John Jackovin – Co-founder of Bawte

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John-Jackovin

My typical day involves nothing typical. I am the only sales person, I lead the development team and I am the UI/UX guy as well. I am a marketing guy by education and have taught myself to code….but am really just a hack.

John Jackovin graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in marketing. After working for a couple consumer goods companies, John met Tom Love and over dinner they discussed an idea that would soon become their first startup. John ended up developing the initial product for this startup without any formal software development training. Since then John and Tom have launched many successful startups together, including Bawte. The duo most recently exited an ecommerce platform startup that allowed consumers to design custom window grilles for their home.

Where did the idea for Bawte come from?

My wife and I had purchased a Yamaha keyboard for my daughter who was just starting to play piano. In the box, besides the keyboard, I noticed a giant packet of paper containing instructions, registration cards, warranty info and more. I thought that there has to be a better way to distribute, manage, and store this info. That was the genesis for Bawte. As we developed the product we began to realize that an even larger pain point for consumers was when their stuff would break. What do they do? Who do they call? So we developed a way, right through the app, to tell us the problem and we take it from there. We will work with the manufacturer to figure out what needs to be done. After all, we store critical info like serial numbers, model numbers, copies of receipts and more, so it makes the support process way easier for the manufacturers as well.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day involves nothing typical. I am the only sales person, I lead the development team and I am the UI/UX guy as well. I am a marketing guy by education and have taught myself to code….but am really just a hack.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I love creative. I love mocking things up. I am an Illustrator nut. When I have an idea the first thing I do is mock it up to get the design down. Then I start looking to see if there is a valid business model. :)

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love how companies are finding unique ways of offering free products and services. Services like Slack, Github, Trello and others makes it so cost-effective for young companies to use their services without having to spend precious dollars. It makes entrepreneurship a possibility for a much greater audience.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I always respond to emails almost immediately. I realize it breaks up my train of thought, but my brain fixates on that email, so for me responding immediately eliminates that clutter and allows me to move on to what I am needing to do.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Cold calling people and businesses at Dun & Bradstreet. It was a summer job, so only three months long and I wanted to quit after the first day. My dad challenged me to stick it out and I did. I learned a lot about sticking with commitments.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would be less enamored with my idea and focused more on solving the real problem. Our first iteration of Bawte was novel, but didn’t solve a pain for our users. I’m certain we didn’t get to the point we are at sooner because I fell in love with my original idea.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

CrossFit. It challenges the body and the mind. If you can conquer Fran in 3 minutes nothing seems impossible.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Give before you receive. I know that’s not possible all the time, but always be thinking about how you can help others and when you can do it. Do it without any expectation to get anything in return. It all evens out in the end.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I had a company that got sued out of existence. There was nothing I could have done to save it either. A lot of friends wondered why I wasn’t more depressed. I honestly don’t know why I wasn’t. My mentality has always been, “It sucks. Mourn it briefly. Learn from it. Move on.”

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I like the idea of businesses built around delivering products that people forget about on a regularly scheduled basis. I recently found one for air filters. I am sure most homeowners forget to change them, buy them. But if you can get a company to deliver them, it not only makes it easier on me, it also reminds me to make the change. And of course there are tons of examples very similar to this that could be replicated and done so very successfully.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I like watching those Real Housewives shows on Bravo. Don’t ask me why, but I find them fascinating.

What software and web services do you use?

Love Slack! Makes communication a snap and consolidates everything into one channel. Amazon for hosting is the bomb. Back when I started my first tech company we had to buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Now you can start with a free tier and work your way up as needed. Github is great for managing our code base.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Startup CEO. It paints a very realistic picture of what it is like to be the person in charge of a startup.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I really enjoy Ben Milne’s blog (http://www.benmilne.com/) from the entrepreneur’s perspective. Fred Wilson has a great blog (http://avc.com/) that is awesome for entrepreneurs who want to understand the mindset of a VC (and a really good VC). Mark Suster’s blog (http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/) gives a great perspective from, well, both sides of the table as Mark has experience at both.

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