Tag Archives: closing report

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
Paperight.com 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.com 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 http://story.paperight.com. 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 story.paperight.com 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.

Project 17 A and B: Marketing operations: Closing report

We planned two marketing campaigns to increase sales of our top products. These campaigns were planned in detail on the principle of seven-touches: a person needs to hear about us, on average, seven times before they will act on our message. We wanted to drive customers to our outlets, in the hope they’d become return customers.

General report-back

This marketing campaign was thoroughly planned and executed, led by our marketing manager Louise. We were helped a lot by pro bono workshop with Zoom Advertising (see Marie’s post here about it). In addition to ongoing day-to-day support of outlets, it included:

We couldn’t have worked harder on it, and I’m extremely proud of what Marie and the team produced. So our poor results in terms of sales (see objectives below) were very disappointing.

Objectives achieved and not achieved


Original objectives Result
Increase sales of specific titles through targeted campaigns We did not increase sales of the products we promoted most.
Increase sales overall Transactions dropped, but profitability increased due to a more profitable product mix. So we made marginally more gross profit in the period during the marketing project. More details below.
Improve sales experience in outlets for Paperight customers While we are happy with improvement in some bright-spot outlets, at some copy shops that we targeted (such as Top Copy and Jetline Stellenbosch) the managers gate-kept fiercely and we could not make an impact.
Increase awareness of Paperight (availability/price/convenience) We certainly increased awareness of Paperight.


Measures of success


Have we increased sales of target products? Achieved at a very low rate. Sales have increased, but very modestly. We were targeting university prescribed books, and have made a few sales in single digits monthly. We have seen greater growth in sales of matric study guides, which we were not promoting as much. This shows that people are finding us for their needs, rather than us reaching them with our favourite offering. This has a lot to do with the fact that our catalogue is still very weak in university texts.
Have we improved the experience of purchasing Paperight titles in outlets? (Measured qualitatively from conversation with outlets and customer feedback where available.) Achieved with modest success. Where outlet managers have been very receptive to us, we have been able to work with them to improve service with fast support and promotional items. The shining example is Saggitarius Print Works in Paietermaritzburg, where owner Shahana Maharaj does a lot of promotional work at local schools. At several other key outlets that we wanted to help grow (such as Top Copy in Claremont and Jetline Stellenbosch), owners/managers have passively or actively blocked our attempts to help or train staff.
Do 1 in 3 students at UCT and Stellenbosch know about Paperight, when surveyed around the departments we’re focusing on (e.g. English/Arts)? We will run these surveys when the universities reopen in late July. We suspect that we did not reach this target.
We expect to see:

  • an increase in sales (in proportion to our existing revenue goals)
  • a growing return customer base (measured as repeats of end-user customer names as captured by outlets)
Not achieved, at least not in this timeframe. Comparing the previous six months with this project timeframe:

  • the number of sales transactions actually dropped from 525 to 222.
  • Sales quantity (number of copies) dropped slightly from 1656 to 1595.
  • Sales value in USD increased from $2156.45 to $2486.74.

So we sold fewer of more valuable products, a sales-mix issue.

Return customers: We have not been able to create return customers. Returners actually dropped slightly.

Mar–Aug 2013 = 24 return customers

Sep 2013–Feb 2014 = 19 return customers

Mar–Jun 2014 = 6 return customers.

We would like to see:

  • outlets in addition to our strategic partners in target areas (around UCT and Stellenbosch) taking part in marketing activities (e.g. distributing flyers, displaying posters, sharing on Facebook)
Other outlets did join in, but not in our focus geographical areas around UCT and Stellenbosch. For instance outlets at UJ,  Wits, Free State and NMMU requested #textbookrevolution marketing packs. This was very encouraging. It did not lead to many sales, though, since we have very few university textbooks, and the #textbookrevolution campaign was more about awareness than sales.
We would love to see:

  • our sales revenue exceed target
  • sales at outlets other than our strategic partners showing higher sales than strategic outlets (it would show that we aren’t needed and that outlets can get it done on their own!)
We did not meet our sales targets.

We did see sales growing at outlets we hadn’t selected. In fact, there is no meaningful difference between sales at our selected strategic outlets and at other outlets. This does suggest that our marketing has very little impact on buyer behaviour, and that the outlets’ marketing work (e.g. flyers at local schools, posters in store) is the most important factor by far.



Note: This project was divided into parts A and B for funding-pool reasons: part A was funded from my first fellowship year and part B from my second. Operationally, they are the same project.

Part A:

Original budget: R395683
Actual spend: R395683
Returned to pool: R0 (see notes in table)

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Contract extension: Nick Mulgrew 90000 72991.91 17008.09 Nick worked part-time for this period, so we saved.
Contract extension: Yazeed Peters 90000 120000 -30000 See note below on overspending during notice periods.
Contract extension: Oscar Masinyane 84000 107545.45 -23545.45 See note below on overspending during notice periods.
New sales manager position: probation contract 30000 25417.50 4582.5 We did not hire a new sales manager . We took on two interns Andi Donald and Shawn Swingler. We also used this money to pay Philippa and Marie on a freelance basis in May and June for #textbookrevolution textbook database research..
New sales manager position: salary increase 42000 42000 We did not hire a sales manager. We did interview several people but could not find a suitable person.
Monthly marketing expenses 30000 47358.86 -17358.86 Over Parts A and B were ultimately over budget by R3837.34. We underestimated how much marketing material we’d need for this project.
Marketing travel and sales expenses 29683 22369.28 7313.72 All local travel expenses
TOTAL R395683 395683 0 For Part A of the project budget, we have balanced overspending with underspending. Further costs move into Part B.


Part B:

Original budget: R191010
Actual spend: R116094.05
Returned to pool: R74915.95


Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Contract extension: Marie-Louise Rouget 60000 80000 -20000 See note below on overspending during notice periods.
Monthly marketing expenses 30000 16478.48 13521.52 Over Parts A and B were ultimately over budget by R3837.34. We underestimated how much marketing material we’d need for this project.
Marketing travel and sales expenses 101010 19615.57 81394.43 International travel was less than expected (only London Book Fair).
TOTAL 191010 116094.05 74915.95


Contract extensions during notice periods

We overspent on salaries in this project by up to two months (case by case). Towards the end of the project period, I knew we’d be letting most of our team go, even though their contracts were in place for several months to come. 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
Marketing materials including catalogue, posters, flyers, coasters, social media conversations Various paperight team members Paperight
Video Shaun Swingler for Paperight Paperight
Website at http://textbookrevolution.co.za Arthur Attwell Paperight



It’s impossible to know for sure what we could have done differently, and we realise that we had to try all this to find out that this kind of marketing doesn’t work for a startup still trying to get its product working on a local scale: a good copy shop with the right books with the right customers.

We suspect that we tried to run before we could walk, and that local, hand-held, in-person sales might have been more effective. However, had we done that instead, we would have felt that we were not aiming high enough and were missing opportunities.

Concretely, we learned a lot about creating and executing marketing plans. In short: there cannot be too much detail or forethought.


This project did not have the impact on our sales and sustainability that we hoped for. As a result, we let go most team members and are revisiting our core business model.


The outcomes of this project were disappointing, considering that we executed it pretty much exactly as we hoped we could. The silver linings are that we learned a lot about how to run a marketing campaign, and that for a startup like ours, a more humble, less sexy approach to telling people about your service may be more effective. We’ll try that in future.

Next steps

We’re revisiting our business model, focusing on photocopy licensing. Our marketing approach there will be very different: much more focused on local, in-person interactions with institutional partners.


Project 12: Sales course for Outlet Development Manager: closing report

A ten-week course on selling for our Outlet Development Manager Yazeed Peters, intended primarily to boost sales from outlets to bulk-printing customers, resulting in revenue for Paperight in rights and service fees.

General report-back

The course has helped Yazeed define his role in Paperight more clearly. Yazeed was averse to being branded as a salesperson due to the stigma attached to salespeople. Through the course he has improved his goal-setting and confidence in fulfilling a sales role.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

Planned: “We hope that the course will enable Yazeed to find and close valuable deals between outlets and their customers that will boost Paperight’s revenue and create the success stories we need in order to encourage other outlets to register and do similar deals … revenue will increase, and outlets will be able to see the impact that Paperight can have on a business that embraces and promotes print-on-demand.”

We believe this has been achieved. The clearest evidence is that Yazeed’s sales work has kept us on track with our revenue targets.

Measures of success

Planned: “Yazeed must complete the course and all knowledge review and feedback sheets. This will help determine whether he feels he is internalising the training material.”

Yazeed: “The course materials are aligned with my own values and therefore easy to internalise.”

Planned: “Yazeed will report back to the team, and write up his reports, on what he’s learning and how it’s impacting his work with outlets and their customers.”

This is being done on an ongoing basis as Yazeed briefs and trains colleagues on aspects of pitching and sales, and briefs us on the status of pending deals.

