We are thrilled to have the James J. Hill Center featured on TECHGEN’s blog Tech Tips for the Twin Cities. Enjoy some great tips by Reid Johnston in his post originally posted on November 5, 2018.
For an entrepreneur, a breakthrough product or service idea is the seed. Research makes it grow. Here’s how Twin Cities startups and small businesses can get professional help researching key business areas, plus some IT areas you’re probably wasting time trying to learn yourself.
Startups and small businesses need information on key areas such as:
- Your industry
- Your competition
- The marketplace
- Possible funding sources
- Infrastructure (especially your IT systems)
Google is an awesome research tool for entrepreneurs, but the quality and sources of information are hit-or-miss. Mostly miss. Are you going to entrust the future of your startup or small business to seat-of-the-pants research?
In St. Paul, there is an invaluable alternative: the James J. Hill Center. Let’s take a look at how they can help you find the information you need to succeed…READ FULL BLOG HERE.
In the April 9, 1922 Sunday edition of the “Pioneer Press,” the Hill Library ran a piece titled “Great Works on Tropical Trees and Flowers Reach Hill Library.” Presumably penned by Hill staff, the short article explicates on new additions to the Hill collection, which included a seven-volume series called Flora of British India and the eight-volume Flora of Tropical Africa.
Quite as interesting, elaborate and complete as the above are two series of books on two families of birds. That on the Turdidea or Thrush, by Seebohm, has been out several years. These two beautiful and luxurious volumes are illustrated by colored plates covering every branch of the Thrush family. … A later and still uncompleted work is ‘A Monograph of the Pheasants.’ … a rare work and one difficult of access.
The article ends noting that “the above are but a few selected items from the treasures of the Hill Reference Library, which the public is invited to consult.”
The Pioneer Press had already been running a Sunday books section, which featured new acquisitions at the public library and short reviews by library readers. In March 1922—just four months after we opened—the Hill Library joined this section on an irregular basis, announcing new additions to our shelves.
Studying these old copies of the Pioneer Press at the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota Historical Society, our staff has been able to get a glimpse into not just the titles the library used to own, but also their significance. While we have ledgers of book purchases from our early decades, these articles bring the books to life in a way a mere listing of the title and price cannot. And as the above passage makes clear, there was quite the variety of rare knowledge stored within these walls!
We no longer promote new books in the newspaper, but we do team up with the Pioneer Press to promote something just as special: entrepreneurs. Every other Sunday, we run the “Startup Showcase” column, which features a startup from our 1 Million Cups program. We couldn’t be prouder to carry on our history of sharing fresh ideas with the community in this latest iteration of our Sunday column.
Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or email@example.com.
If you’ve followed my monthly posts on the James J. Hill Center blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not your “typical” business blogger. Truthfully, when Lily Shaw, External Relations Director, approached me and asked if I was interested in being a contributor, I told her I wasn’t a business blogger. Yes, I absolutely love writing and yes, I am an entrepreneur. However, I had never combined the two, and just like that I was able to disqualify myself based on the unknown. Naturally, I followed up with my most polite, “thank you, but no thank you. Even though my response was a shaky “no”, I was secretly hoping that she would ignore the “no” that I verbalized and listen to the unspoken “yes” that I was silently screaming. Somehow she heard my silent “yes.”
Stepping into the unknown pretty much describes my entire business journey. From my earliest days at farmer’s markets when I was terrified to put my product on display— to many days spent at a vendor’s fair with my modestly decorated table right next to an elaborate booth represented by a nationally known company; I have continuously found myself in that difficult place of saying yes to the unknown. Spoiler alert…saying yes to the unknown has not always worked out in my favor, but I’ll save that for a separate blog post.
There are so many aspects of entrepreneurship that are rooted deeply within the unknown and I’ve just taken another leap. Later this month, I will be surrounded by friends, family, supporters and strangers to share the next chapter of my entrepreneurship journey. I am so excited, but I’m also terrified beyond belief. Daily I have to reassure myself “you’ve planned the work, now work the plan.” I have to remind myself that the dream is always bigger than the dreamer, so give yourself permission to keep growing. And when the thoughts of “what if this does not work” bombard my mind, I have to run to the nearest mirror, stare right back at myself and scream the reminder: “but what if it does work, my dear dreamer, what if it does work.”
