Q&A: John Jackovin goes full-time with bootstrapped Bawte
John Jackovin (far right) addresses the crowd at the Bawte Launch Party in May as co-founder Tom Love (far left) looks on.
About 15 minutes after coming up with the idea for Bawte, John Jackovin said he knew he'd one day be working on it full-time. That day came on Friday, after he left his position with Bettrlife, another Des Moines startup, to work on Bawte 100 percent.
Jackovin, 38, co-founded Bawte with the aim of harnessing the power of mobile technology and social media to share purchases online. Bawte launched its app in May, and in addition to signing up consumers to share purchases, the startup's also marketing itself to brands. For example, Iowa-based Kum & Go has begun using the platform.
Prior to Bawte, Jackovin co-founded two companies, Big Blue Window and Servis Technology, with his longtime business collaborator and Bawte co-founder Tom Love. Jackovin is no longer involved with either company, but Love oversees operations for both.
To learn more about Jackovin's decision to go full-time with Bawte, a bootstrapped startup, we conducted an email interview with him. He gave us the lowdown on his salary and personal financial responsibilities, among other factors in the decision, and provided a bit of advice.
Silicon Prairie News: How did you arrive at the decision to go full-time?
John Jackovin: Bawte had been generating some steam for awhile and we got to a point where it was either a "Go/No Go" decision. If we did not do this full-time then it was as good as saying the project is not sufficient to become a self-sustaining entity. But given the interest amongst the community, users and brands we felt like this was the appropriate decision.
SPN: How long had you anticipated making the jump?
JJ: I guess I always knew in my mind that if it gained some significant interest and the product matched the vision that this would be where I ended up. So honestly about 15 minutes after coming up with the idea I knew that the jump would occur eventually.
SPN: Was this an easy or difficult decision to make?
JJ: Very easy for me. Maybe a bit more difficult for my partner since this was my idea. But as interest continued to grow and the product became a reality, he could see what was forthcoming and quickly and Bawte (pun intended) into the idea.
SPN: Have you gone full-time with a previous startup of yours, so as to say this isn't your first rodeo?
JJ: This dates me, but back in 1999 my now partner in Bawte, Tom Love, came to me with an idea. I was young and had very little experience in software development. Actually, my degree is in marketing, but in my previous job they had me involved as the business person in IT projects. Instead of just saying something is broke and doesn't work I decided to figure out why and dove into some code. So that was my first involvement with technology. When Tom approached me with his idea, I said I would give it a shot. So we Bawte (again, yes, pun) a book and I mangled a prototype together in off-hours and we sold it into a major retailer. And that was my first rodeo.
So, no, this is not my first rodeo. I have been doing this since I was 24. I had a 2.5 year gap, but that is a story unto its own.
SPN: Are you taking a salary?
JJ: Yes. Not what I or my partner are accustomed to, but enough to get by and host sweet launch parties. :)
SPN: If you're experiencing a change in personal income, are you consulting or doing anything to make up for the difference?
JJ: No. I am dedicated to this full-time. Full-time means any time I am not doing anything else. I have family, CrossFit and Bawte. I find it VERY difficult concentrating on anything but Bawte. My family requires some of my time, which is important to me. CrossFit kicks me in the teeth so I can't think of anything else while I am doing that. The rest is Bawte which spills over into dream time on occasion.
SPN: Did personal financial responsibilities, such as insurance, play a role in the decision?
JJ: Tom and I are lucky that we have other businesses that we own that we can pull insurance from, so no that was not an issue. However that is a big one for someone looking to do this. The key is making sure you can show continued coverage. Owning many businesses over the years has taught me that. Do not let that lapse if you can at all help it.
SPN: Where will Bawte office out of?
JJ: We currently have offices in Urbandale for one of the other businesses that Tom and I own, so I am squatting at this point. As this expands we will look to get dedicated offices.
SPN: How many employees does Bawte currently have?
JJ: Right now Tom and I are about it, but we have help from employees of our other businesses that will lend a hand when their other duties do not preclude that.
SPN: Do you have advice for anyone thinking about making the jump to full-time like yourself?
JJ: Yes, read that post that Bo Fishback wrote about knowing when it is time to make the move. I mean, nothing is guaranteed and nothing is without risk. As an entrepreneur you have to do everything possible to minimize that risk. Talk to people. Talk to customers (well potential customers). Find as many reasons as possible why NOT to make the leap. If you still feel that despite everything you have heard to the contrary that it is a smart move, then do it. When I was a kid I always said, "You never know unless you try." Now that was typically for riding my bike into town or drinking a pop or eating candy, but the sentiment is the same. If you never try to make something work, you are pretty well guaranteed that it won't work.
For more on Bawte, see our previous story: "Bawte aims to bridge gap between consumers and businesses".
Credits: Photos from Bawte on Facebook