We're pleased to announce that Blooksy is the winner of our third Startup Showdown pitch competition designed to showcase and fund early-stage tech companies. Blooksy, a cloud-based software platform that has everything authors need to easily write and publish their books, has received a $120,000 investment prize.
A Conversation with Blooksy
To learn more about Blooksy and its experience in the pitch competition, we interviewed Anthony "AJ" Joiner, the company's founder and CEO.
Congratulations on winning our third Startup Showdown competition, AJ. Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised by my mother and grandmother in a tiny, close-knit town in central Louisiana named Leesville. I went to college in Baton Rouge at one of the best HBCUs in the country, Southern University and A&M. After college, I moved to Atlanta in the 1990s and started my career in systems administration and support at Georgia Tech, before transitioning to software project management and software business analysis. Some of the better-known organizations I built software for include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Dept. of Transportation, and the Georgia Dept. of Human Resources along with private companies in the healthcare and real estate industries.
While working for corporate America, I had a parallel career (nights and weekends) promoting nightclubs and doing event/restaurant marketing. After 12 years, I went back to broadcasting school because I always wanted to get into radio. I ran a boutique marketing agency working with radio, TV, music industry, and political clients, and I'm currently part of a syndicated radio show, "The Willie Moore Jr. Show." We're on Radio One in more than 30 markets across America. In my segment, I discuss marketing strategy, entrepreneurship, publishing, and other business topics. I've really enjoyed pushing the limits and challenging myself in new ways. And now there's Blooksy.
How did you come up with the concept for Blooksy?
I have written several non-fiction books in a rather short amount of time and people kept asking me how I did it. I began coaching others on how to write books and the personal coaching eventually morphed into hosting workshops in different cities so I could reach my audience on a larger scale. When the pandemic struck, the workshops paused immediately, and since I could no longer travel, I started a hybrid publishing company to help others write their books to navigate the self-publishing process. I noticed areas where the same problems kept occurring — such as formatting different types of manuscripts and users having different versions of Microsoft Word, which consistently caused formatting issues. There was no collaboration, other than sending hundreds of emails back and forth to the author.
Hiring and managing editors, proofreaders, and book cover designers, and understanding all the steps that go with uploading to Amazon or other printers was a huge headache, and about one out of every 25 authors would run into significant issues. After one project with a dear friend went particularly bad, I said aloud to myself, "Enough is enough." Instead of asking myself, "How can I make this hard process easier?" I asked: "What can I create to streamline the process and make it easier for writers and publishers? From writing the book all the way to publishing it for sale." I found many solutions that handle part of that, like software to help you write or software to format a manuscript as an e-book or print book, but there was nothing that managed the process from start to finish. That night, I put on my software hat and I started building the software.
That's how Blooksy was born.
Can you tell us more about what Blooksy can do?
We have some features in development but ultimately Blooksy is an end-to-end solution. You can write your draft and share it with others in real time for feedback. We are developing templates that automatically format the book and save the writers $500-$800 they would normally pay just for typesetting, and we're making the process easy. Whether you want a print book or an e-book, whether it's a novel, a cookbook, an academic dissertation, or a grant, Blooksy will help you get it done, from idea to published. Authors will have the ability to hire curated support such as editors or illustrators within the Blooksy Publishing Marketplace. Publishers will also have the ability to manage the entire process for their authors as well.
One feature users love is Blooksy's ability to do real-time voice-to-text dictation, so you can "speak" your way through writing a book. Blooksy is currently in public beta, which costs $20.00 a month. The recurring monthly revenue generated from our software-as-a-service model will allow us to continue building amazing software and generate revenue to grow, month after month.
What do you intend to do with the $120,000 investment prize you received as winner of Startup Showdown?
As I mentioned, some of our features are still in development, so we plan to use part of the investment to complete those. We'll also focus on marketing and PR to announce our partnerships and to increase visibility for Blooksy by running ads across social platforms and Google.
How did you find out about Startup Showdown?
Joey Womack of Goodie Nation is a buddy of mine, and he told me about Startup Showdown and suggested I check out its Instagram page. I applied soon after and submitted my pitch.
What was the competition experience like for you? What would you tell other entrepreneurs about Startup Showdown?
The entire process was incredible for me, even if I hadn't won. The mentorship I received was invaluable. If you're fortunate enough to make it into the semifinalist round, Mentor Day is huge in terms of getting personal feedback on your presentation and offering. It was grueling — I was covered in sweat due to nerves and having to distill my entire business down into five minutes — but it was worth the effort for the insights I received. People pay for this type of advice from industry professionals.
The exposure you get as a finalist is remarkable. Since the competition, I've gained followers on social who are investors and other founders, and I've had several other investors let me know they're interested in having conversations based on my presentation.
Startup Showdown is highly competitive — you're up against a lot of amazing founders — but it's a great opportunity that any startup should try to take advantage of.
The advice that I'd give future participants is to be open to the feedback you're getting no matter how uncomfortable it gets. It's difficult, since your startup is your baby, so to speak, but if you listen to what they're saying it can make your business better and you a better person for going through the process.
Read the full press release announcement.