Trending: Amazon and Seattle’s NBA dreams: Steve Ballmer on the city’s prospects for bringing back the Sonics

Zoomstra wants to re-invent the way people publish and distribute marketing materials and books, allowing authors to add multi-media elements, Web content and detailed instructions in the form of interactive workbooks. The year-old company, which employs four people, recently launched its zWorkbooks publishing platform.

“With zWorkbooks, these experts can easily turn their content and knowledge into interactive step-by-step guides, which they can either sell or give away to build their relationship list,” says co-founder and CTO Aaron Kassover.  “The result is an experience far richer than one that can be found in an ebook or PDF,”

We caught up with 38-year-old Zoomstra co-founder for this installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “zWorkbooks lets authors and experts turn their know-how into interactive how-to guides. Just as ebooks make books digital, zWorkbooks takes the age-old concept of a workbook, digitizes it, and adds the ability to pull in any digital content.”

Zoomstra co-founder Aaron Kassover

Inspiration hit us when: “We believe that step-by-step guides are a powerful and underused training tool. They’re more than just a way to improve ebooks. They are also are an overlooked alternative to classroom based and online training. Inspiration hit us while we were working through “The Startup Owner’s Manual” and wanted a way to track our progress. I reached out to the authors, Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, with the idea to create an interactive workbook based on their book and they jumped on it right away. It turns out they had resisted creating ebook versions of their guide because you can’t dog ear and mark up an ebook the way you can a print book. They came on board as our first customer and zWorkbooks was born. The publishing platform we’ve built for zWorkbooks makes it easy for anyone to turn their content and knowledge into a how-to guide, and we’re adding tracking and distribution tools to help content creators know what is happening with their content once they release it.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap! It’s a great time to build startups because there are so many amazing development and infrastructure tools available to get to a “minimum viable product.” Right now, we’re lucky to be able to generate enough revenue to fund product development. Once we are certain that we’ve nailed product/market fit, we may consider raising capital to really build out our vision and to help with customer acquisition”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “The world is full of poor frustrated PDF files and ebooks who desperately want to be interactive guides. We make it easy to turn static content into interactive how-to guides. And even better, because our platform lets participants track their progress, they keep coming back. This lets the author turn a one-time sale into an ongoing relationship.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Getting customers on board before we developed the product. Nothing beats revenue on day 1.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We’ve got ambitious goals but there’s danger in trying to tackle too much initially. At first we were trying to go after too broad a market. The more focused the market, the better we can meet their needs.

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner:  “I would love to get an afternoon with Jobs to dive into our product, but long term I’m going to have to say Bezos. He’s done an amazing job establishing a beachhead in a market and then expanding and expanding and expanding. We’ve got similar plans! Plus, not only does he have amazing contacts in the publishing world, most of zWorkbooks infrastructure is powered by Amazon.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “When you sign up for a free account at zWorkbooks and unleash your inner how-to guide!”

Rivals should fear us because: “Rivals? We’re too busy building a great product that will win over their customers to worry about rivals.”

We are truly unique because: “zWorkbooks makes it easy for anyone to turn their content and knowledge into a how-to guide. There’s an unmet need that we serve. Over and over, when we show zWorkbooks to authors, consultants, trainers, and other experts, a lightbulb goes off in their head as they see how they can unlock their expertise in a new way.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Managing priorities at a bootstrapped company. There’s so much to do, but we have to be very selective and focused on where we invest our resources. The real hurdles are ahead and we’re excited to jump over them!”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “It’s easy to get enamored with “the big idea.” But the reality is that there’s a good chance the idea isn’t as great as it seems. Talk to customers! Get to know the problem you’re solving for them better than they do, and focus on delivering as simple a solution as possible.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.