Hello, Steppers! IN today’s post I interview Dinesh Agarwal, the “Head Dude” and founder at Flippiness.com. Flippiness is dedicated to helping people make thousands of dollars every month in their spare time by “flipping”; buying and selling used books. Dinesh started Flippiness with a whopping, TWO dollar investment (gulp! that’s a LOT ) and two hours of time.
Two hours, two dollars, and a real business (with the potential to make it BIG) gets its start. It reminds me of the Startup Bus that the Startup Bros talk about, where groups of designers and coders get on a bus, drive around… and by the time the bus comes to a halt they have pieced together an app and already started to make money! Or my epic post about Noah Kagan, who made up his mind to start a non-tech biz and kick it off with over $1,000 in profits in 24 hours… and actually pulled it off.
I’ll get to today’s interview in a sec, but I want to make sure that everyone reading this knows that wherever you are in the world, whatever you have in terms of talent and resources… YOU have the ability to become an entrepreneur and make it big. Shoestring101 lives by this principle that I’ve been shouting from the rooftops… that you only need TWO things to start a profitable business:
- Access to a thing of value, and
- A way to communicate with people that value that thing!
You don’t even need to be physically present in the market that you serve. Dinesh Agarwal lives in India, yet he has made a viable business supporting American college students and stay-at-home moms that need extra cash. Recently I helped Dinesh with some copywriting projects, including all the sales copy on the landing page at http://www.flippiness.com. Here’s an important principle: Dinesh was already making money from the site before I hiring me to add the copy that’s there today. He didn’t hire me until he had already proven the concept and collected a few dollars. This principle of self-funding is crucial if you’re going to build your business on a Shoestring. Here’s some snippets of my conversation with Dinesh.
KURT: Dinesh, thanks for agreeing to talk with me today about how you started Flippiness on a Shoestring. What is Flippiness?
DINESH: Flippiness is a system that identifies inefficiencies in market and serves them to its users at whatever level they want to participate.
KURT: What is the product that Flippiness provides its subscribers?
DINESH: Flippiness finds books that can be flipped to make quick bucks. We find two websites, one selling the book at a lower price and the other buying the book back at a higher price.
KURT: How much of a capital investment did you need to make personally to make Flippiness a reality?
DINESH: I believe in Lean startup methodology. When I started Flippiness I already had a book database from another startup. I wrote the code to find inefficiencies in two hours and launched it. If you really want the number, I spent $2 on the domain. I used the servers I already had to host it. Now that Flippiness is working fine and got some traction and paying users, I have 60 machines running 24X7 finding books that can be flipped so it is a bit expensive now.
KURT: Were there funds contributed by outside sources, including self-fundin (incoming customers finance the next level of services offered)?
DINESH: Most of the money that we spend on Flippiness today comes from the subscriptions. We also get decent affiliate income from websites that we redirect users to buy or sell books.
KURT: A byline of Shoestring101 is, “All you need to start a business is 1) access to a thing of value, and 2) a way to communicate with those that value that thing.” Do you agree with this? In what way has Flippiness given a thing of value to folks that value that thing?
DINESH: I totally agree with that. When I started Flippiness it looked like a beat up version of Craigslist.com. However, people looked past the design and paid us! Our target audience is smart people who know how to make a solid side income. These people continuously source good deals from Internet. We took the pain of finding something worthwhile and served it to them via our website and over email. It struck a chord with them.
KURT: That’s awesome. So, YOU provide your customers with moneymaking opportunities… that’s what THEY value. But on another level, your subscribers are doing the same thing; with your help they connect people that need books with people that want to sell their books. Another layer of “access to a thing of value and a way to communicate with those that value that thing.”
DINESH: Yes. Flippiness lines up perfectly with that saying. Our audience needs an easy way to make money with least amount of efforts. We provide exactly that. We have created Forum to let our subscribers interact with us and other Flippers to get their questions answered.
KURT: I like that you provide a platform for experienced subscribers to share their learned lessons. Let’s talk about the business of flipping books… How much money can a Flippiness subscriber hope to make in their first month? In 3 months? In a year?
DINESH: People are making from $600 (on free plan) to $2000 a month. In the first month one usually loses some time and even money at times by jumping on the deals that are not good. As they get more experience, they become smarter and start making bank. A free user can make about $1000 in first 3 months and over $7000 a year. A paid user can make about $3000 in first 3 months and over $24K in a year.
KURT: Who is your biggest performer?
