This week in London, we attended a talk given by Richard Moross, CEO and founder of MOO.com. The event was implemented through Startup Grind London at the Cass Business School, and was a fireside chat about how Moross revolutionized a 500 year-old industry: printing! To boot, it was Startup Grind’s six-month anniversary in London; each month they have a successful speaker connect to and inspire a group of entrepreneurs.
For those of you who don’t know, MOO is one of London’s happiest startup fables. They have grown from just a couple of people to a team of over 250, with offices in both the UK and the US. They print business cards, greeting cards, stickers, and other printable things.
Moross discussed his entrepreneurial journey to a room full of entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts. He worked for a variety of startups and global organizations after graduating university, including the BBC, sorted.com, and Imagine. He founded MOO in 2004. Following, his entrepreneurial lessons learned:
Defy the Naysayers
Moross told the audience that his peers advised against starting a printing business. They told him he was basically resigning himself to failure. He was “stupid enough to defy them.” He told aspiring entrepreneurs that they needed that kind of blind optimism
It’s All in a Name
MOO was originally called “Pleasure Cards”, a cheeky take on the “opposite of business being pleasure.” Moross decided to reinvent the name, so that it was short, memorable, and charming – MOO almost has a cute quality to it. He spent a lot of money on the domain name in an interesting escrow arrangement, whereby he promised the owner of the domain repayment plus interest if he built a successful business. He did do that, and the domain name owner made out pretty darn well! Moross noted, “People are flexible when they have assets that are a value to your business.”
Moross told us, “The thing I like about my business – business cards are the most boring thing. The boringness of your product is inversely proportional to how much value people can derive from it.” If he were to do it all over again, Moross would set up another business that has highly boring products that mean a lot and are important. His big example: banking.
“We never look for inspiration about how to innovate within business cards – we look to fashion, furniture design, retail – we take our inspiration from other worlds. THAT’S when we can product a product we really believe in and really like – even a boring one.”
Don’t Be Afraid of Holes In Your Team
“It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team,” Moross professed. In other words, put in hours getting to know your hires, and explain to them what your product is, why it’s important, and how your culture affects it. Moross told us that every new employee has lunch with him within the first month of employment.
Entrepreneurs would do well to be flexible and opportunistic, according to Moross. “We’ve developed products with no real sense of what they would look like, and now they represent 20 to 40 percent of our business,” Moross said. He advised reacting to opportunities, and not trying to pigeonhole your entrepreneurial vision. Your directional sense may shift, but that’s okay!
Migration happens. “Look at Netflix,” Moross said. “They’re not in the DVD or streaming business – they’re in the entertainment business.” Their agility means being able to migrate from one type of media to another, while upholding the business model. Building relationships with customers on a grand scale, and not being married to your original foundation – that’s the key to survival.