As a mission-driven entrepreneur, the heart of my work comes from a very personal place, a very vulnerable place, filled with countless unknown details and life changing experiences. I’ve learned flexibility is a reoccurring appointment on my calendar and building a complementary team is one of the keys to success. I’ve learned that building my sales funnel is the foundation to generating revenue, and maintaining positive cash flow is the cause of my countless gray hairs.
With all of the hard facts and data filling my desktop and the unknown details that have left me “sleepless in the Twin Cities,” there is a force of hope that fuels my drive to keep dreaming, believing and doing. After all, I live by the well-known mantra: she believed she could, so she did!
So, I want to hear from you. What dream or goal have you been putting off because of the unknown details? What is one action that you can take today to get one step closer to achieving that goal? I’d love to here all about it. You can share the details with me by clicking here.
If you are up for a little celebration and the best cookies in town, I invite you to join me at my upcoming launch celebration. You can reserve your free ticket here. If you’d like to keep in touch and follow along on this hop-filled journey, you can like, follow or join me on Facebook and Instagram @junitasjar and on @JunitaLFlowers on Twitter.
You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website junitasjar.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press. Recently we connected with presenters Nathan and Alex Guggenberger. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on June 17, 2018.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9.8 million jobs are projected to be created by 2024 and, according to employee-screening services company EBI, 75 percent of that workforce will be made up of millennials.
Alex and Nathan Guggenberger have been a part of those job seeking statistics and ultimately decided to help themselves by helping others find the best fit. With 42 percent of people searching through job boards but only 14.9 percent of hires happening from those boards, Alex and Nathan thought they saw an opportunity to make job searching more efficient, holistic and ultimately give back to companies with a higher retention rate. Thus the birth of Jobiki — helping job seekers explore, discover and find meaningful work.
Name: Nathan and Alex Guggenberger
City you live in: Minnetonka
City of Birth: Minnetonka
High School Attended: Hopkins High School
College attended: Augustana University
Name of company: Jobiki
Business Start Date: Sept. 2, 2017
Number of Employees: 2
Number of Customers: 12
Q. What led to this point?
A. Nathan and Alex grew up together. Why? Because we are siblings. I guess you could say we have always worked together. We actually “tried” to start a business when we were in elementary school. It was called “A.B.C. Gum.” We wanted to make a brand new gum that looked like it had already been chewed. We closed up shop after the R&D (research and development) phase because the gum came out rock hard. In all seriousness though, we have always been a duo that bounced ideas off each other. With me (Alex) having a degree in business and accounting, and Nathan having a background in software development, it just made sense.
Q. What is your business?
A. We help people find meaningful work by finding a meaningful workplace. For many, including ourselves, nothing is more daunting then searching for employment. You often don’t know where to start or even what opportunities are out there. The solution for many is to apply to as many jobs as possible, hoping that they will eventually hear back from someone.
At Jobiki, we do things a little bit differently. The Jobiki job search starts with finding the right company. Our platform allows job seekers to explore company cultures through photos, videos, benefits, amenities, and neighborhood data of companies near them. Using the Jobiki filters, job seekers can discover the perfect company that fits with their lifestyle and personal brand. With Jobiki we allow you to signal interest in a company with a simple click of a button. After explaining why you want to work for that company, Jobiki will send your information and résumé to our contact with that company. READ FULL ARTICLE…
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.
By Katie Moritz
(This article originally appeared on Rewire)
Nine out of 10 startups fail. That’s a hard truth of being an entrepreneur. Some of that is just plain luck, said Silicon Valley investor Ann Winblad during a workshop at e-Fest Entrepreneurship Challenge at the University of St. Thomas’ Schulze School of Entrepreneurship on April 13.
Caption/credit: Ann Winblad, right, meets students competing in e-Fest at the University of St. Thomas on April 13. Photo by Katie Moritz.
In San Francisco, where Winblad has built a successful venture capital firm that funds innovations in software, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, an entrepreneur failing means they’re one step closer to succeeding. A lot of them bounce back and get on to the next idea.