DINESH: To be honest I don’t know. Not everybody has given me their numbers. But I know a person who keeps Flippiness open whenever he is on his PC. He continuously refreshes the page to keep an eye on books that get added. I know for a fact that some people have made over $3000 a month.
KURT: What is the most important thing a Flipper should know to start off right?
DINESH: It’s all common sense, but still we all make mistakes. I always suggest them that if the deal is too good to be true one should make sure everything is in order. The book should not have heavy wear and tear. Sometimes sellers list a wrong book under wrong ISBN and hence a seller’s reputation is important to know if the deal is legit. Then there are all sorts of editions of a book – paperback instead of hardcover, international editions, instructors’ edition etc. While our system takes care of most of it, one should always look carefully into all these factors. We have a best practices guide on our website https://flippiness.com/best-practices.php that I ask every flipper to read before they jump on it.
KURT: What would you advise someone to do that has an idea like Flippiness? Can you steer them from making mistakes, or overlooking opportunities?
DINESH: Start small and see if people pay for it. Even if you have to source the deals by hand, try it out. If people pay you for it, then you can put more resources into it.
KURT: I totally agree Dinesh. Noah Kagan calls this process “validation”. I always called it testing. In either case, it’s important to see if your opportunity is going to be viable by seeing if actual customers pay actual money first. THEN you can scale up. So, what’s next for Flippiness?
DINESH: We get emails from people that they want us to launch in their country. We are planning to expand Flippiness to multiple countries starting with UK and Germany.
KURT: So international expansion for Flippiness, the tech startup that you began with a two dollar investment and two hours of coding! No one can tell me that there isn’t opportunity in this world to make money. All you have to do is recognize that people want or need to buy things and other people want or need to sell things. It ain’t rocket science folks, just hustle a bit. Whew…. soapboxing, sorry. So, I know that Flippiness, though it has fantastic potential, is only a sideline business for you. What’s next for Dinesh Agarwal, a name we’ll all soon be familiar with? What other things are you involved with now?
DINESH: My full time business is Pro Start Me (http://prostart.me). I work with people who have great ideas and build it with them for equity. I have built 10+ startups in the last year. Some of them did not make it while some are doing well. The ones that are doing well are: http://Folwd.com, http://fanharvest.com, and of course Flippiness.
KURT: GREAT interview Dinesh. I would love to add to it in the future, perhaps by expanding on what Folwd and Fan Harvest are all about. For now though, what am I forgetting to ask about Flippiness?
DINESH: You might want to know what kind of customer service I provide to my customers. Recently I sent an email out about a one-day offer where we offered $50 off on first month of Flippiness Gold plan. One person emailed me telling me how he hated it. I can take criticism well. I apologized to that person and replied to his email immediately. In his next email he applauded the fact that I cared about my customers and apologized for his rude email. I also got an email recently where the lovely lady told me that my emails motivate her to achieve her goals. I usually try to answer emails immediately. More than money I want people to know that I stand behind my products. I prefer people saying “The product sucks but the guy is nice” than saying “The product is awesome but the guy sucks”.
KURT: That’s a sound principle; treat others how you want to be treated. And have a thick skin to deal with complaints without getting ruffled! Dinesh, thank you for the time here to discuss Flippiness. Not a lot of people know it, but billionaire Jeff Bezos started the giant company Amazon.com on the same principle: disparity in the prices of books. He bought and sold books online before expanding into other things. Best wishes to you and Flippiness, and thank you for hiring me to write some of our ad copy and autoresponder follow-up emails.
DINESH: I will continue to send others your way. You are my go-to guy for copywriting. Let us talk more and see if we can do something together.
There you have it, Steppers! Opportunity is everywhere. Dinesh started Flippiness, which I happen to think has a LOT of potential, in a few hours’ time and with only two dollars to secure the domain name. He started out dominating a tiny niche: helping college students that are looking for cheap used textbooks on one hand, helping students that need to dump their old textbooks on the other. Dinesh began by growing organically; no “seed money”, “angel investors”, no loans to pay back or partners to divvy up the profits with.
Now Flippiness is looking to grow internationally! By the way, if you want to pick up a few extra dollars by flipping books yourself, I know from experience that it works! I checked it out, both with Flippiness and even on eBay. My biggest book flip to date has been a $180 profit, no joke. Took me two short investments of ten minutes each. To get started flipping books part-time for fun and profit, or to ask any question of Dinesh: Head “Dude” at Flippiness, check the graphic below: