Tag Archives: roadmap

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.

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.

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 paperight.com (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.


Roadmap, Dec 2012 to Feb 2013

We’re going to be focusing on:

  • Marketing and PR: Promote the Young Writers Anthology into the new school year, secure ongoing media coverage from active PR (several leads already in place with major magazines), and run a few narrowly targeted promotion campaigns in partnership with copy shops and publishers
  • Software: Complete phase-2 development of paperight.com, including important improvements to UI based on user feedback and refined messaging, and more document automation to speed up the addition of new content
  • Revenue: A risky but important move coming in Jan: we’re going to start charging outlets a small service fee for most our content that used to be free. This will be to test potential self-sustainability revenue models and measure outlet expectations.
  • Outlet feedback loops: A key focus we’ve neglected is active outlet surveys, triaging and acting on the feedback. These surveys and action in response will be a major focus for the next three months.
  • Partner projects: We’ll publish a beta version of our Guide for UNISA students in partnership with Together We Pass; make the most of a promotional partnership with national reading campaign Nal’ibali.

Our roadmap, last quarter of 2012

As the Paperight team, our aim is to recycle some of the marketing tactics that seem to have worked (among many that didn’t) over the last six months. Mostly, this means focus: helping very specific outlets sell very specific books to their target markets.

We’ve engaged a PR company to help us plan and execute a promotional strategy for six months. So, assuming we like what they propose, planning with them will be a key highlight.

I’ll lead the development of new features on the website that will greatly increase our speed and greatly improve aspects of our service over the coming months.

Our roadmap, third quarter 2012

Our aims for the next three months:

  • Continue and learn from our promotional campaign in Khayelitsha working with Silulo copy shops.
  • Build our outlet footprint in Gauteng, KZN, and Eastern Cape (we’re working on collaboration with the three major copy-shop chains in South Africa).
  • Another phase of software development, primarily to automate document preparation and boost exponentially the speed with which we can add content to the site.
  • Build media interest in and coverage of Paperight through articles, interviews and speaking events.