Peecho is a company based in the heart of Amsterdam that offers a ‘cloud print button for everybody’. In January of this year, they raised Euro 581K in funding. In this interview we talk to CEO Martijn Groot. He founded the company together with Sander Nagtegaal in November 2009.
We all know what cloud computing is and cloud storage. But what is cloud printing?
In the past when companies published their market report, annual report or brochure, they would print a certain number of copies at a single location and send these to potential readers. Some readers really appreciate their copy, others might prefer to read the information on their screen or are not interested in the first place and throw their copy away. We disrupt the print industry:anyone can publish a (PDF) document online and can add a ‘Peecho’ print button. Whenever a visitor clicks the button, they can order one copy, which is printed locally and delivered at the doorstep. Thus companies save in printing costs and we can also help saving shipping cost, shipping time and most importantly save the environment. We print only when your customers ask for a copy. We do so, as close to the receiving party as possible.
What motivated you to create a ‘cloud printing’ infrastructure?
The amount of digital content is exploding. There are many cases where people still would like a tangible product. Like a magazine, report or poster. We compare the printing business as it is now to the classifieds industry of 5-10 years ago. Local adds used to appear in local newspapers, today there are just a few players (e.g. craigslist, ebay/marktplaats). We believe something similar will happen in the print industry. Currently the printing industry is fragmented with many local printers with local customers. For small production orders we predict there will only be a few platforms that reroute orders to the most suitable printer in the near future. By connecting many small merchants we will create aggregated volumes and will soon have economies of scale. As our print volume grows, we will become more attractive to print facilities and can negotiate interesting deals for our customers.
Can you sketch the timeline of your launch: when did you start, when did you have the first customers, and when did they receive their first prints?
We started with the company in November 2009, At that time, we started working on our platform with four part-time developers, we were completely self-funded for the first year-and-a-half. We had our first lighthouse customers mid 2010. One of our first customers was issuu.com, where people can publish their own online magazine. Today, with our cloud print button, these can be printed on demand.
The reason for not pushing for growth at the start is that we wanted to create a scalable platform with global coverage. This usually means a delay in terms of generating turnover, but it means you can roll out quickly once opportunity knocks.
In the lean startup philosophy, it is recommended to launch early to get feedback from actual customers as quickly as possible. It seems you did not have this feedback. How did you deal with this?
In general we would recommend startups to release early and learn from customers. In our case, both Sander and I had a lot of experience in printing from our work at www.albumprinter.com. Therefore we had a very clear roadmap in our head of what we needed to develop in the first 1-1.5 years. We did release often by the way, but it was hard to generate serious business because we only had limited facilities connected and a very limited product portfolio.
I can imagine that for a platform like yours, it is important to not do everything, but focus of finding customers that help build your company. How do you do this?
This is indeed important, and we have done this in a few strategy sessions. We have identified all possible market segments, ranked these on attractiveness and selected a few to focus on.
One of these is the corporate market where we can offer a corporate responsible solution: not only do you save money by publishing online and printing only the copies actually needed, you also help save resources.
Are there thing you would, in hindsight, have done differently?
Business wise, not much. Perhaps we could have started talking to investors earlier. Not just to raise money, but mainly to get useful feedback on your business model. We also noticed that it helps to have some big name investors behind you. People are more confident that we will be around for a long time now that they know that we are well-funded.
Personally, perhaps I should have become an entrepreneur directly after studying. It is easier to work for your own company when you do not have a family to support or mortgage to pay.
You are a business to business company, but you have chosen a name and logo with clear consumer appeal. Why?
When you start a company, you need a story. Sander has been drawing the puinguin for a long time, on paper, white boards, etcetera. We first tried to get a nicely pronounceable five-letter dotcom name, but all domains were taken. Peecho was available and it has a meaning: it means “trying way too hard to be cool” according to the urban dictionary. That made it a fitting name for a startup like ours. Although we sell business to business, we strongly believe that the people working for these businesses at the end of the day think like consumers, too.