Among other things, the business of business cards has changed a lot over the past 15 years that I have been in start-ups. And each new company needed its own business cards.
I just got a new supply of business cards, and the box that I found on my desk yesterday morning looks like a two-foot long "two-by-four," not the small six-inch "brick" of business cards that I received a dozen or more times in the past. In the old days, the cards came from a local print shop, contained 200-250 cards, and cost $200+ for the batch. Today, we order cards online from some company across the country, they show up in three days time in super-sized boxes containing 1,000 cards each, and we pay $80 for the entire batch. Finally, the cards are of the best quality and on the best stock I have ever used.
Largely as a result of Internet-driven disruption, the business cards that we use today at Simulmedia cost 1/10 as much as the cards that we used at Real Media in 1995, and they are better cards. As I look across the entire cost structure of operating Simulmedia, I find a number of similar examples of the Internet-driven economy driving down the cost of running a business. Here are a few:
Telephones. We don't have any landline telephones in our company. We all use mobile phones for most of our calls, laptop speaker phones and Skype for our conference calls, and maintain a single voice-over-IP phone, as much for vanity as anything. Our telephony costs are less than 5% per person compared those at my last company, TACODA.
Personal laptops, smartphones. As we all know, the power and versatility of personal computing hardware has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, while the costs have plummeted. Plus, the introduction of robust smartphones has dramatically increased the productivity per employee, even when they are not tethered to their laptops. We now accomplish a lot more per person at a lower cost per person, and operate with fewer people.
Productivity tools. We use Gmail for our corporate mail and calendar and Skype, Google and Google Talk for our internal conferencing and messaging. No more Outlook for us. No more WebEx. We use Salesforce.com for sales management and customer account management. We use Yammer for shared discovery. We do continue to use Microsoft Office, but probably won't in two or three years. Our desktop software costs per person are probably 15% of what I paid ten years ago.
Data storage. Each of my three companies has been very data-intensive, processing terabytes and terabytes of data. At Simulmedia, we use Dell servers running Linux, Postgres and Hadoop, and spend low-single-digital millions for infrastructure that at TACODA and Real Media cost us many tens of millions to run IBM, Solaris and Oracle.
This list could go on and on. The Internet and related innovations have had a dramatic impact on the economics of starting and operating businesses, particularly small businesses -- and not infrequently, in some very counterintuitive ways, like printing business cards. What do you think? Are you seeing the same kinds of costs at your businesses?