Category Archives: Admin and infrastructure

Project 16 : Team operational costs 2014: closing report

This project was to establish our basic infrastructure for the six months from September 2013 to February 2014. The plan was to:

  • Extend contracts of certain team members (marketing team salaries are covered in project pitch 17)
  • Provide for another sales team member and another intern
  • Cover various operational costs including rent, hosting, and others detailed in the budget below.

General report-back

We are closing this project early because it is not achieving what we set out to achieve.

This project was the base on which we hoped to get Paperight further along the road to self-sustainability after a third year of funding.

We planned in detail how we’d work as a team to generate revenue, mainly by supporting our marketing efforts, and each taking an active role in sales. Based on progress and our experience with publishers, outlets and end customers to date, we decided that we were most likely to be successful in focusing on the university textbook market.

By the end of this project, and despite our best efforts and our concept being well received by students and the public, our original business model did not work out. The key reasons were:

  • Publishers not signing on or taking far too long in their ongoing discussions with us
  • Poor customer service in most copy shops, meaning we could not get enough return customers.

We were not able to reach our targets and realised that we needed to change our core model, while remaining true to our mission to use a rights marketplace to help put every book within walking distance of every home.

Objectives achieved and not achieved

Our main objective was to generate more sales, achieving our sales targets and becoming self sustainable by early 2015. We did not achieve this. (See project 17 closing report for more detail on sales.)


We shifted our focus to marketing as far as possible. To varying degrees all of the Paperight team were involved in marketing and trying to create sales opportunities during the course of this pitch. The core marketing and sales team now consisted of:

  • Marie, our marketing co-ordinator (paid from project 17), created a marketing plan and strategy for Paperight going forward. Her drive was endless and she really did generate volumes of media recognition and public support. Despite her best efforts to generate public interest in purchasing our Paperight products and getting involved, she was limited by the available product offering and the lack of decent content being received from publishers.
  • Nick, our creative head (also paid from project 17), created outstanding design work. He assisted with grant applications, create guides for schools and sponsors on how to work with us, generated all our fliers, newsletters, book covers. Anything design related had Nick’s stamp on it.
  • Yazeed, our business development manager, enabled two large bulk sales and focused on schools and outlets and trying to encourage relationships and potential sales. He walked outlets through the purchasing process, followed and tracked all our sales.
  • Philippa, our content manager, focused on public-domain content, face-to-face outlet support, and on-campus marketing.
  • Oscar, our reading-communities manager, focused on content curation and creating relationships with lecturers at UCT, trying to encourage them to participate and use Paperight products as far as possible.
  • Shaun, our video-production intern, created great footage and finished video for Paperight during the three months that he worked for Paperight.
  • Tarryn, our COO and head of content, continued to build relationships with publishers, most importantly bringing in a range of matric study guides form SA’s top publishers. She also travelled to the Frankfurt Book Fair and won us the CONTEC startup award, which generated PR and industry credibility.

We facilitated bulk sales for:

  • Pelican Park High School
  • Minuteman Press, who sponsored books for Silverstream Secondary School
  • Mduduzi Ngidi Kwamakutha High School

Both of the schools that we sold books to or enabled sponsorships, improved their matric results. They were highly appreciative of having had access to textbooks in their time of need.

Additional achievements:

  • We won the FNB Innovation Index Award
  • We won the Contec Startup Showcase at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
  • We achieved a wide range of media coverage, in print, online, over the radio and in magazines
  • We signed up some major publishers (although not always their best content)
  • We finally registered as a vendor with Unisa, which took over a year.
  • Paperight is now trademarked in South Africa. We are almost complete in our US trademarking process and only need to prove that the mark is in use to complete the final part of our trademarking application.

Measures of success


Aim Result
We are hitting our revenue targets (i.e. our existing revenue targets as of end Feb) Not achieved.
We’ve reached 5000 students in 50 schools with books worth R500 000 Not achieved. We did not manage to build sales on the relationships we started with the Young Writers Anthology. We delivered books to approximately 600 students worth about R150 000.
2000 copies downloaded outside of CBDs We barely managed a fraction of this: after we started charging for exam packs, our sales outside of cities plummeted and did not grow again. We’ve recently made these documents free again, but it’s too early to say whether that will have an impact.
R2m in turnover contributed to South African businesses (including licenses to publishers and turnover at copyshops) Not achieved. We created about R75000 in copy shop turnover (including licence fees; R42000 excluding licence fees), and about R31000 (USD3100) in licence fees.
10 outlets are a pleasure to by a book at (customers want to come back and would tell their friends about it) We can confidently say four outlets are great to buy from: Sagittarius Printworks in PMB, The Office Crew in Strand, Aloe X in Grahamstown, and 3@1 Cavendish. We are reasonably certain that another dozen are good. The common factor is always an owner manager who runs the front desk personally. At the most disappointing outlets, managers seem to be in a back office or not present every day.
We expect to see that we’re over a quarter of the way to these targets. Not achieved.
We would like to be halfway to these targets. Not achieved.
We would love to see that we’re well over halfway to these targets. Not achieved.



Original budget: R 1 000 000.00
Actual spend: R 723 797.13
Returned to pool: R 276 202.87

