When John Jackovin brought home a new keyboard for his daughter last year, he wasn’t searching for a new business idea. But as he slid the keyboard out of its carton, out spilled booklets, discs and product documentation into a pile on the floor. In the time it took him to clean up the mess, he had an idea for a new mobile app.
 
The idea was simple: an app to allow consumers to register the products they own by scanning the UPC code or a specially designed QR code inside the packaging. And to keep it simple, users could log in using an existing account, like Facebook, to auto-fill the registration fields using the data in the user’s profile. However, he soon realized the larger potential of connecting buyers with brands, and brands with buyers.
 
In May of 2012, after a year of development, Jackovin went live with his new app. Bawte (pronounced “bought”), available for iOS and Android and coming soon to the Web, offers manufacturer partners a customizable platform and brand portal for interacting with consumers. Bawte app users can access product information, enter sweepstakes, get rebates and earn “social swag.”

“The platform allows consumers to self-identify,” says Jackovin. “For brands it allows them to understand who their customers are.” Return visitors are key to the site’s success, and Jackovin hopes consumers will rely on Bawte for quick access to owners’ manuals, how-to videos and customer service contacts. Like many new community-dependent Web platforms, Bawte’s biggest challenge is overcoming the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma. Jackovin says adoption by manufacturers is key to the company’s success, so he is forging relationships in the CE, juvenile and home improvement industries.
 
He has launched several tech start-ups dating back to the late 1990s and knows the challenges of launching a small business. “You must convince would-be partners and end-users that we’re not a fly-by-night ‘me too’ tech start-up,” says Jackovin. “You have to convince them that you’ve done this before and you plan on being around for a long time.” He says, “Be ready to explain to an established partner company that you’ve thought about a contingency. ‘I plan on being here in a year, but here’s what we’ll do if I’m not,’” he explains.
 
Jackovin knows the importance of trade associations like CEA for small business owners and start-ups. “Being involved in an industry organization is very important for a small business,” he says. “There’s an understood level of commitment that this person is willing to invest in the potential of this relationship.”

To learn more, contact Deb Kassoff at dkassoff@CE.org or 703-907-7655.