Before: “We expect:  To see more deals like the Pelikan Park deal being created and closed.”

After: Achieved: We have been successfully involved in four similar deals since then.

Before: “To see a deal a month as early as one month into his course. ”

After: On average we have seen a deal per month with us reaching our overall targets successfully, considering that targets increase by 50% per month.

Before: “We’ve love to see more than that.”

After: We have not yet seen more, but this work has led to us formalising our efforts to seek sponsorships as a core part of our business, and to trying to recruit a dedicated sales manager to grow this side of the business.


Original budget: R19380.00

Actual spend: R13369.62

Returned to pool: R6010.38

Outputs and deliverables

Planned: “Direct tangible outputs will include the goal-setting and other plans that Yazeed creates for his position. Indirect outputs, we hope, will include sales that come as a result of his doing the course.”

Actual outputs: Yazeed’s goals have become more sales-orientated, and the course has helped him to focus on reaching sales targets and improved his ability to set priorities effectively.


The course was a valuable investment for Paperight as it allowed us to boost our abilities in sales. The important nature of sales for our start-up makes the amount spent on the course worthwhile. In future we would continue to weigh up the potential benefits versus the cost of such training courses. It is important that we do not send staff for training courses which do not add direct benefit to Paperight.


This course was a one-off investment in team capabilities that will contribute to our ability to become self-sustaining.


We’re very happy that we sent Yazeed on the course, the benefits are clear and the organisation is certainly better off as a result.

Next steps

We will consider sending team members on similar courses in future, though none are planned at this stage.

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.

Project 6: Software phase 2.1 and 2.2: closing report

Project 6, aka Software Phase 2, was written up in three parts:

  • Phase 2, the original pitch
  • Phase 2.1, which was a significant change to the original Project 6 Software Phase 2; and
  • Phase 2.2.

In Project 6 (Software Phase 2), we originally set out to add several new features we believed would be crucial or valuable for paperight.com:

  • automatic PDF layout (to cope with the increasing load of incoming content)
  • mobile-optimised catalogue/browsing site with white-labelling feature
  • integration of major retailer affiliate-link feeds
  • publisher dashboard for sales figures and ability to edit own content
  • incorporate tracking URLs that enable single-sign-on forum access.

Between that pitch and briefing the developers, we changed our priorities based on user feedback and strategic considerations. This resulted in a significant change, where we revised our priority features as follows, referring to them as Software Phase 2.1:

  • 3rd Party Product Integration
  • Product Ownership
  • Publisher Dashboard: Transactions, Payments, Credits widget
  • Find-outlets call to action
  • General Improvements
    • Show PDF file size
    • Country to currency mapping
    • Average default print costs
    • Licensee details capture
    • SEO friendly URLs
    • Suggest a book
    • Licence search
  • PDF Automation
    • HTML to Paperight PDF
    • PDF to Paperight PDF

In 6B/Phase 2.2, we pitched to develop additional, closely related features, referred to collectively as Software Phase 2.2:

  • Site-content management (admins can change text on the site)
  • Preview-document downloads
  • Company User Management: separate ‘company’ registrations form ‘user’ registrations
  • Paperight Staff User Management (different user privileges)
  • Ability to Close/Reopen Accounts
  • Removal of advert space in PDF
  • Hide product-ordering and pricing details from non-logged-in users
  • Revised home page layout
  • HTML to Paperight PDF: further dev on epub imports

General report-back

Overall, this project went very well, thanks to good preparation on our side and great professionalism by Realm Digital. We did change priorities for development during the project, but this was understandable since we need to respond to user feedback as it comes in, especially if it affects our development roadmap while we’re developing.

As with other projects, our only concerns are that we and Realm should find ways to do more testing on older versions of IE (7 and 8) under different circumstances — but that can only really be achieved by seeing the site working on the field and responding.

All of the features developed in this project work well, and almost all have already proven useful or critically important in practice.

Objectives achieved

Planned: “These are important improvements to our product and our infrastructure. In particular: they reduce confusion and uncertainty for users (preview docs, find-outlets); they enable us to refine our messaging continuously in response to user feedback and context (e.g. emphasise topical content, or test different calls to action); they speed up prep of and improve the quality of our documents (epub-to-Paperight PDF); they make clear the distinction between individual users and the companies they represent — companies, not individuals, register on Paperight and deal in licences, and we must make this clear for user clarity and for legal clarity. We want these improvements to lead to higher conversion rates (more copy shops completing transactions, more customers going into Paperight outlets) as a result of clearer messaging, confidence from previews, and more content availability (as a result of our faster content-prep workflow).”