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Laptop Marie 6500 6500 0
Laptop Philippa 6500 6500 0
External hardrive 2000 900 1100
Laptop sales manager 7000 0 7000
Laptop intern 7000 0 7000
Travel Yazeed 9000 0 9000
Travel sales manager 6000 0 6000
Data bundles Yazeed 1800 0 1800
Data bundles sales manager 1800 0 1800
3g dongle sales manager 500 0 500
Telephone telkom expense 10200 8342.45 1857.55
Telephone skype expense 1200 0 1200
Afrihost expense 7800 4185 3615
Mobile phone expense 600 0 600
Rent expense 120000 128958.39 -8958.39 Spent three additional months, March, April and May
Insurance 14940 5117 9823
Groceries and cleaning material 7860 7224.41 635.59
Paper for printing 1500 0 1500
Toner and ink 3570 750.12 2819.88
Binding machine 1000 0 1000
Rexel rotary trimmer 3000 0 3000
Domain registrations 5400 2404 2996
Freeagent subscriptions 1200 1951.46 -751.46 Spent three additional months, March, April and May
Dropbox subscription 2880 4120.77 -1240.77 Spent three additional months, March, April and May
Google apps subscription 4500 0 4500
PASA membership 6500 5931 569
SABA membership 3500 3300 200
Trovebox subscription 600 0 600
BEE annual certificate fees 3400 0 3400
COIDA 17825 13824.98 4000.02
Google email subscription 9000 0 9000
General accounting fees 36000 6919 29081
VAT returns 5400 0 5400
Year end accounting fees 20000 9633 10367
Provision for legal expense 7000 0 7000
Provision for trademarking expense 16000 0 16000
Fnb bank charges 6000 3599.04 2400.96
Paperight banners 1500 0 1500
Extra chairs for the office 3000 0 3000
Extra table for the office 5000 3800 1200
Bookshelf for accounts filing 500 3790 -3290 There was a desperate need for shelving for filing.
Router for the office 2200 2199 1
Staff workshops 3500 930 2570
Entertainment and meals 2000 3659.88 -1659.88 Spent three additional months, March, April and May
Docraptor monthly subscription 4800 1210.70 3589.30
Paperight monthly winner 4000 0 4000
Tarryn’s screen 1500 1500 0
Nick’s screen 700 700 0
Arthur’s screen 1500 1500 0
Philippa’s screen 700 700 0
Software hosting Paperight 51300 25650 25650
Business cards for employees 2250 0 2250
Dezre – Financial Manager 102000 143567.29 -41567.29 Spent three additional months, March, April and May. See note below.
Tarryn – Content manager 102000 153000 -51000 Spent three additional months, March, April and May. See note below.
Philippa – Content manager 60000 75238.10 -15328.10 Spent one month extra, see note below.
Intern 12000 0 12000
Intern audiovisual 15000 0 15000
Payroll expense 67590 9144.14 58445.86
Recruitment ads 1000 0 1000
Travel local 60000 0 60000
Travel international 25000 0 25000
Bank charges 4485 0 4485 bug fixes 16000 570 15430
Software development 75600 69027 6573
Courier expenses 900 488.22 411.78
Monthly meetings 3000 4500 -1500 Spent three additional months, March, April and May
TOTAL 1000000 723797.13 276202.87


Note: We overspent on some salaries and on some subscription items in this project by up to three months. Towards the end of the project period, I knew we’d be letting most of our team go and restructuring others. Rather than creating a new, separate project to cover their notice periods, we used our underspending in other areas to offset the overspending here.


Outputs and deliverables


IP Author Owner
New content (mostly reformatted public domain content) Paperight team Paperight
Market data (including textbook prescriptions database) Paperight team Paperight
Internal process documents (e.g. wiki and documents) Paperight team Paperight
Improvements to and new features on Paperight team Paperight



We and our many champions all firmly believe that distributed print-on-demand is a crucial part of putting every book within walking distance of every home.

We believe that there were three key challenges we didn’t overcome in the time we had. In no particular order:

  • We made some decisions about strategy and focus that didn’t work out.
  • Copy shop service wasn’t good enough, in general, to draw customers and keep them coming back.
  • Where publishers joined, they almost never gave us the books that mattered.

And the result was that we didn’t sell enough books to hit our targets. Here is more detail.

1. Strategy and focus

Our strategy and focus changed during the course this project.

Our initial focus for September, October and November:

Our main metric was turnover from sales in dollars. We maintained our growing targets till October last year, but slipped dramatically since November. At the end of January, for the first time, we slipped below our cumulative ‘Mort’ figure, the minimum target for staying on track to self-sustainability.

Focus for December, January and February:

Our sales were very low over this period. We decided to shift our focus to our February/March 2014 university-centred promotional campaign, headlined #textbookrevolution. All available resources and staff were now focused on this campaign. The shift in focus was also part of our planning for the year ahead and to encourage social change in the publishing industry.

The focus of the #textbookrevolution campaign was to (a) highlight the fact that 70% of the cost of a textbook is the supply chain (printing, shipping, warehousing, wastage and retail), and that (b) print-on-demand on university campuses could save students and South Africa as much as a billion rand a year.

Our campaign involved creating detailed messaging and plans: one liners, elevator pitches, detailed back stories, a manifesto, a petition, outlet advertising posters and marketing briefs, novelty coasters, and videos; campaign website; doing lots of PR work; and organising a Twitter debate on the high price of textbooks. This is all outlined in more detail in the marketing closing report 17A and 17B.

The campaign itself was a great success. The response from students at Stellenbosch and UCT was great. We collected over 1000 signatures on our #textbookrevolution petition. In addition to the paper petition, students have left great comments on our online petition.

We established that students are highly sensitised to the issue of high textbook prices. We reached more students in the 20 hours we spent on campuses than we would have in months online. The lesson that we learnt here was that we’ve long underestimated the importance of putting people on the ground talking to potential customers (even if we don’t have the books they need yet).

Focus for March, April and May:

We finally concluded, under the weight of years of anecdotal evidence and topped off with a full day in a top Stellenbosch copy shop, that customer service in most copy shops is atrocious. This is a major blow to our business model. I’d long worked on the assumption that 80% of stores would offer good service (or care about offering good service and aim for that actively), and 20% would be bad. I’ve now come to believe the opposite is true. As a result, under our current model we will never consistently create return customers. And without return customers, we could never hit the growth rates we need in order to sustain our current overheads.

We tried hard to train outlets, but managers consistently gatekeep or just did not work with us. We would only be able to tackle this problem in the long term by owning or franchising the outlets ourselves, which is beyond the scope of the project.

As a result, I decided to cut my team, and drastically cut costs. We decided to see whether there are new licencing opportunities for Paperight to explore during the last months of my fellowship.

Before the team went their separate ways, they each contributed to the Paperight story at This has greatly helped us to find a clearer understanding of why Paperight did not succeed in the way that we wanted to and when we wanted it to.

We realise that we need to accept that the industry is not ready for our model just yet and that it is going to take time to initiate change.  Even establishing a relationship with Unisa took a full year before we could even become a supplier on their database. We still believe that there is a need for Paperight, and it would be ideal if we could keep Paperight alive while this gradual change is taking place.

Adding our stories to allowed us to also reflect on not only our difficulties that we experienced, but all our achievements, the obstacles that we did overcome in the industry, the contributions that we made to schools in the form of sponsorships and our small contribution towards literacy and inspirtng young writers in our Anthology project.

The team was reduced by the end of March 2014 to three core team members: our COO Tarryn, Financial Manager Dezre and myself. Between the three of us we plan to guide Paperight through its next phase of publishing our Paperight story.

  1. Copy shop service levels

We focused on outlets in Stellenbosch and near UCT and many hours were spent training them both in person and over the phone. Despite this, we still found that we needed to assist them with their purchases. Despite much introspection, know that the difficulties were not related to bad UX on our site, because many other outlets had used the service flawlessly without training.