In her role as a partner at the firm, Winblad “(auditions) the future every day,” she said.
“I see some wacky versions of it, some wishful versions of it, and some we buy into.”
(Fun fact: Back in the day, Winblad’s first business—a Minneapolis software company—was housed over Prince’s first studio, before he was Prince.)
What are the other factors—besides luck—that can make or break a startup? Winblad shared some of the insights she’s gained from decades working with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country:
1. Build the right team early on
Assembling the wrong people to work on your dream can spell failure, Winblad said. That might mean you have to have some tough conversations early on with people who are likely your friends. But if you really want your project to succeed, you need the right people in the right jobs.
Caption/credit: Your founding team should write down as many as 10 assumptions about what your company will do. Quarterly, revisit and revise those assumptions.
Venture capitalists invest in companies, not products, Winblad said. When Winblad’s firm looks at teams to invest in, “some of this sounds kind of fairy-taleish, but we look for someone who has a big vision of how the future will unfold.
She gave the example of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whom she knew early on in his career. He was in love with his own big ideas, and that passion showed through to the people around him.
“Bill Gates believed there would be a personal computer on every desk,” Winblad said. “He was infused with the energy of this potential.”
Winblad’s firm also looks for team members who have “glass-half-full” attitudes. Positivity will buoy you through the difficulties of starting a business.
“If you’re a glass-half-empty person, you’re going to meet some real challenges that are going to make you not even want to look at the glass,” Winblad said.
2. Center the customer
Do your market research and develop a product or a service that customers need. When you’re pitching to investors, if you can show the need for what you’re hoping to deliver, you’re in a good position.
Winblad used the example of MuleSoft, a software company her firm invested in and was recently sold to Salesforce for $6.5 billion. MuleSoft gave their product away for free at first and built up a portfolio of loyal customers. When it came time to scale up and look for more money, MuleSoft leaders were able to produce a long list of people who not only saw a need for the product, they were already using it.
Another couple of founders arrived at a pitch meeting at Winblad’s firm with a long scroll that they rolled out on the board room table.
The entrepreneurs said to the investors, ” ‘Pick any name on here. There are 500 customer names—we’ll tell you what they said about our product,’” Winblad said. “We were captivated. … They told us what the customer wanted, not just what they were building.”
“We’re not the batters, we’re only pitchers in the end, and the market has to bat at this. … Both these companies captivated us with the strong need in the market and the voice of the customer first.”
3. Define and redefine your ‘assumptions’
When you’re starting out, brainstorm and write down as many as 10 assumptions about where your business will go. These assumptions define your business strategy. Once a quarter, you should revisit them as a group and determine if they are still true.
Caption/credit: Having the wrong team and getting money at the wrong time or in the wrong amount are two common missteps of startups.
“If any of them are false, huddle together and change something in your business strategy,” Winblad said.
Writing down and revisiting these assumptions will help you “keep your eye on the prize,” she said.
“It takes enormous intellectual and physical stamina to do a startup. It’s all uncertainty.”
Eventually, as your business grows, the assumptions that make up your business plan will manifest into facts, Winblad said. But don’t wait until you have a list of facts to reach out for funding.
As venture capitalists, “we like uncertainties,” she said. “We want to hear about the bigger promise, not about the smaller proof. We want to hear about your assumptions. We don’t need facts, so don’t tiny it down—come to us with the prize and your thinking about the prize. Because that’s our job—our job is to say, were willing to take risk.”
This article is part of America’s Entrepreneurs: Making it Work, a Rewire initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange.
© Twin Cities Public Television – 2018. All rights reserved.
About the writer(s):
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s web editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.
Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.
“The future of retail is no longer ‘where did you get that product’ but ‘what did you search,’” says Darrin Levine, CEO and Founder of ASDAL Inc. And he should know, it’s what he does.
Darrin’s company, ASDAL – an acronym that stands for A Seller’s Daily Amazon Life – is unique for a number of reasons. For starters, they offer comprehensive Amazon store management. To explain this, Darrin uses the following comparison: When you go to the mall, each store has a marketing manager, a display manager, an inventory manager, and lots of software keeping things straight on the back end.
