I Never Planned To Be In The Printing Industry
It was simply one of those “being in the right place (Silicon Valley) at the right time” opportunities and I jumped on it. 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 printing technology in use today.
It All Started With 3-Ring Binders
The year was 1982, I had graduated from Hastings College of the Law, took the California Bar exam, and was “temporarily” selling silk-screened 3-ring binders to make some money while I waited for the results of the Bar exam (which I passed). The IBM PC had just been introduced and binders were used to hold their computer software manuals. A growing number of high-tech companies were also using binders to hold their documentation. Because I was selling binders in Silicon Valley, I witnessed this skyrocketing demand firsthand. My best friend, who was also selling binders in Silicon Valley while earning his MBA, saw this same need. So, we decided to change our careers and co-founded Bindco with a goal to become the premier binder supplier to this rapidly evolving market.
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 late 80s, I became interested in emerging technologies that allowed Bindco to lead the industry in two key areas: E-Commerce and On-Demand Printing.
E-Commerce: In 1988, long before the World Wide Web, we used the Internet with modems and a Bulletin Board System (BBS) to process manufacturing and fulfillment orders from our clients.
In 1994, Bindco manufactured the physical browser software required for the Web pioneer Mosaic (which became Netscape) to “launch” the World Wide Web. Because I had already seen how the Windows GUI completely revolutionized text-based MS-DOS, I immediately knew that adding a Web GUI to the text-based Internet we had been using for our BBS would cause e-commerce to explode.
In 1996, Steve Jobs introduced me 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 CyberSource’s e-commerce technology and Bindco’s manufacturing and fulfillment. One of our early joint projects, HP’s first e-commerce site, was so revolutionary and successful that it was featured in Time and Business Week.
On-Demand Printing: In 1991, after Adobe’s PDF file format became a standard for documentation, Bindco began digitizing expensive bulky manuals and storing those PDF files on inexpensive CDs for mass distribution. We would then only print the hard-copy manuals as needed in low volumes. Although CD drives were new and expensive, it was more cost-effective to supply a free CD drive and discs than it was to supply large hard-copy documentation sets.
In 1992, I was awarded the on-demand printing contract for Tandem Computers. At that time, the Xerox DocuTech Network Publisher 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 for the “who’s who” of the high-tech industry.
In 1996, we began integrating additional on-demand printing locations in the US and Europe so we could route and/or concurrently print any document in any location for optimum geographic distribution.
The Creation Of Gung-Ho
By 1998, Bindco had grown into an international company with annual revenue of $78 million. We had revamped the Board of Directors and brought in new senior management but I did not agree with the direction they were taking the company so I sold my Bindco equity and retired at age 41.
In 1999, bored after only 6 months of retirement, I decided to create a revolutionary “virtual company” that utilized the power of the Internet to integrate disparate brick-and-mortar suppliers in order to provide global best-in-class printing, packaging, software manufacturing, e-commerce, and fulfillment solutions.
I named the new company, “Gung-Ho,” which is an American English word that literally means “work together,” and is used to refer to “extreme enthusiasm” and “performing in a successful manner.” The name fit, and Gung-Ho was an immediate and profitable success with first year revenue exceeding $8 million.
Today, Gung-Ho has become a technology leader in the manufacturing and fulfillment of printing, packaging, and media products. It has maintained its profitability, operated without incurring any debt, and, most importantly, has never lost a client based upon its quality or performance.
Moving forward, I am using Gung-Ho’s technological advantages to expand its e-commerce and on-demand printing operations within vertical niche markets. For details, please see our Web Sites & Pages and the 35+ years of milestones on Our History Of Innovation page.
Intangible Personal Benefits
Being in Silicon Valley – “the right place at the right time” – also afforded me intangible personal benefits because I was able to meet, work directly with, and learn from so many bright and talented entrepreneurs during their startup and early growth stages.
Many of the entrepreneurs I was fortunate enough to work with and learn from became industry leaders: Steve Jobs (Apple and NeXT), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Bill McKiernan (CyberSource and Authorize.Net); Phillipe Kahn (Borland and Starfish Software), and Jim Clark (Silicon Graphics and Mosaic/Netscape).
My future blogs will be 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 past decades and ongoing work in the printing industry.