These objectives were all achieved and have proved very important to our work and strategy.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success

Original pitch

Planned Outcome
Are all our features implemented on time and do they work as planned? Yes.
Do they enable us to learn the lessons we want to learn, particularly around revenue streams? In part. We moved white-label site functionality to a later development phase (phase 3), and have not seen revenue increase there because Postnet are still delaying head-office-level signup. And we’ve now tested and proven that affiliate income (Amazon links) is not a revenue source. So while we have no positive outcomes from the experiments, the lessons have been valuable.
Expect: Ten-fold increase in the rate of adding new content (currently about 50 books a week); Reports from outlets of increased consumer-initiated interest; Some revenue from affiliate links within two months of that feature being live; Publishers updating their own metadata (e.g. descriptions and pricing). As explained further below, increase in rate of adding new content has been closer to two-fold.

We have seen greater consumer-initiated interest at outlets.

No revenue from affiliate links.

We decided not to allow publishers to update their own metadata, and have not seen demand for that feature anyway.

Like: In addition, an increase in rate of outlets and small publishers signing up abroad Outlet signups abroad have not been significant (two or three outlets abroad). However, we’ve seen several small and medium publishers sign up abroad, which has been great.
Love: One large South African publisher contribute a range of books (or a single major text prescribed at a major college or university) because of the availability of single-sign-on tracking URLs. This has not happened yet.


Project 6B pitch (revised original pitch)


Planned Outcome
Are all our features implemented on time and do they work as planned? As with Phase 1 there was some delay over original planned schedule. All features work as planned.
Expect: Ten-fold increase in the rate of adding new content (currently about 50 books a week); Previews being downloaded, and leading to some full purchases; Increased rate of purchased material We have not seen a ten-fold increase. The increase is likely a doubling of speed, which is still very useful. This is largely because it has proved near impossible to automate dealing with the technical differences between content sources, and some human intervention is still required.

Previews are being downloaded; it is not yet clear whether they directly lead to more sales, but anecdotal evidence suggests they do prevent sales of the wrong documents, reducing our customer service burden.

We see an overall increase in purchase rates that may be in part attributed to these software improvements, but can’t be separated from improvements in other areas of the business.

Like: In addition, an increase in rate of outlets and small publishers signing up abroad; Some revenue from affiliate links within two months of that feature being live We’ve seen one or two overseas signups, but no significant increase.

We have seen no revenue from affiliate links. This was not a good use of our resources, though it seemed a very good idea at the time. Worthwhile experiment, though, since we can now exclude affiliate revenue as a revenue source.

Love: One large South African publisher contribute a range of books (or a single major text prescribed at a major college or university) as epubs, and these books being purchased in outlets. The large publishers that have signed up have only given us PDFs so far, because they do not have EPUBs of the books they are giving us. This may still happen in future.



Original budget: R592160.00

Actual spend: R553 641.00

Returned to pool: R38519.00

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Software phase 2.2 572609.00 534090.00 38519.00 Software expenses up until October 2014 to be carried over to a new budget
Legal expenses 19551.00 19551.00 0
TOTAL 592160.00 553641.00 38519.00


Outputs and deliverables


Planned Outcome
Phase 2.1
3rd Party Product Integration Done. Search results show affiliate links to Amazon products. Has proven that this is NOT a source of revenue, and not as helpful as we hoped.
Product Ownership Done. Critical piece of the puzzle, allows us to link sales to publishers’ earnings automatically, in real time.
Publisher Dashboard: Transactions, Payments, Credits widget Done.
Find-outlets call to action Done.
Show PDF file size Done.
Country to currency mapping Done.
Average default print costs Done.
Licensee details capture Done.
SEO friendly URLs Done.
Suggest a book Done.
Licence search Done.
PDF Automation: HTML to Paperight PDF Done.
PDF Automation: PDF to Paperight PDF Done — extremely useful, and means we no longer require Adobe products in our workflow (except for rare and tricky exceptions)
Phase 2.2
Site-content management (admins can change text on the site) Done. Extremely powerful, has allowed us to fine tune wording from overall messaging to tweaking phrases on tooltips and buttons to increase site usability.
Preview-document downloads Done. Very useful and important feature.
Company User Management: separate ‘company’ registrations from ‘user’ registrations Done.
Paperight Staff User Management (different user privileges) Done.
Ability to Close/Reopen Accounts Done.
Removal of advert space in PDF Done. (Docs can now either support ad space or not.)
Hide product-ordering and pricing details from non-logged-in users Done.
Revised home page layout Done — crucial change, this, reduced dud registrations on the site from dozens a month to almost zero.
HTML to Paperight PDF: further dev on epub imports Done, but epub imports still present problematic issues, related to the wide range of epub structures, so we do not use this feature as much as we thought we would, preferring to work with the HTML extracted from the epub instead where possible.



