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Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Decade Ago...

I  came across an article at WhatTheyThink about the Pitman Company.  The press release from Pitman begins: "Camden, NJ — The former chief financial officer of the Harold M. Pitman Company, a New Jersey-based graphic arts and printing supply company, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud and tax evasion in connection with a $2 million embezzlement scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced."

Apparently the fraud was conducted between 2003 and 2009.

I bring this up because my company crossed paths with Pitman during that period.

Lexigraph started out in the late 1990's by producing what would become pdfExpress.  The first version was a plug-in for Acrobat 3.0 that ran on a PC.  Previously the focus of revenue had been market research and mailing companies I had started.   The mailing company I have discussed before.  The market research company conducted mailing survey's using the "fill in the oval"-type printed surveys.  We also tallied the results and produced reports.

Once the first plug-in was working I made the decision to travel to a trade show in Moscone Center in San Francisco to demonstrate the product.  I hand built a back wall using example output I printed on a color laser printer I hand bought.

The booth generate a lot of interested from a company called PR1ME Source (PS).  PS was a distributor of Xeikon digital presses in the USA and claimed to be "the largest integrator of Xeikon branded presses in the world."  The reason for this was that our PDF process worked a lot like the front-end of their digital press at the time: the PrintStreamer II.  This was a hardware device built by a third-party Xeikon integrator that used a scripting language to assemble pages from components.

Our product, pdfExpress, worked in a similar fashion except in software assembling PDF components, e.g., overlays, charts, graphs, logos, into a PDF file.  This was a very advance technology and together we could do a lot of things that the big companies could not.

Over the next couple of years Lexigraph became heavily involved with PS - primarily because it was easy for us to build, simulate and test workflows in software without having to turn on a press.

The Pitman article piqued my interest because Pitman at that time was the chief rival of PS.  Both companies were primarily resellers of plates and other print related software and hardware to the printing industry.  I believe that PS's arrangement of Xeikon was kind of a poke in Pitman's eye.  PS was run by some far-ahead seeing executives and though in the long run it has since disappeared (I am not sure what happened to it - it got involved with a Xeikon partnership called Canopy and then I believe was bought by Fuji).  These execs understood that the real future growth of the print industry was going to be digital (this is about 2000).

I think that 9/11 in the US eventually caused PR1IME Source to be purchased by Fuji.  The print industry took a bit hit after that attack and recovery took several years.  PS's investment in the Xeikon relationship was expensive and Fuji bailed them out.

Eventually I hired some of the Canopy employees and I recall visiting the Pitman booths at trade shows in the subsequent years with them and discussing their company and products.  

I discussed the "digital printing" business with some Pitman people over the years.  They always felt that it was a mistake for PR1ME Souce and that they were going to stick with their primary business.  I think that they probably were right in the sense that they are still around and independently doing what they do.
Its a shame to see employees go bad like that - but anyone who runs a business has to deal with that sort of thing.

I had forgotten about Pitman until I read the linked article.

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