CEO, Cimpress and Vistaprint Founder
When Robert Keane began his MBA at the INSEAD Business School in Paris in 1994, the building blocks of a great business idea were already forming in his mind. He’d identified that European small business printing needs were under-served. Sole proprietors were forced to print their own marketing materials, pay exorbitant costs through a supplier or simply go without them at all.
He’d found a clear gap in the market. Like many of today’s Vistaprint customers, Robert Keane started his business alone, working from his apartment with no pay. His love for the French capital and the desire to start-up in Europe kept him in Paris. For the first few years, the company existed as a direct mail catalogue called ‘Bonne Impression’ providing business cards, brochures, newsletters and software to small businesses in France and later, the UK and Germany. November 1998 saw a momentous shift in strategy: the company moved online combining online graphic design software, e-commerce ordering, and centralized printing.
Just four months later, Robert conceived and patented the concept of internet based ‘gang printing.’ This revolutionary software would automatically aggregate many individual orders into a single digital file, which could then be printed using one press set up. This invention would go on to give the company, now known as Vistaprint, its single most important competitive advantage and change the printing industry forever. In May 2000 Vistaprint launched in the US with a bold marketing campaign.
We gave away our hero business card product for free. It was a big hit – and the beginning of a 14-year period of enormous growth and innovation. In the last 20 years therefore, Robert Keane has taken his company from his apartment in Paris to world leader in mass customization. Now CEO of Vistaprint’s corporate entity, Cimpress, his passion for providing professional, affordable marketing materials for small businesses is stronger than ever.
Anyone with the passion, ambition and spirit to run a business should have access to customised marketing products that help them connect with customers, professionally and affordably. We have pursued that vision from day one – and we always will.”