We and Realm should find ways to do more testing on older versions of IE (7 and 8) under different circumstances — but that can only really be achieved by seeing the site working on the field and responding. But Realm give us two weeks after going live to do final testing, after which most bug fixing is charged for over and above the project fee. The problem is that some problems (esp those with IE) only arise in the field months after release. This is an issue we’re discussing with Realm to find good compromises.


This was a once-off development phase that builds towards Paperight’s overall self-sustainability as a business.


This project went well overall. Some of the features we developed were experiments, and we learned valuable lessons from them even if they weren’t the lessons we were hoping for. We’re pleased with the changes as made midway due to user feedback received at the time.

Next steps

At the time of writing: for software, a phase 3 has been completed and phase 4 is starting.

Project 2: Promotion: closing report

This project was to promote Paperight to outlets and customers as we launch our instant-delivery site.

With this project we wanted to plan and execute a marketing effort to attract new outlets and consumers to use Paperight. Key features of the project plan included:

  • A dedicated outlet-development manager to visit and provide support to outlets;
  • Public advertising of the service (incl. buses, mobile ads, Facebook ads);
  • Mainstream-media coverage (incl. interviews on radio, magazine and newspaper articles, press releases for online reference);
  • Production of an explainer video for our website and others to embed;
  • Production and distribution of a catalogue of Paperight content to 1000 outlets around South Africa, with an emphasis on the Western Cape.

General report-back

We came a very long way under this project, making many twists and turns as we learned by trial and error how best to promote Paperight. It’s a journey that we’re going to be on for some time to come.

Overall, a key learning was that we must help outlets promote themselves as much as, or more than, we promote Paperight itself. And that the only way to reliably make sales in the early days is to create them manually, one by one. You simply can’t dive into advertising till you’ve done the groundwork in person, face to face, hand-holding every sale from start to finish.

We also learned that it’s easy to produce marketing materials that never get used. Under Objectives Achieve below we explain how we fared in each area of the project plan.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

We said: “Paperight’s value is proportional to the number of outlets and customers using it, so promotion is critical as soon as we have a site that can deliver instant PDFs for printing. We need to plan ahead, have the right people in place, and then execute a well-organised marketing campaign.”

For over a year we consistently underestimated how much deliberate, focused planning must go into a marketing plan, and what it would involve. We had a strategy (approach many outlets, and build our profile through PR), but did not build this out into a play-by-play plan. We also thought that we’d run a public advertising campaign, an approach that quickly changed when we realised that we didn’t yet have the outlet footprint or available products required to support that.

As planned, we did bring in a marketing professional, but this wasn’t the right person and we parted ways within a month. We then naively thought we could handle marketing ourselves. It was only when Zoom Advertising did a pro bono marketing-plan workshop with us in June 2013 that we really understood what a marketing plan should be, and hired a dedicated member of the team to create, manage and implement it. This is now in place and doing well.

We said: “We plan to create enough interest that 100 outlets register on Paperight, and 1000 documents are purchased through these outlets over a two-month period.”

It took us just over two months to get to 100 outlets, mostly by visiting them personally. However, 35 of these were duds, not viable as outlets. After three months we had 100 viable outlets registered. Over the first two months we only ‘sold’ (most were free downloads) 100 copies, not 1000. It took us ten months to get to 1000 copies.

We said: “This will also lead to valuable feedback for us, and kickstart the word-of-mouth required for organic outlet and customer growth.”

This was definitely the case, a process that continues today.

