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Books Are Meant to Be an Investment, Not an Expense
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Working at a Tech Startup when you’re not a Techie

Let’s rewind back to sometime in mid-February 2017. I’m stuck on a plane, no books, no working TV and 5 hours to go…so, the entrepreneur in me pulled out a piece of Kleenex and jotted down ideas:

A platform for all book-lovers to find/sell books;
A place where students can buy and sell books;
A marketplace to easily find and sell books;
An app that allows for books to be an investment, not an expense;
…BookSwap…BookFlip…Book…BookBack.

It stuck with me. [It was go time]

I landed, grabbed a cab, and headed to my hotel.

As soon as I got to my room before I put my things down, I called my two close friends, two great developers, to tell them about the idea. They loved it. We got started.

Time passed and sure enough, as Reid Hoffman says “every founder will go through the Valley of the Shadow, where they question what they’re doing and whether they should give up” – our doubts/uncertainties were certainly there. Entrepreneurship is often glorified as a “lonely road”, but I think an essential part of a successful startup is a team with complementary aspects and founders who support each other during those challenging moments.

With a kickass team in place and an idea we were all really passionate about, expectations were high.

Thing is, my experience leaned more towards the business/finance side and when I was exposed to the tech-aspect i.e. app development, it made things more challenging for me. The learning curve was definitely steep in the beginning as I had to get myself more comfortable with the terminology and concepts.

I wanted the moon when the sky was barely attainable.

There was always this sort of divide between what I wanted vs what actually could happen – I constantly saw the grander vision, but would have to scale it back [for the moment] so we can actually execute with the resources available. Both sides seemed to be playing this never-ending game of tug of war, pushing each other to do more while maintaining expectations.

Often, I would catch myself losing focus on what we needed to do first before getting to the next level so I had to adjust my mindset to focus on getting a presentable product to market first. Hoffman also says “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Looking back, I think having both pieces of the puzzle is instrumental, despite it being difficult to manage expectations. We really do balance each other out.

There is just so much waiting.

As a non-technical cofounder from the start, I found the tough part was working on a concept I still couldn’t see or play around with. I had to visualize the app in my mind and until we got the designs down into wireframes, everything was a mental game. Eventually we got a beta concept running and downloadable on mobile which made it much easier for me to gauge where improvements need to be made for the launch of the first version.

Sometimes I felt super helpless.

In the beginning , I depended more on the help of the developers to build the site, develop wireframes and build the beta… this left me feeling unproductive. But that didn’t mean that I was slacking, just that more can be required from one skill set versus another in different stages of development.

Now that we’re closer to launch, my technical co-founders are depending on on our side of the table to do the marketing/branding, create content and awareness and have a successful launch come August 1st. So everyone has different parts to play and everyone should be resourceful effectively when they’re called upon.

Don’t cry to quit, cry to keep going.

Honestly, the past year was rough. There were many times where we wanted to pull the plug on the idea, but the pain of quitting was greater than the pain of sticking with it. And it sounds fluffy, but it’s the reality.

Now, we’re all genuinely excited to launch BookBack on the App store. That’s cool to be honest and is a testament of our hard work, and dedication. We’re also excited to see how people react to it, their feedback for improving it, and to also documenting our journey as early stage founders to share lessons learned from the experience of working on and growing BookBack.

Funny thing is, I could have gained a lot of insight and maybe even a little bit of a headstart if I had read “ The Lean Start Up” by Eric Ries. Does anyone in my area have a copy?

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