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Impresse undergoes management change, layoffs

Nimish Mehta resigns as CEO of the online printing company, which also has laid off an unknown number of employees.

Investor jitters have contributed to the woes of another Internet start-up.

Nimish Mehta has resigned as CEO of online printing company Impresse, which also has laid off an unknown number of employees.

Impresse chairman Siva Kumar has taken over the CEO position at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which specializes in online custom orders of published documents, a spokeswoman said. She declined to say whether Impresse will seek a permanent replacement for Mehta, a former marketing executive with Oracle, or how long Kumar will remain acting chief.

Sources said Mehta left the company last week for personal reasons and to spend more time with his family.

Impresse also has laid off workers in the past few days--particularly in the sales and marketing departments, the sources said.

Several senior managers and board members declined to comment on whether any employees had been laid off. At the end of last year, the company had about 150 employees.

In late May, Impresse withdrew a relatively high-profile initial public offering bid, citing unfavorable market conditions. Impresse had planned to sell 3.5 million shares for between $11 and $13 per share, which would have raised about $38 million, according to a prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 22.

Unfortunately for Impresse, the stock markets plunged just a few weeks after that filing. On April 14, the Nasdaq composite index fell about 10 percent, dragging down investor demand for IPO shares.

The company had planned to seek a listing on the Nasdaq under the symbol "IMPC." Underwriters included Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Banc Alex Brown.

Impresse backers include venture capital giants Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark Capital, Palantir Capital, Adobe Ventures and Van Wagoner Capital Management.

The market also has not been kind to two publicly traded, online printing-related start-ups. Shares of ImageX.com closed yesterday at $4.19, down from a 52-week high of $45, and shares of iPrint.com closed at $3, down from $28.50.

Impresse debuted its first product in March 1999. Targeted at the publishing industry, "PresseWare" was a software package for linking business applications into a system for mass customization of manufactured goods. Early customers included database giant Oracle and George Lithograph, a printing firm.

PresseWare allowed a publisher to custom-manufacture each client's order. For example, brick-and-mortar bookstores and online sites such as Amazon.com could use mass customization to offer any book ever printed without maintaining expensive inventory warehouses. Booksellers would save money by not having to stock books that they might not sell, instead ordering publications through Impresse's Web site on an as-needed basis.

According to the company's regulatory filing with the SEC, Impresse employed 146 full-time workers at the end of last year, including 46 in research and development and network operations; 84 in sales, marketing, and customer service and support; and 16 in general and administrative functions.

Impresse reported revenues of $164,000 last year and a $19.8 million loss, according to an SEC filing. The company also had cash and related instruments worth $48 million at the end of the year.

Sources said despite the cost-cutting moves and the withdrawn IPO, the company was not seeking additional financing from its investors at the time of the layoffs.

Although Impresse withdrew its IPO bid and funding has tightened for a number of companies in this down market, it may receive good news soon, the spokeswoman said. "In the upcoming months, we'll prove we're a successful company."