“[It’s] the same concept on Amazon,” Darrin says. “We have a store manager who oversees everything, we have an account support specialist who can fix the files and templates, and content creators who do design, writing, product copy and EBC (enhanced brand content).” ASDAL can take responsibility for the whole package (literally and figuratively) including inventory storage, repackaging, and forwarding.
The second thing that makes ASDAL unique is their single-minded focus on brands. They will only take on clients who own a trademark but – once they do – will help them navigate the strict rules for registering and launching trademarked products on Amazon. Part of this launch process is removing unauthorized resellers of a product. Darrin and his team have made themselves experts in this process – they know exactly how to submit cases to Amazon to remove 90-100% of third-party sellers.
Finally, ASDAL is paving the way for others in the online retail industry by developing a proprietary software called GRIT. “There is yet to be an enterprise level software for brands to understand where their products are at,” says Darrin. Most of the current software is made for third-party sellers. Because their focus is on trademarked products and they are in the trenches every day managing branded accounts, the ASDAL team is creating an all-in-one tool that combines inventory management, PPC (pay-per-click advertising), keyword tracking, inventory forecasting, sales and reporting.
Despite the hype, only 8% of retail sales happen online. However, according to reports by eMarketer and One Click Retail, in 2017 Amazon was responsible for 44% of all ecommerce sales – roughly $196.75 billion. Darrin spends a lot of time analyzing this tech giant and he has notice Amazon moving from a third-party seller’s platform towards a brand-driven platform. “When online retail sales start reaching the 12-15% range more brands are going to have to step on Amazon,” says Darrin. His prediction is that by 2020 companies with trademarked products will need to hire their own Amazon specialists and teams – or hire ASDAL.
There are many things that set Darrin apart as an original thinker but arguably most admirable is that he recognizes, respects, and defends original thinking in others. Many of the clients he works with will discover that others have been reselling their trademarked products at wholesale levels without their knowledge. “I do see us as champions to retain smaller companies’ revenue,” says Darrin. He has a special contract for small, local companies who need an ally in their corner – someone to clear the field of unauthorized sellers and set their brand up online. After that, he’s only a click away. “This is kind of a Minnesota nice thing [we do],” says Darrin. “If you need help just call me.”
To learn more about ASDAL Inc. visit their website or reach out to the team at email@example.com.
Written by Christopher Christenson, Program & Event Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When then-head librarian Joseph Pyle hired “Miss Helen K. Starr, of the Library of Congress” as head cataloger in 1918, he probably didn’t suspect he was hiring the woman who would see the Hill Reference Library through its arguably most significant era.
Pyle recognized Starr’s skills: “Miss Starr has had unusually valuable experience and comes with the highest recommendations from those familiar with her work.” But we don’t need to take his word for it.
As the first Hill cataloger, Starr had the immense duty of creating a cataloging system out of nothing. Fortunately, her experience as a head cataloger at the prestigious Library of Congress meant she was up to the task.
When Pyle passed away in 1930, Starr was the clear successor as head librarian, and she stayed in that role (while still continuing as head cataloger) until her retirement in 1948. Not only was she the longest-running head librarian here at the Hill, but she also saw the library through the challenges of the Great Depression and World War II—and seized the opportunities presented by these hardships, resulting in our highest visitation ever in 1941.
Starr responded directly to the needs of community. When the St. Paul Central Public Library began reducing hours during the Depression, Starr chose to expand our collection to provide ample reading material for students. She also increased the Hill’s open hours and purchased new furniture, creating a “40 percent increase in the seating capacity” (only to be followed by more such purchases throughout her tenure). In addition to filling the gap for the public library’s regular visitors, Starr also remarked that “many young men prepared for Civil Service examinations while others studied in the Library in connection with WPA projects.”
These changes were appreciated: “Many unemployed men have had their courage renewed, their outlook broadened and their understanding of complex economic phenomena clarified by constant reading and study at the Library.”
In 1935, Starr had air conditioning installed, a system which used artesian well water circulated throughout the building (much more affordable than mechanical cooling), meriting a praiseful article in Heating, Piping and Air Conditioning.
