Jumpstart Episode 24: Kristopher Lange
- Kristopher Lange: Chief Fool at Book Fool – online book seller
- Book Fool’s mission is to help students with best buy back prices for text books
- Kris began by buying used text books, he then partnered with local book stores
- inspired by his mother, who started an apron museum in Mississippi
- From Fayetteville, Arkansas.
- Nashville has a great creative class, but developers are often found elsewhere
- Stay agile – the key for Book Fool
- Listen to your customers
- Stay positive. Always.
- feels like he has started Book Fool six different times
- Kris recommends behavioral economics books like Freakanomics. Check out the podcast too!
- read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
- subscribe to ecomonist Umair Haque‘s blog
- contact Kris at BookFool.com
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Jumpstart theme song “DLDN Instrumental (ft. Onlymeith, Mellotroniac)” by: St. Paul from ccMixter.
Dave: Welcome to Jumpstart. I’m your host Dave Delaney. My guest today is Kris Lange, Chief Fool at BookFool.com. Kris, thank you so much for joining me.
Kris: Thank you so much, Dave.
Dave: Chief Fool… (laughs), that’s a great–– that’s a great title.
Kris: (Laughs) And it–– it accurately describes exactly who I am, I think. We, I don’t know, we just do what we want to do––
Kris: –– in this company so it’s kind of interesting.
Dave: So tell us a little bit about BookFool.
Kris: Sure. Well, I started just as a student buying [inaudible-00:00:47] [growing] books and leading into textbooks and then with just kind of this weird premise of an idea that happened at work, built a technology around that premise, around that kind of pricing model and now we’re allowing others to use that software. So basically, we’re an online bookseller in which there are a lot of. There are probably a hundred different online–– large online booksellers that a lot of them buy books directly from students just online. Student ship the books to them.
Kris: And what we realized was if our mission is to help as many students as we can with the best buy back prices as we can, then we need to partner with local businesses, local bookstores, local campus stores, and allow them to use our platform to pay the prices that online booksellers can pay and allow that price to be paid in a local marketing cash to a student. And so we’re kind of using the power of the Internet to go act into the physical world.
Dave: Which is great (laughs).
Kris: Yeah. And it works really well. And our partners are affiliates of these campus stores and independent used bookstores. It’s kind of exciting for them because it’s something that they’ve never seen before and as well there are other people who, they are these book wholesalers that are out there and they do kind of what we do but it’s an entirely different economic model and basically, they can’t pay as much as we do for the books.
Dave: Do you have like an affiliate marketing background? I mean because that is–– that’s kind of how it works, right?
Kris: It is.
Kris: That’s right. So if a bookstore buys a book, say we–– we tell them what to pay the students. Say it’s a $50 book. Pay the student $50. We pay for shipping of those books, boxes and boxes of book from that store. When we receive that $50 book, we pay them $50 plus 20% so they get a $60 check for that one book. Of course, we’re not going to write one check per book, but.
Kris: And they enjoy it and it is easy model for them. We bear the risk if the book doesn’t sell and it just kind of gets out of their hands and they have a very happy student.
Kris: With $50 in their hand, right.
Dave: Yeah. Now, I remember well (laughs), appreciating any cash I could get.
Kris: (Laughs) Right.
Dave: As far as mentorship, did you have a mentor that helped guide you in developing BookFool?
Kris: I never really did. Honestly, it would have to be my mother.
Kris: Because she has an entrepreneurial spirit and she would always thinking out of the box. She–– my whole growing up, we would–– we would talk business ideas and she is not a business person. She didn’t start her own company which is an apron museum in Mississippi until just 5 years ago. And, but we always talked ideas and so I just–– I just grew up with this kind of inventor mentality that I can–I can invent things whether that’s a product or a business model.
Dave: Interesting. So you’re from Mississippi originally?
Kris: I grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Dave: Okay, okay.
Kris: And I moved at Mississippi in the 8th grade.
