December 2008 London & Edinburgh, UK
Unique is an over-worked word, but in this case it’s appropriate to describe Worthing-based UniversalPoster.com’s official celebrity photos and posters. The company is the first in the world to enable customers to add their own personalised message
Stars that have chosen to release their personal choice of favourite photos to UniversalPoster.com for the personalised touch include John Barrowman, Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Tom Jones, David Hasselhoff, Paul Potts, Julio Iglesias and Rhydian. And just in time for Christmas, Arsenal football club is the first sporting talent signed to UniversalPoster.com. Launched with
to an official celebrity photo in an exact digital facsimile of the celebrity’s own handwriting, complete with autograph. Walcott, Gallas, Clichy, Eduardo and Adebayor, more players will be added during the season.
The idea for UniversalPoster.com came to its founder and CEO, Paul Harris, when he was running a web development company. He saw enough potential in the idea that he resigned from the company that he had devoted 12 years of his life to building. Now, just over a year later, he says, “Our best references for our credibility and trustworthiness are our clients, who have chosen to grant us official licenses of their images.”
Paul’s secret of success is down to his choice of people who share a background in showbiz, print and production, and online development. That team combined with a world-class original idea, plus top quality materials and processes provide customers with great service and brilliant value for money. Not surprisingly, they come back for more and tell their friends.
UniversalPoster.com is that rare beast: an e-commerce idea that can not be easily replicated as it depends not only on the technology, but on individual deals with the stars and their management. Paul Harris says, “Allowing anyone to say anything in a star’s name could have been a barrier for some stars’ managers, but we have online swear checking technology and several levels of online and real world checks to ensure we never print anything rude, lewd or libellous. The in-built quality of every aspect of our business is allowing us to overcome any initial misgivings. The stars themselves and their fans love the idea”.
Paul says, “All our products are officially licensed and use the highest quality papers, original images, print technologies and support personnel to ensure both quality and value for our all customers. For example, most commercial posters are printed onto standard art papers that are between 100gsm and 170gsm. Our posters are printed onto heavier high-grade 190gsm white satin photo paper. This ensures better ink coverage and detail, a photographic finish and most importantly, a more durable poster.”
UniversalPoster.com has already expanded into a Spanish site for Julio Iglesias’ home fanbase and a German website to satisfy demand from Arsenal and David Hasselhoff’s fans. The recent signing of Wei Wei, who was seen all over the world singing at the Olympics closing ceremony, means that a Chinese version of the site will soon be launched to cater for the 1 billion people who have witnessed her 20 years of stardom in China.
UniversalPoster.com’s sites are already very highly ranked in several countries so you might have thought Paul Harris’ background in web development would came in handy when picking his way through the logistics of running multi-lingual sites. But from the start Paul realised that he needed to lead the business and cut the deals with the stars, not get stuck into the web development detail. He turned to Horsham-based application developer Lemonbiscuit Ltd (motto: refreshing the web) to build and host the site because “Their senior web programmers were some of the first to offer web design services in the UK back in the mid nineties.”
Being a world first has marketing advantages, but it also means that the business is a completely unproven concept. They were understandably cautious about expenditure but they wanted top notch managed servers for hosting the site, plus fast response times to realise the scalable potential of the business.
Xtraordinary Hosting in London and Edinburgh met their key criteria for customer service quality, reliability, security, flexibility and affordability. They provide virtualised servers that allow web developers to pay for as much or as little server capacity as they need. Andrew Ogilvie, CEO at Xtraordinary Hosting (and serial internet entrepreneur) explains, “Our Xen virtual servers are ideal for coping with fluctuating web traffic demands. Being virtual means they are ‘sliced’ by software into smaller, virtual servers, so we can deploy as many ‘slices’ of server as you need. That makes our Xen virtual servers a very flexible hosting system.”
UniversalPoster.com and Lemonbiscuit Ltd’s choice of web hosting virtual servers’ provider was amply rewarded when the site really took off in the run up to Christmas.
Tim Lockwood at Lemonbiscuit Ltd sent an urgent email to Xtraordinary Hosting reporting: “We’re getting hammered by traffic from Christmas mailers. The site’s quite resource intensive and we’re expecting a mailer to go out to 200,000 football fans on Friday. We want to make sure we can cope with as many of them as possible”. He says, “Xtraordinary Hosting fully lived up to their name by ramping up the server capacity eight-fold in minutes, allowing UniversalPoster.com to capitalise on the immediate increased demand from Christmas shoppers. They stood by ready to ramp it up again if needed when the football mailing went out”.
Andrew Ogilvie points out, “Xen virtual servers are also a green option since you are effectively sharing the power-load between lots of users instead of each client having to commit to a whole server and its purchase and running costs. Server power consumption is a real issue. The IT industry as a whole is up there alongside the aviation industry in terms of its carbon footprint. But IT brings us so many other efficiencies, it makes sense to go with the greenest option rather than use the technology less. At this moment, virtualised servers are that option.”
For UniversalPoster.com polishing up their green IT credentials is an Xtra bonus!
For further information, interviews, photos or comment from Scottish entrepreneur Andrew Ogilvie, (actuary-turned-pioneering Internet travel guru-turned-Internet technology innovator
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