During the Second World War, Starr faced new challenges. While admittedly there was “no expectation of air raids” here in St. Paul, Starr saw it as her duty to take precautions. An air raid shelter was created in the ground level, and blackout curtains hung through the library. European periodicals were becoming difficult to maintain, specifically—and not surprisingly—the highly-regarded German chemistry journals.
During the war, libraries nationwide, and at the Hill, suffered large drops in attendance, at least partially because many people were being drawn to service and the armed forces. However, Starr did notice an increase in scientists and engineers from local war plants coming in to use our resources. The Hill continued its role of being a place for people to come, learn, and apply their knowledge to improve the community.
Join us at the Hill to hear from other trailblazing female leaders. Our program Taking the Lead is a series of free discussions exploring the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs. Compelling topics moderated by some of the Twin Cities most recognized leaders and joined by diverse panels of professionals sharing their insights, perspectives and experiences. The next discussion will be on April 20th with moderator Jamie Millard, Executive Director of Pollen, as she and her panel discuss Women: The New Rules.
Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or email@example.com.
Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for the Soft Skills Revolution to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.
Life would be so much easier if everything stayed the same, wouldn’t it? Preparing for that speech or meeting or interview would be a heck of a lot easier if you new exactly what was going to happen, right?
We would adapt to the precise moment when the projector would break. We’d jump right on the last-second agenda change. We could prepare for that last question no one would ever expect.
Awesome concept, right? Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite, in fact.
First of all, the world isn’t like Groundhog’s Day. Something about the second law of thermodynamics and time’s arrow. Change is our only constant. Besides, look how unhappy Bill Murray became. Like it or not, we depend on change. Luckily, that’s a skill that you can develop.
One of the highlights of my career has been to work alongside academy award winning actor, Mark Rylance. He has a shelf of awards for his acting, but he’s also a generous director and mentor.
In a play he wrote and directed, I played a snowmobile riding, Norse, frost giant. In most plays, the director gives actors blocking and expects them to always follow it. Mark didn’t. Instead, he described the relationship between characters onstage. If a character moved one way, we would react and respond instead of moving in a rehearsed and rigid fashion that was constructed for us.
His commitment to chaos was so great that he would also change things he thought were working too well. If he thought something became routine, he would break it up and force us back to reacting to it.
This experience gave me a certain comfort in chaos. Through rehearsing in what appeared like chaos I developed an appetite for unpredictability. Because of this method, I actually joined the audience by encountering aspects of the play for the first time every night, together, with them.
Befriending chaos through practice is the first step to handling unexpected moments with ease.
We can “rehearse spontaneity” with the people we seek to connect with. Instead of hoping that things unfold like we plan, we can plan on unpredictability. We can hold on tightly to the points we want to make. But at the same time, let go of particular thoughts or ideas that hold us back.
Here is an excises to try:
- Think of your “Big Idea” and a few supporting words.
- Talk through them enough times so that you’re as clear and concise as you can be.
- Write down what you said.
- Read it aloud.
- Now re-draft to get the words perfect.
- Print out your final copy. Place the paper in front of you and turn it over.
- Talk through your “Big Idea” and supporting thoughts without using any of the words on the paper in front of you.
You have just written your own mini-script. Now that you know your steps you can do the dance.
Results May Vary in Delight
Many of my clients do not like the exercise above. It takes work and commitment. What happens though is almost always a delight to them and me. They engage with the change.
They find new words to share the ideas and the “idea” is now fresher than ever. I hear them thinking, not talking. The words they wrote disappear, replaced by thoughts and authenticity.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be with someone who can conquer change. That’s real. That’s worth listening to?
Hear Everyone but Listen Only to Yourself
Remember the idea and forget the words. There is power and presence in that concept. When you listen to yourself everyone will hear you.
Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.
If you’ve spent some time at the Hill, you may have noticed the 12 numbered rooms along the south wall of the building. These doors, while now office spaces and bathrooms, once served as study rooms that housed a myriad of researchers, authors and artists.
One such author by the name of Mr. Richardson B. Okie spent almost every day between the war years of 1938 and 1942 in study room 6. This particular study room is located on the mezzanine level, directly behind the large painting of James J. Hill on the Reading Room wall. Mr. Okie was a St. Paul-ite who took to study room 6 so well that he even came in on his wedding day.