Activities planned vs actual

Planned Actual outcome
Approach media contacts, especially in radio and newspapers (broad and community-based), to ask for interviews and articles. We’ve got better and better at this, and now are very effective at getting good PR. PR campaigns are carefully planned and thoroughly executed. But it took us about a year, including hiring a professional for five months (using SAB Foundation funding) to learn how to do it.
Identify key advertising targets, and purchase space. Current key targets are Facebook, Golden Arrow buses and taxis, posters in train stations in Cape Town, and posters for outlet shop windows. We’ve tried Facebook advertising with limited success. We decided against bus advertising, focusing resources instead on producing small-scale advertising for outlets, with generally poor results.
Outsource design of bus-wrap advertising. Not done.
Recruit outlet-development manager. We hired three people for five months: Zukisani, Zimkita and Yazeed. They hit our outlet registrations targets. Yazeed has stayed on under separate projects as business/outlets development manager, and is a crucial member of the team.
Hire in part-time marketing expertise. Our first part-time hire did not work out — we were not happy with performance or approach. We then used these funds to keep on Nick Mulgrew full-time as in-house designer. This has been a crucial role, helping us create very high quality materials and design and copy.
Commission explainer video from Blinktower. We commissioned Sea Monster instead of Blinktower, and are very happy with our explainer video.
Design, print and distribute catalogue of top content. We did this as a poster. We could not distribute the poster properly though, and it quickly became out of date because of the way we included pricing on the poster. The lesson learned was not to print large quantities of posters, but rather the design custom posters per outlet or chain, and let them print them as needed.
Develop outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts. This is an ongoing process. We developed an outlet user guide, outlet introduction/info pack, and various templated scripts and survey questions.


Measures of success

Planned output Planned measure Planned target Actual outcome
Visible adverts and media coverage Claimed visibility numbers (e.g. how many people see a bus?) 1m people It isn’t possible to get a good measure for this. When we planned this measure, it was based on using one major advertising method. We changed our approach to use many targeted methods. We doubt we’ve exposed Paperight to anything close to 1m people.
Explainer video Viewers feel they can use Paperight today; leads people to sign up 8 of 10 viewers we survey say they’d use Paperight in the next month; traffic to the site from video embeds leds to >1min time on site and >2-pages browsing The explainer video is still extremely clear and useful in many contexts, especially pitches to publishers and potential partners. But we have not been able to gather data according to these measures. It’s great that after a year of changed messaging, the explainer is still on message.
User feedback, and outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts Ability to answer queries quickly; common issues converted into improvements and added to dev roadmap Every query solved within 2 minutes of first contact; any query that repeats >10 times converted to roadmap item This has been achieved. Queries that are not instantly resolved only take longer because the customer needs patient handholding. Repeat queries have consistently led to development roadmap items that have been implemented.
Developed list of good media contacts Can we get PR messages out through good channels in future? >20 personal media contacts who’d return our calls We have many more than 20 excellent media contacts now, and get great coverage from press releases.
Top-content catalogue Can outlets use it to entice customers to print? Verified distribution to 800 outlets; positive feedback from 80% of outlets we ask We did not achieve this aim. We have conducted a separate survey (here) of outlet’s use of Paperight posters in general that show low take-up: “Of the 145 surveyed outlets only 28 put up posters.” IMportantly, “of the outlets who put up posters, 70% sold books”.
Better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight What would we do differently next time and why? Clear, ongoing write-up of lessons learned on wiki We are fairly good at this. We have a range of reports and protocol pages on learnings from campaigns. (E.g. the outlet survey mentioned above.)
Expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Number of users; frequency of use; revenue per outlet Users: 1000 customers, 100 outlets, 50 rightsholders; frequency: average outlet acquires 1 document/day; total revenue per outlet R500/month. Only after several months did we hit the numbers of 1000 customers, 100 outlets and 50 rightsholders. We have never attained the frequency of 1 doc/day/outlet or R500/month per outlet. However, we have established new, clear revenue targets for the network overall  that have been met for 9 months in a row.


We expected to see customers using the site at the measurable levels listed above. We’d have liked to see all these measures exceeded. We’d have loved to see these measures exceeded but also to discover new ways to develop Paperight that we never thought of.


Original budget: R511500

Actual spend: R489372.37

Returned to pool: 22127.63


Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Outlet Manager 150000 150000 0 3 outlets managers hired for five months.
Travel 45000 35132.96 9867.04 We managed to save on travel these months
Marketing Consultant 50000 50000 0 Some spent on a consultant, remainder used to give Nick Mulgrew a full position.
Advertising 164500 136998.30 27501.7 We kept our advertising costs low, and spent on many small, targeted efforts and experiments, rather than a few big expenses.
Content Manager 84000 84000 0 Tarryn-Anne Anderson
Computers 18000 10580 7420 We managed to save  by buying cheaper equipment
Unbudgeted 0 22661.11 22661.11 Adobe CS5.5, Additional consultant fees, Bank charges
Total 511500 489372.37 22127.63