We also found out that many customers had cancelled their orders due to the length of time that the copy shops took to get back to them. (We ourselves waited almost two weeks on two occasions for books we ordered from Top Copy, a leading copy shop near our office.) We also had a number of phone calls where customers were upset because they had gone to a copy shop only to be turned away because the copy shop didn’t sell books. There were misunderstandings and lack of communication between staff. Strangely, copy shops often behaved as though Paperight was an inconvenience to their business model. They did not like to make changes, and were not always enthusiastic about being able to offer a new service.

We also sent some mystery shoppers to outlets in Stellenbosch and from their experience we don’t think that they would become return customers.

Types of problems that we have experienced with outlets include

  • Needing extensive training before being able to use Paperight
  • Needing repeated training due to inexperience, staff changes, long intervals between initial training and real time sales, and a lack of tech savvy staff.
  • Outlets not being motivated to advertise or actively sell Paperight books.
  • Some outlets were not motivated to even assist Paperight customers which was strange considering that they signed up as outlets.
  • Outlets were confused as to how to identify a Paperight customer.
  • Outlets battled to find the products that they wanted on our website when choosing among a range of similarly-named titles like exam packs. (We are aware that this is a problem we could probably do more to solve.)
  • If a customer ordered more than one book or even a series of exam papers, outlets often panicked and it became a struggle to assist them with the order.
  • They often battled with the book downloading process. For any of a number of reasons not limited but including:
    • viruses on their computer,
    • not knowing where their downloaded documents save to,
    • not understanding whether to select A4 or A5 one-up or two-up layouts (something we have been actively simplifying),
    • changing their internet security settings
    • slow internet speeds
    • mistakenly downloading the sample version and not the full book
    • not scrolling down the screen to click on the download now button and waiting for something to happen
    • using download-accelerator plugins that break when attempting secure downloads like ours.
  • Some outlets wanted full catalogues in order to know what books were on offer for their customers, others said that the catalogue was dense and not user friendly. (We have since produced a better catalogue.)
  • Some outlets allowed customers to view the books online and other outlets expected the customers to know beforehand what they wanted.
  • Many outlet owners and managers are nervous to hand over the use of the Paperight site to their employees. Some have said they are worried about staff abusing the site by using the same .pdf more than once. Others feel that staff can’t be trusted with the store’s Paperight credit balance. We have tried to find ways of reassuring them, but this is ultimately an issue of trust in their businesses that we can’t address.
  • Some outlets were reluctant to top-up until they had a sale. They then needed to top-up while making their sale and this added extra time pressure. We also assume some customers were not prepared to wait.
  • Some outlets after months of training and explanations still make a top up by simply depositing cash into our bank account and assuming that this will turn into credits. They do not phone, or even send an email that they have made a deposit. We can usually identify the outlet from the payment reference.
  • Some of our larger outlets who are more experienced printers, and we think are more likely to offer a great Paperight service, have incredibly fast staff turnover among shopfloor managers.
  • There is a general problem with staff not being aware that their outlet is signed up with Paperight.
  • Not reading our newsletter that we send out showing off new and valuable content.
  • Some managers tend to be disappointed in the lack of customers who just walk in and ask for Paperight. There is a sense of entitlement that Paperight should ensure they have the customers and that they should not have to do promotional work in store.
  • A few outlets have complained that they have been unable to contact us when they need us. They claim that our phone is mostly engaged. We addressed this by installing two extra lines (which since gone back to one line to save costs).
  • Copy shops are not consistent in the printing delivery time, even from the same copy shop. We know of orders that have taken from a 20 minutes to 2 weeks to complete from start to finish.
  • There were one or two copy shops who were not sure whether the download licence purchase was once off or for every book printed. This came up in training with Wizardz, where we discovered that they had reprinted the same PDF (we know because these were orders we placed with them ourselves).

These were common problems, but there were bright spots, outlets who are really engaged and love working with us. Our favourite is Sagittarius Print Works in Pietermaritzburg, where the owner Shahana Maharaj works hard to promote her Paperight-related services at local schools and in her area (e.g. putting flyers in all the post boxes at her post office, and taking order forms to schools).


The core business model that this project supported is not sustainable. It might be sustainable if we can keep all the costs and the team as low as possible, until revenue picks up, content is increased and the public becomes more aware of our products. Until then we are also looking to new business models, particularly around copy licensing, which is a much closer fit to existing publisher and institutional activities.


We did not achieve our big audacious goals, but we have made a noticeable impact on the publishing industry, and opened minds around greater access to books. We have inspired businesses to become more openness-minded, too. For instance, we’re a featured company in a new book published by Palgrave Macmillan. We have positively affected the lives of at least 300 children, many of whose matric exam results we know were improved over those in the prior year. We encouraged literacy and discussions about literacy in South Africa.

Paperight will continue in a new fashion, certainly much leaner. This is only the end of a chapter, not the book.

Next steps

As a step to reducing running costs, Paperight will be managed by Electric Book Works as one of its flagships projects and our focus over the next couple of months will be on photocopy licensing and testing reception to an open prescribed-textbooks database, starting with a full catalogue of prescribed texts at UCT.

The #textbookrevolution and hints of a pivot ahead

In our shift to focus on universities, we created and launched our #textbookrevolution campaign. This meant creating detailed messaging and plans: one liners, elevator pitches, detailed back stories, a manifesto, a petition, outlet advertising posters and marketing briefs, novelty coasters, and videos; campaign website (; doing lots of PR work (emailing journalists and stakeholders personally); and organising a Twitter debate on the high price of textbooks. This was the main focus of Nov, Dec and Feb.

Much of this was written up elsewhere:

On the technical side, we finalised much better automation of book preparation prep (mainly tools to use online PDF layout tool DocRaptor to create better-looking books). And in finances, completed our audit with a clean bill of health.


I went to Johannesburg for pitching meetings with publishers (Pearson, Van Schaik, UNISA Press), UNISA, and PostNet, and our outlets manager Yazeed attended the ActivateSA event in Joburg, a conference of young leaders, to talk about Paperight and the #textbookrevolution.

Speaking out

I’ve had a bit to say, too:

  • 22 Jan 2014: A post by me on Medium, “Not Yet for Profit”, arguing that well-funded, as-yet-unprofitable startups represent an whole new industry, much of it in social impact, and that’s a good thing.
  • 24 Jan 2014: Interview on Paperight’s story with AFKInsider, a US website on African business.

Mainly I’ve been telling the #textbookrevolution story over and over again in meetings (with publishers, university administrators and journalists). E.g. interviews during Jan and Feb on SAFM, Rhodes Music Radio, UJfm (University of Joburg) and Jozi Today.

