is a $1 trillion dollar industry… we are really just scratching the surface.”
Richard Moross, Moo.com
Set up with £100,000 of seed finance from angel investor Robin Klein, the firm now has turnover of £40m, having grown at an average annual rate of 47pc since 2010.
It employs 370 staff in offices in London and Boston, USA, and manufacturing plants in Stratford, East London and Massachusetts. Moross, 37, expects growth of about 40pc this year. It also sells stickers, postcards, letterheads and greeting and note cards, but business cards account for about 70pc of its turnover.
“We set out from the start to be an international business,” he says. “We put our prices in dollars, pounds and euros and in our first week we had orders from 100 countries. Last year, we had orders from 195 nations.
Moo’s vertically-integrated business enables 90pc of its customers to order cards and receive them the next day.
“We initially used an outsourced model,” says Moross, “but we learnt the hard way that it was inefficient, slow and had a poor margin.”
There’s something slightly surprising about the internet giving new life to one of the world’s oldest industries . Yet it has sparked frenzied competition in a huge market.
“Printing is a $1 trillion dollar industry,” says Moross. “It’s the second largest employer in the US, where there are still 35,000 printers, and it’s an industry that’s still posting 2pc-3pc of annual growth in the broad printing industry and 18pc in digital print.
“We think that the small business marketing print opportunity is about $125bn a year, we are really just scratching the surface.
“Digital printing is growing incredibly quickly but only about 15pc of the print industry is actually online. There’s an amazing migration of bricks to clicks that Moo is part of.”
Moo now obtains 82pc of its revenues outside the UK, mostly from North America, which accounts for 65pc of the company’s business.
It has two divisions, one serving 700,000 “soho” – small office and home office customers – and the other working with larger organisations, such as Google and Unicef.
About a third of customers use Moo’s Printfinity technology, which enables designers to put different images on each card, without it costing any more. Moross’s deck of his own highly-patterned cards, for example, spans 100 different designs.
“What I used to do was to put on them different places in the world where I’d been, different books that I had read or different meals that I’d eaten,” he says.
“It encourages a whole different type of ceremony to the usual one of just saying ‘here’s my card’ and putting in it in front of someone on the table.”
“The more virtual the world becomes, the more important that first face-to-face meeting is. When you’re a small business, the difference between turning a profit or not could be the next meeting you have with someone.”
Moo’s latest innovation, Business Cards +, embeds Near Field Communication (NFC) chips into business cards so recipients can tap contact details into a mobile phone.
“With Business Cards +, the giver of the card controls what goes on it, even after it has been handed out.
“If you tap it to your phone the first time, it could download a v-card but the second time it could contain a playlist of songs that you think the recipient might like.
“It’s very new technology but we think that these types of things start to open up new possibilities.”
“So I don’t think people look at these as business cards as much as they look at them as a key to unlocking a relationship or an opportunity to put a presentation in front of a recipient who taps it to their phone.”
In facilitating this, Moo is seeking to benefit from the rise of “personal brands” facilitated by social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube.
Moross’s business education before starting Moo was short, working for a technology firm and then for design business Imagination after a Sussex University philosophy and politics degree. But he says he has also received enormous help from The Young Presidents’ Organisation, a non-profit global network of 23,000 young chief executives dedicated to becoming better leaders through education and sharing ideas .
“I was desperate to start my own business but I’m not sure I really knew what type of company I wanted to start,” he recalls. “I was more interested in making a product than I was in running a business.”
Moross’s first idea was around what he called Pleasure Cards. “I’m ashamed to tell you the name because it’s so embarrassing,” he laughs. “A piece of me dies whenever I say it.
“People were starting blogs and had multiple email addresses and mobile phone numbers. Consumers had more ways of getting hold of other consumers than businesses did. It just made sense that someone was going to produce a consumer version of a business card.
“What I learned about 18 months in was that’s very hard to do. If you’re going to create a consumer product and brand that’s going to change people’s behaviour, you need a lot of money, a lot of resources behind you and I just didn’t have that.
Instead, Moross focused Moo on what he describes as “a really boring market of printing companies who made quite traditional products”.
“We built a product that we thought would be attractive to consumers because we thought it would be useful to them,” he says. “But actually what we found was that there were millions of people who were disappointed with how bad their business cards were or excited by how good ours are.”
This article was written by Andrew Cave from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.