Kendall Bartsch, CEO of Third Iron (with Karl Becker co-founder; missing: John Seguin co-founder)
Company URL: ThirdIron.com
UPDATE! A LIVE INTERVIEW WITH KENDALL BARTSCH (K. Bartsch, phone interview, January 26, 2018):
While Kendall Bartsch was working in the library technologies industry, he started to notice a problem: although he was using all of the technologies available for advanced research online, the search technology seemed to be taking the experience further away from what research actually looks like. Instead of the feeling of entering a library and browsing through journals, it was becoming one of what he termed the “tyranny of Search”, focusing and narrowing concepts into a corner. Absent was the organic evolution of inspiration that flows from hanging around your ideas in the journals section of the library, and the chance encounters with other ideas while flipping through and seeing what others are doing. This was the value proposition of BrowZine.
My delightful phone discussion with Kendall yesterday gave me real insight into walking in the shoes of a real entrepreneur. We discussed the major decisions and obstacles that entrepreneurship requires, such as how he quit his job of nearly 20 years and went without income for over a year while supporting a young family. His two co-founder friends, John and Karl, did the same as the project was entirely bootstrapped. They eschewed the venture capitalist world for an internally funded model, preferring instead to use their own funds and those of generous family and friends or ‘angel investors’. This was a deliberate decision to avoid being beholden to outside forces down to road, and to retain control of their fresh new startup, Third Iron. Another impressive and refreshing choice they made was to not collect data on the tens of thousands of end users, a practice large companies do by almost by default to generate a side revenue stream from data selling. Not BrowZine. BrowZine is friendly.
Actually bringing this concept to life required a level of, as Kendall put it, ‘irrational overconfidence’. But it energized the three of them as the need to generate revenue as quickly as possible helped push the idea along in a highly productive way. Finally, through a proven concept and growing roster of accounts, BrowZine started working and grew over time to reach the esteemed position it holds today with researchers all over the world.
The Canadian Health Libraries Association describes BrowZine as “A mobile application (app) that provides a digital bookshelf for the latest issues of your favourite scholarly journals.” Its intended audience is library patrons in any academic discipline with an interest in using technology to remain up to date in their field. (Phinney, 2015). Universities use a corporate subscription which allows all students and faculty free access. Co-founder Kendall Bartsch states “There’s a lot of big institutions, corporate and medical libraries that have an incredible abundance of knowledge. BrowZine changes the way this information is packaged, distributed and sold through mobile,” he explains. “It’s now proven to be a very appealing value proposition.”
Kendall Bartsch has an MA from University of Iowa and a BA from Drake University, and his passion is libraries and the people who work in them. Prior to Browzine, he had a lengthy career in sales in the library information and biomedical industries, including CSA and ProQuest. There is little more than this information on the origin story or Bartsch’s background, but analyzing what I found I would say that a career in sales would have allowed him the opportunity to develop some of the essential skills of a successful entrepreneur including persuasiveness, risk tolerance, flexibility, and collaboration. He would have required creative thinking and vision to come to the following realizations, which are now BrowZine’s Guiding Principles:
- Recognition that users have a strong preference for single location to go read, (flipboard, newsstand) as opposed to silos
- Visualization aids discovery hence the newsstand (image: left) formula – also increases chance for serendipitous encounters (awareness of something new)
- Searching and browsing are related but different; browsing journals allow us to explore related ideas even when we are not sure what we are searching for
- Awareness of current material is key to research (push notification technology)
In 2011, along with a high quality team consisting of Karl Becker, an already successful software and app developer, and John Seguin, a product manager and Master of Library Science, Bartsch tri-founded the company Third Iron. Their advisory board has solid industry representation including the founder of RefWorks, president of ProQuest, and a Rutgers PhD of Library and Information Science. Third Iron launched their first product, BrowZine, in 2012. Since its beginning, BrowZine has managed to accumulate a very impressive list of subscribers, including hundreds of university and medical libraries and publishers all over the world (over 300 libraries in 16 countries within the first 2 years).
This is the best app ever invented and I love it! Every journal I subscribe to gets a little space on My Bookshelf (image:right) and I can scroll through my rows of journals easily to fine what I am looking for. The push notifications let me see when new volumes are available with a little red dot on the cover, containing the number of new issues I have yet to read if I am falling behind. I have access to all the academic journals of UBC in my field (and any other field) so I can easily keep up to date on what’s going on. Their tagline, derived from a user providing feedback on Twitter, is “BrowZine: The best thing to happen to e-journals, ever.” I couldn’t agree more.
Get Browzine through UBC: http://techserv.library.ubc.ca/2014/07/04/browzine-new-journal-browsing-app-now-live/
Phinney, J. (2015). Product review / Analyse de produits: BrowZine. Canadian Health Libraries Association. Vol 36, No 1. Accessed 24/01/2018 https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/jchla/index
Third Iron (Producer). (2015, March 4). BrowZine Update March 2015 [Video file]. Accessed 24/01/2018 https://vimeo.com/121286081