Outputs and deliverables

Planned Actual outcome
a range of visible adverts and media coverage focused on Cape Town Done! We have developed a large and growing library of ads (posters, flyers, signage etc.) developed by Nick Mulgrew, and keep a running list of extensive media coverage. This project began this work, and we’ve continued it under other projects.
an explainer video we can use indefinitely to show how simple and powerful Paperight is Done. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW4lwI0C1I0 and in Xhosa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JoUjSo4KQk
outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts, stored on the Paperight wiki Done and ongoing.
a more developed list of good media contacts Done. We have an extensive list of several hundred media contacts. When we put out a press release, we select appropriate contacts from the list, and mail each one separately. High-value contacts get a phone call too.
a top-content catalogue We did this as a poster. It was not as useful as expected, largely because we chose to include pricing information on the poster that went out of date quickly.
a better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight This project began this learning process, but we believe our best marketing messages took well over a year to crystallise.
an expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Indeed.
user feedback (good and bad) on which to base future development. Yes. We actively encourage this, and could always do more. Feedback is incredibly valuable and we make sure to take it on board every time.


The most important learning has been that you can’t make marketing up as you go along. Only a year later (under this and separate projects) have we got marketing planning right, after bringing in Zoom Marketing to help. marketing planning requires deliberate focusing on very specific target markets and products. The scary part is choosing what not to do — it always feels like a huge risk to not take every path. But narrowing one’s offering and one’s targets is the only way to be effective

We tried to take too big and wide an approach at the beginning, and it took a long time to realise that narrowing down was important and would take deliberate effort. That narrowing can only be done if you write down and commit to a detailed marketing plan.


Further promotional work will be funded by further Foundation-funded projects until we’re self-sustainable in 2015.


This first promotional project taught us a great deal, which was very valuable. We’re confident we can apply these lessons constructively in future promotional work in ways that grow revenue towards our self-sustainability.

Next steps

Pitch for further promotional funds under a new project, based on our new, detailed marketing plan.


Project 14: Software Development Phase 3: closing report

The third major phase of software development on paperight.com:

  • adding support for VAT (now that Paperight is VAT registered),
  • A5 document downloads and PDF generation,
  • high-res cover downloads (for outlets who want to produce high-end products and their own marketing materials), and
  • improved product workflow and management features.

General report-back

This project went smoothly although there were delays on our side and Realm’s, mainly in the testing stages, where we had to test some complex VAT-support issues around invoices and statements and couldn’t allocate proper time to this. However, the delays did not have a noticeable impact on our business.

Objectives achieved


Objective Aim Outcome
A5 printing Books that are easier to read, leads to greater customer and PR enthusiasm for the end product Done. This has been just as important as we hoped, greatly simplying outlet’s lives. Lots of positive feedback in discussions with users.
High-res cover downloads Lets high-end outlets create attractive front covers and promotional material We’ve seen some take up of this, particularly for promo material (e.g. Juta used these covers for a store poster), not so much for covers (outlets actually find it too much hassle to print a separate jpg as the cover; so we’re addressing this in a future dev project).
VAT support Provide automated VAT-compliant invoices and statements between us, publishers, and outlets. Done. This is a major statutory requirement. No user feedback yet.
Improved PDF generation Speed up the content team’s ability to get documents online, and reduce the file sizes of downloads Done. The new PDF generation workflow is a huge improvement, drastically cutting doc creation time, and resulting in consistently smaller file sizes than in our old InDesign-based workflow.
Improved document management Ability to control a book’s visibility on the site

Ability to change the 80/20 earnings split between Paperight and rightsholders for specific documents



Objectives not achieved


Measures of success


Planned Outcome
First: do the new features function as expected? Yes.
We expect to see A5 documents outselling A4 documents (with the exception of matric exam packs) by 2 to 1. This is hard to measure because we have sold no documents that are available in both A5 and A4 simultaneously. That said, A5 is outselling A4 overall, even though there are far fewer A5 books than A4 available. This is in part because we’ve changed many of our bestsellers from A4-two-up to A5, and removed the two-up option completely.
We would like to see a noticeable increase in revenue, and as importantly, an increase in the number of outlets actively promoting the service to their customers. Our revenue continues to grow on target by over 40% per month on average.
We would love to see traditional booksellers register as outlets, given that we now offer products that ‘look like books’. All of Juta’s 10 stores and Caxton Books (a major supplier to the schools market) have registered. We can’t attribute this directly to A5, but our pitch to them generally is stronger by being able to offer A5.