The focus of the #textbookrevolution campaign is to (a) highlight the fact that 70% of the cost of a textbook is the supply chain (printing, shipping, warehousing, wastage and retail), and that (b) print-on-demand on university campuses could save students and South Africa as much as a billion rand a year. See our blog post for the detail, and the #textbookrevolution site for the manifesto, video, petition and supporters.

Joining our thinking

SHAWCO (UCT’s acclaimed social-welfare organisation) and Boundless (open textbooks) are official supporters of the #textbookrevolution. See all the supporters here.

We’ve also had ongoing discussions about closer collaboration with RISO (copier manufacturer), Mega Digital (SA’s biggest short-run book printer) and Loot (online retailer).

We’ve counted 21 media mentions that we know about, of which the highlights are:

Big wins

We had a great response from students at Stellenbosch and UCT where we collected over 1000 signatures on our #textbookrevolution petition. In addition to the paper petition, students have left great comments on our online petition.

we’ve long underestimated the importance of putting people on the ground talking to potential customers

Students are highly sensitised to the issue of high textbook prices. Also, we probably reached more students in the 20 hours we spent on campuses than we would have in months online. A big lesson was that we’ve long underestimated the importance of putting people on the ground talking to potential customers (even if we don’t have the books they need yet).

We’ve also had big losses. More about that in this separate post.

Launching the anthology, mapping outlets, and a big win

We’re super proud of three new videos:

22 Oct 2013: This 8-min documentary on how and why Pelican Park High bought study materials through us is so affirming for us. It helps answer the doubts that can haunt you when you’re wondering whether you’re moving forward at all.

1 Nov 2013: Similarly, this 8-min documentary on how and why Minuteman Press sponsored books for Silverstream Secondary.

18 Nov 2013: We created a short 1-minute promo from the Pelikan park video on why schools should buy study materials through us.

But the real hjighlight event of the last few months has to be the launch event of the Paperight Young Writers Anthology on 7 September 2013. (See the blog post here and photos on Facebook.)

20140429_frankenstein-mapBack at the ranch, at the end of October we finally integrated our outlets map onto our product pages, to offer the ability to find outlets and compare prices of books at them per product.

This new product-page map explains the concept behind Paperight much better, too, which frees up other messaging space.

At the same time, we also created a range of new screencast videos for our help site (released 21 Oct 2013), produced on 4 Nov 2013 a new printable product catalogue, including improved CSV-based workflow to make future updates quick and easy, and made (on 13 Nov) some useful guides for schools and sponsors on how to work with us.

Marie and Nick have also been producing loads of Facebook posts about our books and outlets.

Out and about

  • On 10 Oct 2013 I pitched at the Accenture Innovation Awards in Joburg, and won! More on that below.
  • 9 to 13 October 2013: Tarryn, our COO, visited the Frankfurt Book Fair, and also won an award. More below.
  • 24 Oct 2013: I spoke at the launch of market research company Yellowwood’s white paper on transformative innovation. Here’s text and video.

  • 6 Nov 2013: “Tough Truths about Selling to Publishers”. I spoke at the inaugural Footnote Summit, a South African digital-publishing conference. I was worried I might offend some people, but my worries were unfounded: people really appreciated my honest, and my talk led directly to one important publisher signing up, and another giving us much better books.
  • 11 Oct 2013: Nice PR opportunities off back of Accenture win, including this breakfast TV show (skip to 3:10 for me).

New supporters

20130903_122743_window-dressedWe noticed on 4 Sep 2013 that local copy shop Top Copy had devoted their entire front facade to Paperight books. It’s great to see one of our champion copy shops devoting their prime ad space to our books.

We identified 46 separate media pieces about us, including these highlights:

Big wins

Five great wins in the last three months:

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

October and November sales were very low, so for the next three months we’re shifting focus to our Feb/Mar 2014 universities promotional campaign, headlined #textbookrevolution, and emphasising the need for universities and publishers to move away from their traditional, bloated supply chain (where 70% of the retail price of a textbook goes to the supply chain alone), and towards Paperight.

Project 8: Team build and Infrastructure: closing report

This project established our basic infrastructure for the year. We wanted to:

  • give our core team a sense of security by extending their contracts,
  • expand our freelance and intern team,
  • join industry bodies,
  • cover the cost of accountants,
  • pay for important web-app subscriptions, and
  • secure rent for the office into 2014.

General report-back

This project was meant to a large extent to make infrastructure invisible to the team members: everything is simply in place so we can get on with work. This is just what happened: our team has been able to get on with things in a well organised, comfortable environment, both physically (in the office) and financially (knowing their salaries are sorted). We’re extremely happy with the outcomes of this project overall.

Objectives achieved

Planned: “…focus on scaling [Paperight’s] use. To do that, we have to have a foundation of infrastructure in place for the year, and greater job security for the team. … This will in turn boost Paperight’s efficiency and effectiveness.”

This overall objective was definitely achieved. We have a superb, close knit team who achieve a great deal and are fully committed to our vision.

See below for more detail on specific targets and measures of success.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success


Planned Outcome
Has our team and infrastructure provided the base we need to accomplish our specific goals during the year? As we’ll show below, our goals changed during the year based on some sensible changes we made to strategies. We essentially achieved goals that are more closely aligned to our strategies, see more below.
When we review our progress every three months, do our predictions here about the team size and structure and tools and memberships align with our users’ needs? (E.g. are we providing sufficient support to and content for our outlets to make them use Paperight more profitably?) We worried that we did not enough outlet support in the team earlier on, but the non-outlet-support team members stepped in to cover for this. For instance, through our each adopting specific outlets, and sharing outlet support calls and emails.
We expect to see:
Our team members enjoying their roles and explicitly happy that they are doing their best work (monitored already by Arthur in monthly one-on-one meetings); Achieved.
New team members fit in well, and do their best work productively as part of the team; Achieved.
Our decisions and prioritisation influenced or affirmed positively by what we learn from PASA and SABA participation; Yes. PASA membership has been especially useful: it’s led to funding to attend Frankfurt and London Book Fairs, and loads of up to date info on the education book sector (including school contact details and publisher leads). So far, SABA membership has been less useful, but had provided bookstore contacts that have been valuable, such as Caxton Books and Juta who are now outlets as a direct result of our attending SABA meetings.
We stay within budget on all line items; Where we have gone over in some line items, we’ve consciously reduced expenditure elsewhere, and kept these changes small and aligned with current strategic priorities.
A significant increase in rights income from licence sales. Achieved. Since Dec 2013 revenue has grown over 40% per month.
We would like to see:
Core team members confident that their team output is increasing in quantity and value because their own recruitment and management skills are improving; Achieved, though always more work to do in this area.
Evidence that our participation in PASA and SABA positively influences these associations’ actions or positions on increasing access to books, especially choosing open rather than closed approaches (e.g. working with photocopy businesses rather than focusing only on restricting them). Getting Juta and Caxton to sign up was a result of SABA participation. We have not had a noticeable effect on PASA, but Arthur was nominated for the board of DALRO (though this has not gone further), which may have been influenced by visibility at PASA-related events.
We would love to see:
Some of our interns excelling to the point that we hire them for full-time contract positions at Paperight; Achieved! Oscar Masinyana, Philippa Dewey  and Marie-Louise Rouget are key members of our team that started as interns during this project.
Our efforts on training reflected in the future scoring on BEE certification; We have not reviewed our BEE scoring yet, but are being careful to record training initiatives (e.g. training sessions for interns), for this and for SDL claims.
A third source of income (after rights fees and Shuttleworth Foundation funding). Nothing concrete here yet, but we’re exploring options.


