The founder of paperbackswap.com, Bobby Swarthout, developed the idea for his venture while he was a college student. As a student on a limited budget, he had become tired of paying high prices for textbooks. So he developed and launched an online textbook swapping service. Along with a small group of students, he managed to assemble a group of 12 colleges and universities across the United States to participate in textbook swapping. However, after a few months, very few students had used the site. By listening to the potential customers who chose not to participate, Bobby found out that there were too many easy substitutes for the swapping service (e.g. bookstore returns, half.com, efollett, etc.). These alternatives offered either greater convenience or cash in return for used books (especially appealing to students who did not pay for their books themselves), or other appealing features. However, Mr. Swarthout believed in his concept and also listened to the ‘voice-of-the-consumer’ (VOC) and moved his business idea into different consumer/product space: that of paperback books. Along with a few lead users attracted to his original idea, he refined the original idea, gathered resources (an angel who invested in the business) and added technological capabilities. One year later he launched paperbackswap.com. From inception, the firm embraced the VOC as the key tool in driving product development and improvement efforts. For paperbackswap.com listening to the VOC has become part of a closed-loop system where inputs from consumers are analysed and product improvements developed in response and where the loop is closed by listening to how consumers respond to product changes.
|Name||New Technology-Based Firms in the New Millennium|