“He’s done it again,” is what you want to say. We are talking about Marco Aarnink, founder and CEO of the Dutch online printing platform print.com. The group of companies has just acquired the remaining shares in the TMB Image Center in Oss, the Netherlands, and expanded its own print production with the newly named print.com Productions. At the same time, the B2B platform continues to rely on a network of production partners in order to grow further. And its success proves it right; again. After all, print.com is not Aarnink’s first print service company.
For those who have been following the online print world for some time, the entrepreneur is no stranger. Aarnink’s first company, the People & Print Group with the still well-known online print brands drukwerkdeal.nl and printdeal.be, was sold in spring 2014 along with the then 175 employees to what is now the Cimpress Group, which continues to run the brands to this day.
After that, Marco Aarnink was mainly active as an investor in various industries, but he had never let go of printing. And so the opportunity to buy the domain print.com did not result in a lucrative resale business, but rather a completely new, internationally oriented printing company with a fresh approach to the business model. In an interview with me two years ago in Zippers Insights, he revealed what particularly appealed to the young entrepreneur and what motivated him. If you want to read it again, you can access the interview from back then here.
Constant expansion of production capacities
A lot has happened since then: first and foremost, of course, the latest news about the acquisition of the remaining shares in TMB Image Center. Why the rest? Because print.com had already joined forces with Kampert-Nauta and the full-service provider TMB Print & Sign (as it was then known) in January 2019 and acquired 50% of the shares in the production facility. In March 2021, Em. de Jong, the parent company of the Dutch Koninklijke Drukkerij Em. de Jong, also acquired a minority stake in print.com and, conversely, print.com acquired a minority stake in Kampert-Nauta, another subsidiary of the best-known Dutch printing group.
With the latest news, the ownership structure has therefore also been reorganized: while the TMB Image Center is now wholly owned by print.com and the online platform has also taken over additional production capacities in digital and offset printing from Kampert-Nauta, Kampert-Nauta will no longer hold any shares in print.com in future. However, the parent company Em. de Jong will continue to hold a minority stake in print.com and print.com’s own production plant.
Who is print.com Productions?
Following the complete takeover of the TMB Image Center, print.com renamed the production company “print.com Productions” and established it as an independent business unit within the Group. This makes it a service provider for orders placed via the print.com online platform. At least in part, because Marco Aarnink’s approach to this issue is also somewhat different. The online platform, which is aimed exclusively at professional graphic designers, resellers and marketing agencies, i.e. B2B users with regular print requirements, does not just rely on producing its own printed matter. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Marco Aarnink has already explained in various interviews that the development or purchase of in-house production capacities was born out of necessity. In the beginning, it was difficult to find production partners. All too often, potential partners were given the either-they-or-we gun by other cooperation partners, which meant that the only option was to build up their own production capacities in order to meet the growing demand.
Even before the first investment in TMB, the textile printing company Brezo, for example, was integrated into the print.com family – and a virtue was made of necessity in the truest sense of the word. Now operating as print.com Productions, the production company in Oss, the Netherlands, has a wide range of machinery: from offset and digital printing machines, large-format printers and numerous finishing and further processing machines to sublimation printing systems.
Print.com will continue to operate on two tracks in the future
Nevertheless, the network partners have worked so well that print.com is now more or less running on two tracks, working with more than 150 production partners as well as operating its own capacities. Does this mean that the company is not competing with its own network? As Marco Aarnink emphasizes in an official statement, the external production partners will continue to play an important role for the online platform. “Only with the print specialists, from packaging to promotional gifts, from room decorations to clothing and textiles” can the product portfolio on offer be expanded and delivery routes to customers kept as short as possible. The company founder explains in a short video clip that he intends to continue this approach in the future and further expand the network of production partners.
The fact that print.com approaches things differently, sometimes unconventionally, is more or less part of the company culture. Even at the start, the company took a rather unusual path, as Marco Aarnink revealed to me in our conversation at the time: Even before print.com’s business model had been finalized, he and his team had invited around 100 potential customers and formulated the business model behind print.com together with them. He called this process co-creation, which was intended to ensure that the business model was not developed without taking customers and their reality into account.
Not a classic online printer
Print.com is not a classic online print service provider like Flyeralarm or Onlineprinters, which also target end customers. As already mentioned, the Dutch platform exclusively serves graphics professionals and aims to play a role in the international market. It is therefore no wonder that the company has expanded its presence in the surrounding countries relatively quickly. print.com has had an office in Belgium since 2019, in France since the beginning of 2020 and in Germany, in Würzburg to be precise, since October 2020. And since mid-2022, print.com has also been represented in Austria.
However, print.com does not want to be perceived as an online print store, but rather as a kind of software-as-a-service provider. At its core, the online platform is about applications that help graphics professionals manage their print requirements, whether as a web app, via an API connection or directly from digital asset management (DAM).
Cross-media in our sights
Shortly before the news about the complete takeover of the TMB Image Center became public, there was another announcement that did not make the big rounds in public, but ideally underpins the approach just described: Marco Aarnink announced two months ago that converdy.com will be part of the print.com platform in future. Converdy is intended to support the creation of landing pages and the like with just a few clicks and therefore particularly quickly. In a LinkedIn post, the company founder spoke in this context of a step towards cross-media integrations.
My Take: The fact that the print.com team has a clear goal in mind and a knack for clever marketing is proven not only by the partnerships and acquisitions of recent years, but also by the story that the company created at the very beginning thanks to co-creation. The B2B customers are frequent flyers (because flyers are one of the most important products in the creative scene), the theme of air travel is played out across all areas right through to the trade fair stand and even extends to the CEO. Because he is not called CEO, but Captain. This is a) consistent and b) a fresh approach that is fun. We can therefore look forward to seeing where print.com’s journey will take it.