For Paperight’s company achievements, we set the following goals for ourselves to achieve by August 2013 (using present-tense visualisation):

Goal Outcome
Unisa is using and paying for Paperight to deliver content to its students. We have not made progress here. Still trying to get a meeting with the right people (after several meetings with the wrong people).
We have an alternative funding source (a grant or prize) to the value of R1m. We don’t have this, and have structured our plans and budgets to not need it to get to self-sustainability.
We have won a large award for our work. We won at Tools of Change in New York and London Book Fair, and were congratulated by Parliament.
Paperight has been covered in the New York Times. We didn’t get this exactly, but had great coverage in many places, including Forbes and CNN websites.
We have placed 10 success stories that have emotional impact in the press. When we planned this, we meant success stories about Paperight’s impact on specific individuals. Have did not identify these stories. But we’re still very pleased with the impact of our releases and news in the press (see quarterly reports for media coverage).
We have a Tax Clearance Certificate from SARS. Achieved!
We have more outlets (active printing businesses) than there are bookstores in South Africa (assuming 500 stores). We deliberately decided against growing to this size, choosing rather to focus on quality of service in our existing outlet footprint.
We have 5000 valuable documents on Paperight (more once we’ve automated content prep). We have 1900, but we’re happy that they are good quality. Automated content prep only became live around June 2013, so it has not yet had the impact on content numbers that it might still have.
Internally we may change these goals if our strategy shifts as we learn during the year. As noted above, many of our goals did shift, but we’re happy that they shifted sensibly.



Original budget: R1004313.00

Actual spend: R912555.25

Returned to pool: R91757.75

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Contract extension: Content manager 160000 144124.78 15875.22
Contract extension: Media manager 140000 126124.78 13875.22
Contract extension: Outlet development manager 140000 126124.78 13875.22
Contract extension: Office manager 154000 144882.56 9117.44
New contract: Content wrangler Nov 2012 – Aug 2013 110000 125947.00 -15947 We gave Oscar a raise to match that of the rest of the team. He had been working with us as an intern initially
Interns (outlet, media, content) 44000 47100.00 -3100
Recruitment costs 2000 0 2000 We decided to make use of free advertising
Content-team freelancers 20000 12720.00 7280
Outlet-team freelancers 20000 20000 We decided to focus on content freelancers
Publisher’s Association (PASA) membership 6000 3120.99 2879.01 We saved on our membership by paying pro-rata
Bookseller’s Association (SABA) membership 3500 1150.00 2350 We saved on our membership by paying pro-rata
Rent 105600 60800.00 44800 We have decided to move the budgeted rent from September to April 2014 into a new pitch
BEE certificate 1653 1653.00 0
Online subscriptions 7200 3815.96 3384.04
Accounting fees 12000 23344.60 -11344.6
Bank charges 3600 4169.23 -569.23 Bank charges increased as we made more sales
Mandatory payroll-related taxes 15000 20765.90 -5765.9 On hiring more staff on contract basis, our payroll expenses increased
Domain registrations 1500 1500 We did not spend anything on domain registrations
Web hosting 2160 2160
Consumable stationery 3000 8373.83 -5373.83
Software 8500 8500 We did not purchase another Adobe
Travel 42000 25113.32 16886.68
Data for remote web access R2600 1977.00 623
Advertising 0 21385.02 -21385.02 We did not budget for marketing for this year initially
Legal fees 0 7362.50 -7362.5 We unexpectedly had to cover ourselves in the event of a court case with New Africa Books
Donations and grants 0 2500.00 -2500
Total R1 004 313 R912555.25 R91757.75


Outputs and deliverables

Planned: “Direct tangible outputs: Team contracts and rental agreements in place. BEE certification. Given that this project underlies all of Paperight’s work, further indirect outputs and IP created include everything we produce over the coming year.”

All achieved.


It’s hard to sum up everything we learned in a year of teamwork. Some team-organisation principles that have served us well over the last year:

  • We don’t have job descriptions, just clear areas of functional authority which are defined in two to three bullet points each;
  • We don’t have reporting lines or bosses/managers. Each team member reports to the rest of the team as a whole (with the CEO having final say where a decision is necessary), and has a guide for one-on-one guidance, idea-bouncing and sharing in confidence. Each team member and guide get out of the office for an open one-on-one chat at least once a month. This is incredibly useful for uncovering anxieties and for celebrating wins.
  • We set goals for the company/team for the year, and then each team member sets goals for three to six months (depending on what their role demands). These are written down on our wiki. (See below for next year’s goals.)
  • We keep a close eye on training, we want to be sure everyone feels they’re learning something in their jobs.
  • Finances are totally transparent to everyone on the team, including salary info. Everyone is expected to understand how we’re doing financially, and where they fit into our financial goals.
  • We have had to actively encourage and ensure open discussion about tough issues: each others’ roles, moral/ethical differences regarding Paperight strategies, social impact vs financial priorities.
  • We have to put in real effort to creating culture around tools: we’ve worked hard to keep people using the wiki, Trello (for project management), Skype for daily interaction, Google Docs, shared files and their backups, and email properly. This requires constant attention and maintenance but is always worth investing in.
  • Shared vocabulary around productivity has been invaluable. In particular, we use the concepts of ‘shipping’ (getting something off your desk) and avoiding ‘thrashing’ and ‘lizard brain’ anxieties and procrastination — borrowed from Seth Godin’s superb talk on ‘Quieting the Lizard Brain’.
  • Our shared vision, ‘Every book within walking distance of every home’ continues to be a key compass point for us, but it does need to be consciously raised from time to time, and actively integrated into our plans and metrics so that it doesn’t get treated as lip-service.
  • Arthur relies on key members of the team to offer leadership as the team grows. These leaders emerge naturally.
  • We’ve been incredibly lucky to have such a great time spirit, and we know that this is something we must nurture, for both our effectiveness and for our enjoyment of what we do.