Original budget: R139080.00

Actual spend: R139080.00

Returned to pool: R0.00

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Functional specification 6840 6840 0
Software build 3.0 84360 84360 0
Theme support, purchase notification emails, registration form improvement, record and timestamp all logins, company account closure improvments 34200 34200 0
Read only PDF’s, listed publishers titles, outlet GPS locations 13680 13680 0
TOTAL 139080 139080 0


Outputs and deliverables

Functional specification and working software code on paperight.com.


When working on something as complex as multinational VAT support and automated documentation for three-party agency sales (Paperight, publisher, outlet), it’s important that you:

  • write everything down very clearly as you go
  • keep one master document of current thinking in as concise a form as possible (multiple docs or outdated notes are unhelpful and even misleading)
  • work quickly while the discussions and decisions are fresh in the mind.


This was a once-off project. Ongoing maintenance and support will be done on an ad hoc basis with Realm. A future project will move all code to an open-source repository, increasing our options for involving other developers for future maintenance.


Great project, despite some delay (as much ours as Realm’s) and testing issues.

Next steps

We have conducted further development projects with Realm Digital, and will continue to build on an excellent working relationship.

Project 3: 1.0 Software Build: closing report

This project is to build the first release of the current paperight.com. Key technical outputs planned:

  • Complete basic frontend components: landing, registration and profile pages; account-credit-top-up page; catalogue page; licence-purchase page; manage-licences page; manage-metadata page.
  • Complete basic backend components: account-credit management; user-search-and-manage page; doc-search-and-manage page; licence-search-and-manage page; PDF-watermarking (shop name, customer name, date, URL ID).

General report-back

After a great deal of careful planning and briefing, this project went extremely well. It ran a couple of months late, which is not unusual for software projects of this nature. Importantly, we built what we needed and achieved our objectives.

Objectives achieved

Planned: “… contract Realm Digital to build a revenue-generating site that will sell instant, automatic licences with content. … ensure that the site is built to accommodate a database of millions of titles, and a range of future enhancements, including devolved user-management, publisher self-service, and API plugins.”

This was achieved.

Objectives not achieved


Measures of success

Before: “We expect immediately on launch to see outlets respond positively to improvements in speed and ease of using 1.0 over 0.5.”

After: Achieved. Getting outlets to sign up with Paperight at all was much easier after the new site launched.

Before: “we’d like to see them using the site on their own for buying content for customers, for content we haven’t explicitly told them about, and visiting more often per month than they visited 0.5. (Outlets have already used 0.5 without guidance for content they’ve found themselves.”

After: This did happen, and has continued since.

Before: “we’d love to see more than a dozen new outlets registering and using the site based on word of mouth, without our active promotion and guidance. (We’ve already had half a dozen registrations on 0.5. So we are confident of far exceeding this number with 1.0.”

After: We actively signed up 117 outlets within four months. In addition, 15 signed up by word of mouth, slightly exceeding our planned measure.


Original budget: R510000

Actual spend: R509238

Returned to pool: R762

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Realm Digital Build 510000 509238 762 All done on budget.
Total 510000 509238 762


Outputs and deliverables

Planned: “…the 1.0 site described in supporting documents: the Realm Digital quote and solutions architecture document. The site (a) is faster and lighter than our WordPress prototype, (b) automates a one-click licensing and PDF-delivery process. The IP created will be the designs, code and related documentation that make up the site, and workflow/process documents (hosted on the Paperight wiki, http://paperight.com/wiki).”

This was all completed as planned.


Crucially important to keep regular, clear communication with developers, especially about timing. This project ran late because we let that communication slip early on and had to claw back time later.

Realm Digital is superb at creating clear documentation about agree functionality, process and costings from the beginning. This was immensely valuable, and the kind of professionalism that we expected, given that they are an expensive development company. We would noe expect similar levels of professional planning and execution from any supplier

One are of concern has been cross-platform testing. It only became clear almost a year after this project that Realm were not testing their code as thoroughly as they had led us to believe. We’ve since addressed this with them, but aren’t entirely happy with their level of testing, especially in IE8. This requires ongoing effort to address, and we will agree with Realm in future dev phases, on a case by case basis, how testing is conducted.


This was a once-off project. Under a separate project, we’re moving this and subsequent code to Github under an open licence, which will give us wider options for future improvements and bug fixing.


Great project, despite some timing and testing issues.

Next steps

We have conducted further development projects with Realm Digital, and will continue to build on an excellent working relationship.


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 (paperight.com 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.