We tracked down one of Mr. Okie’s published stories that showed up in the May 1941 edition of The Atlantic magazine, which was of course penned in study room 6. It’s an article called, “When Greek Met Greek. A Story,” which is a fictional account of whistling men recalling the tales of ancient Sparta.
The study rooms at the Hill harken back to a time when the book collection comprised of topics in every subject (with the exception of law, medicine, and fiction). They supported the “serious researcher” that James J. Hill envisioned would be attracted to his library. While many of the original books that Mr. Okie would have poured over are now gone, we look to our Empire Builder collection on library floor “5” for our oldest titles – look for the bright green dots on the book spines to spot one.
Learn more of the story behind the Hill Center, these images and the epic building in our Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. In this one hour experience you will go back in time, up and down catwalks, through vaults and peek in hidden nooks and crannies. Our October tour is coming up so get your tickets early!
Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leah Kodner, Business Librarian from the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters each month for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press. Recently she connected with presenter Richard Krueger. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on October 7, 2017.
According to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the Consumer Price Index for the cost of college textbooks increased 88 percent between January 2006 and July 2016. By comparison, the average increase for all items in that same time period was 21 percent.
Richard Krueger knew that this has been a problem for many students, and he and his partners came up with Swapzit to help solve the problem. Swapzit allows users to list the textbooks or other items they want to get rid of, along with a textbook or other item they need, and Swapzit arranges a multi-party swap, giving all users the item they want in exchange for the item they no longer need.
Name: Richard Krueger
City you live in: St. Paul
City of birth: St. Paul
High school attended: Archbishop Brady High School, West St. Paul
College attended: St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis
Name of company: Swapzit
Business Start Date: June 1, 2012
Number of Employees: 4 founders
Number of Customers: Over 1,000
Q. What led to this point?
A. Myself and the other three founders, Jake Wiatrowski, Lucas Krause and Jamie Weber, have made successful careers out of leveraging technology to automate manual processes and compiling data to gain insights and make better decisions. Most of us currently work in the Business Intelligence field.
We exist in that sweet spot between generations where we aren’t intimidated by new technology, nor do we take it for granted. We’ve seen so much innovation in our lives, from the inception of call waiting on land lines, to having access to the sum of human knowledge in the palm of your hand. We want to make a positive impact in the world, and we’ve grown up with technology being the tool to make that impact.
Q. What is your business?
A. The Swapzit business is one of identifying and retaining value. We call it “Worth Finding.” We live in a world of abundance where most people have things stored in their closets, basements and garages, and yet many of us lack the wealth to get the things we need and want. Swapzit provides a medium for people to get the maximum value possible from the stuff they have by getting them the things they actually want and need.
Swapzit is a platform which uses an advanced algorithm to identify complicated multi-party exchanges. What does that mean?
Let’s say that you’re a student that has an engineering textbook you don’t need anymore, and your next class is an art class. You could sell your textbook back to the bookstore at a 90 percent loss, and then kick in another few hundred dollars to get your art book. You could try to find a student who happens to have the textbook you want and also happens to want the textbook you have. You’ll spend days looking, and you’ll likely not succeed in finding someone.
What Swapzit does is arrange multi-party exchanges, so you send your engineering book to someone who needs it, and another person ships their art book to you. By including more than two people, sometimes up to six, Swapzit makes the likelihood of you getting your book, for just the cost of shipping, an almost certainty, and we make it extremely easy.
Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. Because we’re older professionals, each of the Swapzit founders has built a professional network. We’ve leveraged our networks to formally establish an 11-person advisory board of professionals who are some of the most successful in the marketing, advertising, legal, startup, and IT worlds.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. Jake, Lucas, and I met while working for a startup. We routinely talked of starting our own business. Years later, Jake and I were working on the University of Minnesota campus. We’ve all heard about the triple digit percentage increases in the cost of tuition and books. Working on campus, it was impossible for us to not think about the debt these kids were incurring. Over the course of a lunch, Jake challenged me to find a solution. Later that day, Swapzit.com was registered.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. The Swapzit algorithm, and Swap-Management protocols, are capable of solving many problems associated with broken markets….READ FULL ARTICLE
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.JJHill.org.