Team/company goals for Paperight’s next year are much more focused on self-sustainability and impact than last year:

  • We are on target (Y)
  • 100K over Paperight’s cut of target = bonuses paid out to team members (Y)
  • 500-University student survey (at UCT and US): 7/10 students have heard of Paperight (M-L)
  • We’ve reached 5000 students in 50 schools for R500 000 (A)
  • 2000 copies downloaded outside of CBDs (O)
  • R2mil in turnover contributed to South African Businesses (including licenses to publishers and turnover at copyshops) (A)
  • 10 outlets are a pleasure to by a book at (customer wants to come back) (Y)

The initials in brackets show who is primarily responsible for monitoring our performance against these goals during the year.


We will pitch again for further team infrastructure funding out of project funds, and stay on revenue target to be self-sustaining when that runs out.


This has been an excellent year: despite it being extremely hard work, with a mix of disappointments and frustrations, it had more successes and celebrations. This is only possible with a great team that feels secure.

Next steps

The current team will stay in place covered by future project funding.

Marketing steps up, and we do some backroom plumbing

In the last three months we’ve worked on a range of strategic initiatives:

  • paperight-sponsors-guide_2013111324 Jun 2013: We formally created a model for bulk sales as our ‘Sponsor-a-school campaign/programme’.
  • 27 June 2013: We workshopped a marketing plan with Zoom Advertising (who gave us most of a day of their top execs’ time pro bono), and fleshed it out over July and August into a marketing plan that forms the foundation of our efforts for the next 12 months.
  • 1 Aug 2013: We created and implemented a Facebook conversation plan for Paperight Young Writers’ Anthology. This meant creating several posts for every week, including beautiful graphics, scheduled to publish for the next six weeks on Facebook, all promoting the anthology. You can see the posts on our Facebook page.
  • 5 Aug 2013: We revised our rightsholder agreement, which was received with no negative feedback, and even a nice endorsement from top tech journalist Adam Oxford.
  • 8 Aug 2013: We officially finished Software Development Phase 3. This was a big update that included support for VAT-compliant invoices and statements. (See Dezre’s post on VAT.) It’s not glamorous, but massively useful and important for us, and it was really hard work.
  • 20 Aug 2013: We revised our privacy policy, spurred by some concerned feedback from Pearson who said it needed work. It really did: it was originally drafted by Nick, still an intern at the time, while bleary-eyed on an international flight. Sometimes you just have to get it done even if it’s not perfect!
  • 30 Aug 2013: We created a simple tillpoint checklist for stores. It was hard to do. The simplest things can be the trickiest to make.


Spreading the word

We’ve been getting around:

  • 28 June 2013: I spoke at the Education Week conference in Joburg, arguing that open-license publishing has more in common with commercial publishing than most think.
  • 6 Aug 2013: I went to Gauteng to present at the Accenture Innovation Index Awards (and got through to the finals on 10 Oct!)
  • 4 Jun 2013: In a blog post, I argued that it’s a myth that reading is dying among young people.
  • 26 June 2013: I spoke at Khayelitsha Chamber of Commerce meeting on the need for technology entrepreneurs to focus on simple solutions that solve today’s problems (not tomorrow’s).

RISO on board


We’ve entered into an exciting collaboration with copier manufacturer RISO, where they bundle a funded Paperight account with every colour printer sold to a South African school.

This gives us a powerful mechanism to engage with large schools and colleges, a simple message for the media, and a great tool for getting certain key publishers on board.

Loads of media coverage

(Special highlights in bold)

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

  • Our revenue targets are getting serious, so the focus is on bringing in bulk sales, mostly through getting sponsorships. We’re recruiting a salesperson, but meanwhile (and perhaps beyond), I’m going to focus more of my time on this, and delegating other responsibilities to the team.
  • We have a few more software updates to do: most minor but important tweaks, and one major addition: a much better, fully integrated outlets-finding maps, integrated in the UI with product pages.
  • Get our video production stream up and running with new full-time video intern.

Project 5: Team 2.0: closing report

This project is to extend two existing contracts, create two new positions based on new needs and priorities, and allow us to bring in more interns. In short, it’s a team refinement.

General report-back

This project set out to extend or create positions on the Paperight team:

  • Content Manager (Tarryn’s contract extended)
  • Communications Manager (Nick’s contract extended)
  • Office manager/bookkeeper (new position)
  • Outlet development manager (new position, modified from existing outlet relations manager)
  • Interns (new, two per month)

Extending Nick and Tarryn’s contracts has been an unmitigated success. They’ve continued to produce superb work and to lead thinking in the Paperight team.

For our office manager we hired Dezre Little, who within a few months we gave the broader title of financial manager. Dezre is an incredible member of the team, keeping our finances super organised, driving the process of identifying and appying for awards and funding opportunities, and keeping the office ship shape.

The role of outlet development manager went to Yazeed Peters, who’d been on contract as an Outlets Manager for five months previously. Yazeed has gone from strength to strength, leading the development especially of our relationships with the Jetline and Minuteman Press chains, and establishing our model for bulk school purchasing and book sponsorship.

Our internship model has brought us three more amazing team members: Philippa Dewey as a second Content Manager, Oscar Masinyana, now Reading Communities Manager, and Marie-Louise Rouget, now Marketing Coordinator.

Objectives achieved

Our objectives were:

  • new team structure more effective and streamlined
  • continue building on strengths (such as Tarryn’s impressive content-prep systems, and Nick’s fine design and media work)
  • new approaches to outlet development
  • office manager frees up staff, especially Arthur, from admin to focus their energies on their core responsibilities

These objectives were all achieved.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success

Before: “We expect to see faster, more focused strategic decisions being made regarding outlets (growth of outlets and use of Paperight by existing outlets). Paperwork and admin will be up to date (nothing should lie unattended for more than a week).”

After: This has been achieved.

Before: “We would like to also see a twofold increase in outlet rate of growth and rate of conversion to paid use of Paperight from late September.”

After: The stats below show that we more than exceeded our targets, but it took more than four months (we didn’t set a timeframe for our measures of success). Note: two outliers do affect the figures: the registration of forty Jetline stores as a chain in June 2012 skews the outlet registrations in May to August 2012; and a single large bulk sale of books in March 2013 has a large effect on the average revenue for January to April.