Dave: Okay. And then you’re at Nashville, right?
Kris: That’s right.
Dave: Yeah. How long have you been in Nashville for?
Kris: Since 2006. I’m a CPA. I’m an auditor and so I moved to Nashville to work for Ernts & Young.
Kris: To be a financial auditor, yeah.
Dave: So you mentioned the entrepreneurial bug sort of inviting you pretty early from your mom–– mom’s inspiration and then coming to Nashville. So what do you think of the Nashville technology scene right now?
Kris: Um, I hope it just keeps growing and I think it can. I think it’s amazing, right. So we have such a creative class in Nashville and it’s just–– and we have great industry that needs technology. One of the main developers that we use is out of Memphis and funny enough, he said some of his best clients are at Nashville. So I’m always telling him move to Nashville. “Come on, guys! This is right for you.”
Kris: But I guess if they can still work remotely, that works for them as well. But yeah, I think it’s a great scene. I have a men too involved with it because I’m not a coder.
Kris: I don’t know how to code but I’m a developer. So I–– I see organizations like yours and I need to get involved. So it pushes me and it pushes my entrepreneurial spirit as well the more and more I hear about the scene happening in Nashville.
Dave: Yeah. I mean it’s been great to watch and be involved with different startups and things over the last few years. So do you have some tips for other folks who were just starting out, starting their own businesses?
Kris: Wow! Stay agile. That–– that has been key for us. We never–– we never wrote a business plan for BookFool. We, and maybe that’s just the way that I can operate but it–– it’s a–– if you’re just working hard and keeping–– keeping your ear to the ground and listening to your customers, that’s been really big for us because starting as a student, we have like six different phases that I feel like I’ve started BookFool six different times.
Kris: Every different style–– we have a different model every single time and then we look back and we say–– well, some of them were really great and some of them were not so great. So we have to transition out very rapidly.
Kris: Now hopefully, we can stop reinventing ourselves eventually or else you’re not really doing a business, but.
Kris: I think that’s one of the main tenets of our company. Another main tenet is just staying positive always because so many things can get you down when you’re starting your own company, when you’re trying to manage people, when just life happens. And just trying to stay positive, not forcing–– forcing into something.
Kris: But you can really get through tough situations if you just stay calm.
Kris: And stay in your own skin and just muscle through it.
Dave: Yeah. That’s–– that’s great advice. Are there any books or blogs that you read or books that you would recommend or blogs that you would recommend that other entrepreneurs check out, subscribe to, pick up?
Kris: You’re talking to a bookseller so I can––
Dave: (Laughs) Any textbooks?
Kris: Yeah, and textbooks. And there are a lot of business schools that read a lot of books.
Kris: Um, I read–– I read a lot of books about behavioral economics. Freakanomics is a book, kind of in that genre.
Dave: They’ve got a good podcast, too.
Kris: They do.
Dave: Yeah, they do.
Kris: I love that podcast.
Dave: Yeah. Me, too.
Kris:Predictably Irrational is a similar book.
Dave: Yeah. Dan Ariely?
Kris: I think so, yeah.
Dave: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great book.
Kris: And then I read an economist Umair Haque (H-A-Q-U-E) and really enjoyed his writing. It just–– it’s motivating and insightful about just kind of on the macro and microeconomics of the world and how it’s changing.
Dave: Interesting. Those are great. And I will leave notes for everything we’re talking about in the show notes on, on the blog on Jumpstart.com, so–– or JumpstartFoundry.com, rather. Well, listen. I know you are busy (laughs) today. You’re at a–– you’re actually at a conference.
Kris: That’s right.
Dave: So I just want to thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.
Kris: Thank you, Dave. I appreciate it.
Dave: And where can–– where can people find you?
Kris: And all–– all my contact information is definitely there. We’re around Nashville all the time. You can probably find me in some coffee house in the East Nashville.
Dave: Yes, awesome! Thanks.
Posted on April 6, 2012