Startup revives traditional book clubs

Updated on 8 December 2014

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Startup revives traditional book clubsIn America, around five million people gather every few weeks in someone’s living room, a bar, bookstore or local library to discuss the latest book they’re book club is reading. In South Africa, the concept has not managed to garner as much popularity .

The BookParty app, launched in November hopes to change this. The app was created in an effort to revive the concept of book clubs (a group of bookworms who come together to discuss books), specifically among young people, and to lessen the expense of maintaining this hobby by allowing users to share books.

The idea for BookParty was initially pitched at the Lean Startup by Johannesburg-based techpreneur Matthew Looi. Thereafter Looi (24) was grouped with his fellow Lean Startup pitchers Lungi Mbenyane (23) and Seipati Mohapi (29) to conceptualise the idea into a startup.

“We really wanted to make reading cool again”

The three co-founders (pictured below) share more about their unique startup and their plans to take BookParty further.

BookParty was established on the first day of the inaugural Lean Startup Machine Johannesburg and is user-driven, focusing purely on physical book lovers. Interested participants simply download the app, upload a book they’re willing to give away or swap for another and browse the books that are available to borrow from other users. Thereafter you bring along the books you’ve uploaded and swapped with other users to one of the BookParty events, which you can attend by purchasing tickets.

The app is free and we only make money from ticket sales for the monthly book swap parties, which app users will receive a notification about. Users are also welcome to arrange their own book parties, which they can do via the app.

We started BookParty because we really wanted to make reading cool again. We discovered that casual readers found book clubs too intimidating and avid readers found book clubs a tad bit boring, so we created a space for book lovers to interact, share and discuss books.

The biggest hurdles we have faced since starting BookParty was trying to design a product that catered to the niche market of book lovers, and also encouraging people to swap their books with others, when most hate parting with their beloved books.

The startup scene in South Africa is extremely exciting and the focus is great as there is more room for collaboration. Our vision for the next two years is for BookParty lovers to pay and organise independent BookParty events across the country, and perhaps even across the world.

Our advice for early-stage or aspiring entrepreneurs to go for it! During the Lean Startup Johannesburg we were forced to get out of the building and sell our product instead of sitting around deliberating.

Obtaining clients is the most important thing for any business. Your idea might be great in your mind, but if people aren’t willing to pay then it’s time to change something.

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