May to August 2012 (before):

  • Sales per month: $12.83
  • Outlet registrations per month: 31.75 (spike when entire Jetline chain registered at once)
  • Number of outlets starting to download paid books: 5 (average 1.25 per month)

September to December 2012 (immediately after):

  • Sales per month: $22.45
  • Outlet registrations per month: 3.25
  • Number of outlets starting to download paid books: 3 (average 0.75 per month)

January to April 2013 (longer after):

  • Sales per month: $78.23
  • Outlet registrations per month: 11
  • Number of outlets starting to download paid books: 13 (average 3.1 per month)

Before: “We would love to see, in addition, that this team can handle all customer support queries that come in.”

After: Achieved easily.


Original budget: R206500

Actual spend: R200681.87

Returned to pool: R5818.13

Item Budget Actual Return to Pool Comments
Content Manager 48000 48374.34 -374.24 PAYE and UIF
Communications Manager 42000 42374.45 -374.35 PAYE and UIF
Outlet Development Manager 42000 42374.45 -374.35 PAYE and UIF
Office Manager/Bookkeeper 42000 42374.34 -374.24 PAYE and UIF
Job Advertising 1000 0 1000
Laptops for ODM, OMB, Comms Manager 19500 18878.40 621.70
Interns 12000 6306 5694.10
TOTAL 206500 201595.87 5818.13


Outputs and deliverables

Pitched Report
A new team structure and core job descriptions will be formalised. Done. Areas of functional authority are kept for each team member on the Paperight wiki. Team members have reporting lines, which are intended to define ‘job coach’ relationships rather than task-based managerial relationships.
IP creation is minimal: contracts, job ads. Done.
Team members will create IP including strategy docs and project plans, internal admin docs, media and PR docs, designs in posters, flyers, website elements, etc. Ongoing. IP created is stored in our shared Dropbox folders, in Google Docs ( Google Apps accounts), and on our wiki, blog, and social media accounts.



Paperight’s tightly knit, hard-working and productive team is the result of a careful choice of purpose-driven young people, and a supportive environment. As CEO, Arthur reads voraciously on management, and brings this learning to the team as constant, open experiments in running a team and building a business around that.


The team salaries will continue to be supported largely by Foundation funding while we worked towards self-sustainability in early 2015.


We have an excellent team that is continuing to grow in numbers and strength. This team spirit is self-sustaining in the way that a marriage is: as long as its members are willing to put in the work, every member of the team can contribute and be fulfilled doing do.

Next steps

The team is growing, so this is the first of a series of team-building projects at Paperight.

Project 4: Office Infrastructure: closing report

As the team grows, we’re moving to formal office space and setting up infrastructure that enables us to work more effectively.

General report-back

We’re very pleased with our office space and its facilities. EBW and Paperight knit really well together in the office space, and the shared expenses and office maintenance responsibilities have been time and cost effective.

There were a few teething issues to sort out (e.g. blinds not installed, door sticking). But these were easily resolved.

Internet connectivity has been good and stable 99 percent of the time, with limited interruptions.

Storage space and filing systems are still a work in progress. We have found a system that currently works for EBW and Paperight.

Space is becoming quite tight and at present we do not have space for additional Paperight team members without organising more office furniture.

Total office costs did work out higher overall than expected, and EBW has been carrying the extra load. Paperight is paying much less per person for the space than EBW. From September 2013 a new project pitch will include a higher payment for rent, utilities, and contribution to office expenses.

Objectives achieved

The office space provided has been sufficient to house Paperight’s team of eight people. It has also worked well for Paperight meetings. Desk space is now full and if the team grows any bigger we will need to reorganise the office area.

Objectives not achieved

All objectives have been met and the team is very happy with their working environment.

Measures of success

Before: “We expect to see us working efficiently together in a space that suits collaboration and brings an air of comfortable professionalism. Setting up and settling in will be disruptive and have teething issues.”

After: The team have been working well together and have found ways of communication and sharing space that works for everyone. No major teething issues were experienced.

Before: “We’d like to find that existing team members feel more productive in the new space, and settle in quickly with minimum fuss.”

After: The team settled in straight away and productivity definitely increased.

Before: “We’d love to be able to walk in on the first day of occupation and start working; and to feel confident that the office is the ideal place to pitch our services to prospective client organisations.”

After: The team were able to start working straight away, on the same day that they arrived at the office. The team are still happy with the office environment, the view and productivity levels are still high.


Original budget: R106500.00

Actual spend: R92051.64

Returned to pool: R6282.61

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Office Furniture 7500 7500 0
Rent and costs 88000 82230.27 5769.83
Consumable stationary 5500 5918.89 -418.79
Telephone 5500 4568.23 931.87
TOTAL 106500 100217.39 6282.61


Outputs and deliverables

The office was set up with a combined effort of both Paperight and EBW staff. Paperight has grown during the course of the year and has taken up eight work stations out of a possible ten.


Overall this office set up has been very successful. In future we could look at more shelving and storage space for Paperight’s stationery, legal and accounting records.


The contract for this project has come to an end and has been extended in project 8. The agreement with EBW is still strong and our relationship with the landlord is good.


We are very happy with the results of making this move and have no doubt that it has been extremely beneficial for Paperight.

Next steps

Our lease will continue with EBW in project 8. We have started looking at potential adjustments that can be made within the office to make space for additional team members. We will look at shelving space as well.

The anthology done, promising bulk sales, and a raft of coverage

We’ve been busy! On 31 May 2013 we finally completed the Paperight Young Writers Anthology, a collection of poetry, short stories, essays and illustrations from SA high school students in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and Sesotho. (Blog post from early June here. Strategically, this is a marketing effort and a door-opener for selling books to schools.

We’ve also been churning out a range of marketing materials for copy shops, a new help/how-to video, and improved software features on (e.g. A5 books).

We also made our first completed bulk-sale to a school, the first of an important revenue generating approach.


In mid April, Tarryn and Oscar attended the London Book Fair and pitched to win the Fair’s Digital Minds Innovation Award, which boosted our credibility at the fair and resulted in lots of great local PR. The attention from this win also helped conclude our deal with O’Reilly.

In late April I headed to Joburg for meetings with potential partner organisations, and in late May I was off to Boston to gather with the rest of the Shuttleworth Foundation crew.

Spreading the word

Spreading with word about Paperight and the things that are important to us is a key part of my work.

On 30 May 2013 I wrote a post on open business, arguing that openness starts in a company’s DNA, and focusing on transparency, which allows and encourages sharing and shared learning, and leads to greater effectiveness.

On 21 May 2013 I was interviewed on Publishing Perspectives, and explained why a paper-based solution is still critical for access to books and sales for publishers in developing markets.

On 17 April 2013 I did an interview on innovation and the future and Paperight, and on 7 March 2013 I did an interview with CNBC Africa about Paperight.

