Memeoirs, the business of memory, hits Pozzoni Group

Pubblicato il 06 Mar 2014

Memoirs. A word recalling a distant, romantic world, where personal diaries and letters written on beautiful paper with ink and elegant handwriting were the custodians of the slow passing of time, of loves, hates, revenges, unmentionable secrets, dreams and desires. The opposite of digital communication. (combination of the words meme and memoirs) is precisely inspired by this
concept, the start-up having passed through TechPeak (and previously from Start-up Chile) last year. Memeoirs has recently secured an approximate €250,000 investment from the Pozzoni Group, an influential printing industrial group, and may receive a further €175,000 matching fund from Trento Autonomous Province, for almost overall €500,000 and a new partner that is a leader in the printing sector in Europe.

This is a very good achievement for a digital start-up, which poses a challenge somehow: in a world of bits, going back to the beauty of paper, in a world where sentiments are carelessly displayed on social media, going back to the importance of the intimacy of communication, in a world of short, linguistically debased, messages, going back to the elegance of writing.

Utopian as it may seem, Memeoirs web platform is made precisely to allow transforming email
conversations (and also Facebook’s timeline shortly) into books: conversations between lovers and among friends can be typical cases.

(Memeoirs founders, Giacomo Miceli in the middle)

Arguably, you are going to be brave: in a world where even traditional books are less and less printed and more and more sold digitally, why should people be interested in printing their own digital conversations?

The market niche we started our business with is very peculiar: couples writing love messages to each other and wish to celebrate and remember their exchanges with a precious artefact – says Giacomo Miceli, one of the founders – The physical nature of our product perfectly matches the logic of books, regarded as personal and personalised objects, one-of-a-kind samples to be kept with affection and with which people can rediscover their own past as they do with a photography album. Having said this, our mission is not limited to the output of the paper medium or the input of digital conversations. We are dealing with the business of memories.

Giacomo, you three founders come from different countries, how did you meet and how did you get to your present project?

I met Fred Rocha and Paulo Rodrigues Pinto in Gent almost 10 years ago. At that time, I was studying IT and they were studying engineering; by chance, we had chosen Belgium as the
destination for our Erasmus experience. In those months of study and discovery, we understood we had much in common, like our love for technologies and written words. Already at that time, it was clear to us that we would have to do something beautiful together. We developed the idea of Memeoirs only many years later, by observing my mailbox and the incredible quantity of stories and people that were in my e-mails since 1994. In the beginning, Memeoirs was not a conventional start-up. Transforming what in the beginning was our hobby into a constant commitment required much more time that I had wanted and we learnt much during our path (build it and they will come is an incredible lie!). In mid 2012, we started our climb within the Start-up Chile programme; last year, we passed from being a simple MVP to a mature platform during the TechPeaks programme, where we grew a lot and decided to establish our own company from the evocative name of FitMemes. The toughest lesson for us was to face the rapidity with which written communication is changing in the XXI century, in favour of speech impoverishment and fragmentation. Despite Memeoirs’s mission is to preserve and appraise any kind of memory (in the form of chats, e-mails or images), we all at @memeoirs love written words and communication by letters, which are on their way to extinction.

Is this the industrial investor that you were looking for? From the outside looking in it seems that you won the lottery, what are the terms of the investment? By giving you the cash are they going to do the production and the shipping?

The Pozzoni group is actually the kind of “smart money” we were looking for. Having a strong
partner who knows the world of printing at a global level is clearly a winning structure, although at this early stage we are not entrusting the production and logistics to the group.

What will be the upcoming challenges?

We are expanding our offer to a range of other services such as WhatsApp and other social networks where personal communication is important. The biggest challenge for the future will be to integrate numerous other sources of information such as blogs or photo storage services, without affecting the ease of use of the platform.

At the moment that of Memeoirs is a niche market, and in this case the investment of the industrial group doesn’t seem to enter into the production cycle.
Shorty, why the Pozzoni Group has invested in Memeoirs ?

Luca Canepa, manager and business angel and member of Iban Executive Council, now also Chairman of Memeoirs, followed the operation which led Pozzoni Group in the share capital of the startup. “This choice was caused by the “emotional” component for everything that is in the printing sector, but mostly by the long term view. At this stage, Pozzoni is a financial partner, which brings big capital and know-how, looking at a whole range of potentialities that this start-up can have. Memeoirs’ business model and its technology can have n-applications”.

This kind of investment brings out the role of the “industrial partner/investor” that perhaps has been a little underrated in the Italian innovation system so far, as Luca Canepa points out: “This investment, beyond the obvious advantages that will lead to Memeoirs, is significant because it demonstrates the growing attention of the Italian industrial world towards start-ups. This kind of synergy is fundamental for the whole system, it promotes the growth of innovative start-ups but also the introduction of innovation in mature and traditional companies”. This model is often disliked, especially among start-ups, because it is seen as a scouting activity by industrial groups that doesn’t really help the growth of the start-ups, and is merely an acquisition.

“In this particular transaction, the Pozzoni Group has entered into the capital as a minority
shareholder and the parties are protected through agreements and pacts – Luca Canepa explains – it would not have much sense to stifle the growth momentum of the start-up, even from an industrial point of view. Certainly, in these cases a business angel and Iban association, through its members, can not only support the matching of the two realities, but also act as a “buffer” to guarantee both parties. This is exactly my role as business angel and Chairman of Memeoirs: to bring my business development skills to accelerate the company's growth, as this is the main interest of all the shareholders”.

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