I Never Planned To Be In Printing
I never planned to be in the printing business. I simply happened to be “in the right place at the right time.” Now, nearly 40 years later, I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my years in the printing industry – especially being at the forefront of virtually every major e-commerce and on-demand publishing technology in use today – and I look forward to revolutionizing the printing industry of the future.
How I Started In Printing
The year was 1982, I had just taken the California Bar exam and I was selling silkscreened 3-ring binders as a temporary 4-month job awaiting the results of the Bar exam (which I passed). The IBM PC had just been introduced and binders were used to hold their software manuals. A growing number of high-tech companies were also using binders to hold their documentation. I was selling binders out of my studio apartment in Silicon Valley so I witnessed this skyrocketing demand for binders firsthand. My best friend, who was working on his MBA, was also selling binders and saw the same need for custom binders, so we decided to co-found Bindco to meet that need.
Rapid Growth & Innovative Technologies
As the high-tech industry grew, so did Bindco. After we became the world’s largest supplier of custom printed binders, we added printing, packaging, media duplication, assembly, and fulfillment.
In the early 90s, I became interested in emerging technologies that allowed Bindco to lead the industry in two key areas: On-Demand Printing and E-Commerce.
On-Demand Printing: When the PDF file format became a standard, Bindco began digitizing expensive bulky manuals and putting them on low-cost CDs for mass distribution. We would then only print the hard copies as needed in low volumes. In 1992, I was awarded the on-demand printing contract for Tandem Computers. At that time, the Xerox DocuTech printer had just been introduced and Bindco received the first one on the West Coast. Within a few years, we had 10 networked DocuTechs running 24/7 producing 40 million unique on-demand pages per month.
E-Commerce: In 1994, Bindco manufactured the physical browser software required for the Web pioneer Mosaic (which became Netscape) to launch the World Wide Web (people could not download it because the Web didn’t exist yet). Since Bindco had already been using the text-only Internet for e-commerce via a BBS, I immediately realized that the Web would revolutionize e-commerce just like the Windows GUI did for MS-DOS. I was then introduced to Bill McKiernan who had recently started CyberSource to provide Web-based order processing and software downloads. We quickly partnered and began offering turnkey solutions using their e-commerce technology and Bindco’s manufacturing and fulfillment. One of our projects, HP’s first e-commerce site, was so successful that it was featured in Time and Business Week.
Bindco’s Silicon Valley location also afforded me an intangible personal benefit – I was able to meet, work with, and learn from so many bright and talented entrepreneurs during their start-up and early growth stages. Some of the entrepreneurs I was fortunate to learn from became industry leaders: Steve Jobs (Apple and NeXT), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Phillipe Kahn (Borland), and Jim Clark (Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and WebMD).
By 1998, Bindco had grown into an international company with annual revenue of $78 million. I sold my Bindco equity and retired at age 41.
The Start Of Gung-Ho
In 1999, bored with retirement, I started Gung-Ho as a “virtual company” that utilized the power of the Internet to integrate disparate brick-and-mortar suppliers in order to provide global best-in-class software manufacturing and fulfillment solutions. Gung-Ho’s first year revenue exceeded $8 million.
Since its inception, Gung-Ho has maintained profitability, operated without incurring any debt, and has never lost a client based upon its quality or performance. Gung-Ho is currently expanding its e-commerce and on-demand printing and publishing operations within vertical niche markets.
My future blogs will be all about printing in its widest sense. Topics will include industry insights, useful knowledge, observations, tips, and leading-edge technologies – both the good and bad lessons learned from my decades of work in the printing industry.