On 18 March 2013 I wrote a post on ‘Good writing is a pinnacle skill’, arguing that the many skills that go into good writing are an excellent indicator that a person will be a great hire. This has been a key part of my recruitment strategy at Paperight, and has helped us build a great team.

On 8 March 2013 I wrote about Pratham Books data on open licensing and book sales.

Others on board

All this talk is helping get people behind our cause. Here are three particularly nice pieces:

We’ve seen loads of great PR about our winning at O’Reilly Tools of Change in New York in Feb and London Book Fair Innovation Award in April, our Young Writers Anthology, and general Paperight coverage:

  • 1 March 2013: Daily News, “Vision to spread books around SA”.
  • 2 March 2013, CNBC Africa, Eye on Western Cape, “Paperight wins publishing innovation competition“
  • 2 March 2013, Burger (Kaap Platterland) Saturday, “Kaapse drukdiens oorsee bekroon”.
  • 6 to 7 March 2013, coverage of our Anthology in community newspapers: Athlone News, Plainsman, Southern Mail, Table Talk, “High school writers’ competition”, Tygertalk (Goodwood & Parow), Tygertalk (Bellville & Durbanville), Vukani, Southern Suburbs Tatler, Atlantic Sun, The Capetowner, Constantiaberg Bulletin, False Bay Echo, Sentinel News. A follow up the next week, 14 March 2013 in Vukani, “Shuttleworth to launch Young Writers Anthology”.
  • 19 March 2013, bizcommunity, “Free guide to studying at Unisa“ and Helderberg Gazette (“Free book helps students to pass”) cover our UNISA students’ guide ‘Now What’.
  • 22 March 2013, more community papers cover the forthcoming anthology: Coastal Weekly, De Aar Echo, Northcliff & Melville Times, Stanger Weekly.
  • 27 March 2013, Bandwidth Blog, “Local startup wins innovation award in NYC“.

In terms of key publishers joining our thinking by working with us:

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

We’re going to:

  • Continue our direct sales approach (bulk sales and CSR sponsorships) to stay on track with revenue targets.
  • Release and promote (mainly through PR) the Paperight Young Writers Anthology, building on the relationships this is creating with schools to grow sales of study guides and past exam-paper packs.
  • Complete a comprehensive marketing plan with the pro-bono help of Zoom Advertising and a group of MBA students working on Paperight’s marketing plan as a course project.
  • Implement concerted promotional campaign for our past matric exam packs.
  • Finalise and promote pending partnerships with chains Minuteman Press and PostNet.

More progress, and a letter from Parliament

In February 2013 the team published a great little book called Now what? A guide to studying with Unisa. Here’s our blog post about it.  We also produced a printable Paperight catalogue.

While the team was hard at work, I travelled to New York for the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference, where we won the Startup Showcase, and I gave a talk on ‘Disruptive Innovations in Emerging Markets: Mxit [book projects including Yoza], Siyavula, Paperight and Worldreader’, along with Michael Smith of Worldreader. (This was covered nicely by PaidContent.)

I also gave a talk in Jan at TEDxAIMS in Jan called ‘Tech spreads slowly.’ Here’s the video and text.

I reproduced that as a post on the Mail & Guardian’s Thought Leader blog.

Media coverage

We’ve been happy to see lots of coverage. Some highlights:

The highlight was that on 28 Feb 2013 The National Assembly of South Africa (Parliament) congratulated Paperight!


Here are the minutes from the Government Gazette:

8. The Chief Whip of the Opposition moved without notice: That the House –
(1) notes that Paperight, a Cape Town based print-on-demand company received the O’Reilly Tools of Change Start-Up Showcase’s award for Most Entrepreneurial Publishing Start-Up in New York City on 14 February 2013;
(2) further notes that Paperight, a company funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, received this award for its ingenious solution to widespread book shortages in the developing world through a service that allows photocopy shops to legally print books, consisting of more than 200 registered independent outlets in South Africa;
(3) recognises that Paperight was one of 10 finalists, the only company nominated outside the United States of America and Europe and the first ever to come from South Africa;
(4) acknowledges the difficulty that millions in South Africa face in
accessing published works;
(5) further acknowledges the importance of making published works
easily accessible to millions of people throughout Africa; and
(6) congratulates Paperight and encourages publishers to register with Paperight in making their works accessible to all. Agreed to.

Our roadmap for the next 3 months

Next up:

  • Promotional campaigns around the Paperight Young Writers Anthology, the Now What? UNISA guide, and planning promotional campaigns around healthcare and young-adult titles.
  • Boost content team to clear the backlog of books we have, including over 150 student guides for distance-learning university College Campus.
  • Complete negotiations with two major US publishers (O’Reilly, Harlequin) that have been ongoing for a long time.
  • Aim to sign MOU (or similar) with Postnet.
  • Last phase (Phase 3) of software feature development, including A5 printing, high-res covers, and VAT support.

We’re on track with our early-stage financial targets.


Growing the team and its home

So I’ve been growing our team in numbers and, I hope, quality, for nine months now.

Tarryn and Nick, our content team, have been amazing. Both high-achieving type-As, they’ve ensured our products are meticulously documented and organised. A recent achievement has been their forty-page Paperight user manual for outlets. It’s beautifully written, and includes not only step-by-step guidance on using the site, but also clear guidelines and suggestions for how to use Paperight to grow a printing business, even beyond printing books out for people.

The content team has also been keeping our blog busy – Nick’s author-of-the-week posts are particularly enjoyable. We have a growing mailing list, and Twitter and Facebook followings. These will be increasingly important over time.

A major highlight of the last two months for me has been hiring our outlet team. Zimkita, Zukisani and Yazeed joined us in April with the job of signing up outlets and providing ongoing training and support to them. Each brings a different skill set to Paperight that’s been invaluable: Zukisani has contacts at almost every school in the Western Cape, especially in the underprivileged areas we’re targeting; Zimkita’s six years at Vodacom customer service make her our friendly and meticulous email- and phone-support person; and Yazeed’s experience running his family’s business, combined with a startling energy for producing high-quality work, brings great business-savvy to the team.

moving-in-arthur_2012-05-24 12.50.48An unglamorous but critically important side of our work over the last months has been Paperight’s back-office setup and systems (check out our view above).

Most importantly, Paperight is now a registered company with bank accounts. We’re days from moving into our new offices (sublet from Electric Book Works). We have workflows around various online tools for bug tracking, accounting, and document management, and our internal wiki is now a substantial store of invaluable info, from guidance to new staff and practical how-tos to recommended reading for team members.