Derek Haake of Campus Shift
Meet Derek Haake, founder of Campus Shift
, a free online marketplace of textbooks and notes
for college students.
What is Campus Shift?
Campus Shift helps students make college more affordable by helping them cut their second highest college expense – textbooks -- in half, saving the average student $500-$700 per year. The company allows students to make money selling their class notes and even connects them to local campus businesses to help them save on their everyday expenses, meanwhile helping them easily find out what is going on within their respective communities.
How did you come up with the idea?
When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I was frustrated with the amount of money I was spending on textbooks. Seeing my classmates sell their books back to the bookstore, only to have the bookstore turn a substantial profit off of these books upset me because I knew that students could buy and sell their books directly to their classmates and keep this money in their pockets. I started thinking about why they didn’t, and most students couldn’t figure out a fair price for their books, and they were worried about meeting up with random students at random locations. I solved these issues with Campus Shift by including local businesses as textbook meet up locations, so that students would have a structured place and time to buy and sell their textbooks directly to each other. Since we had a community with Campus Shift built around buying and selling textbooks, and also incorporating campus businesses, we decided to offer other services to further help students and businesses. This is how Campus Shift was born.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
Campus Shift was not my first startup. I had two others before. The surprising thing this time around was the relative ease that we were able to get things moving initially. There is a lot of support and great opportunities available in Northeast Ohio, and some of the resources -- like the Youngstown Business Incubator -- provide a phenomenal support system for area entrepreneurs.
Where did you find your first employee?
I actually presented at the Akron ARCHAngels
in October of 2011 and met Chris Haynes, an entrepreneurship student at Kent who then helped me pivot my business model at the time, which then enabled us to find additional talent and redevelop the software from what I had at the time to what Campus Shift is starting to become today.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
I don’t believe there is a typical day in this business. We spend our days planning, working from home or at our office space up at the YBI, selling our software, and have been travelling a lot lately. The team is very close and we have excellent brain storming sessions, but we also have the people to act on these ideas quickly, allowing us to enhance our products and pivot quickly when necessary.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Youngstown?
The biggest advantage as a tech company is the physical resources provided in Youngstown. Northeast Ohio is also establishing itself as a tech center, and being a part of this is helping us get exposure that I don’t believe we otherwise would be getting.
What resources or organizations in Youngstown did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The team at the YBI has been very helpful. They helped us prepare for presentations for some initial seed money from the Innovation Fund
that we were able to win last spring. The startup networks, such as Jumpstart
have also been very helpful. In fact, Jumpstart’s annual entrepreneur expo is a great way for startups to get out there and enter the regional network. In previous cities that I have lived in, these types of expos were either nonexistent, or they were very expensive – too expensive for most true bootstrapped startups to be a part of.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
Recently we were a sponsor for the festival down at Ohio University
, which had several thousand students attend. We had a nice booth where we gave out some swag and told students about our brand new app that we just released. I am a hobbyist photographer and took pictures throughout the day. Most students there thought I was merely a photographer that Campus Shift hired and not its president. I had several students walk up to me and talk to me about the guy who actually founded Campus Shift. Evidently I was not the president of a bootstrapped startup, but I made $4 million dollars each year and had a magnificent mansion in Cleveland on the lake.
What inspires you?
People that possess passion, heart, integrity and will. I am always inspired by those that overcome adversity, people that break molds, and attempt to live the American dream. The success stories are great, but those people are at their finish line, and they talk about the “good old days” when they struggled. I am inspired by the people that get back up after being kicked around, people that lead – not because they are chosen – but because they have to somehow figure out how to do it, because they don’t have other options. It’s the people that give something to help someone out when they don’t have anything themselves that I admire, and I hope I can live my life like that.
What founders do you admire and why?
I don’t really admire any other founders specifically. People that have been successful are the people you read about in the papers and they are no longer struggling. I think the struggle that comes with being an entrepreneur is a process and helps define someone. It broadens their worldview, and while someone is going through the trials and tribulations of a startup, they can be inspiring; they have to be a leader. Once the struggle is over, when the success sets in, the worldview begins to collapse and the passion, heart and will begin to fade.
What’s next for you?
I am going to lead my team and do whatever it takes to take Campus Shift to whatever its next stage ultimately becomes. I will raise my daughters and grow to become a better, stronger person with my wife. I will do whatever I can do to repay Northeast Ohio, the YBI, and the other people in this great area that have helped me plant the seed that is Campus Shift, and do my part to help make Ohio the next tech center in the country.
Interview by Joe Baur