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Marjorie Knepp and Christina York are two of the founders of Magicbook, an app that engages children with books by bringing stories to life via your smartphone or tablet.

Beyond being a popular attraction at CES this year, Magicbook won the Startup Women’s track in Global Startup Battle 2014.

 unnamed-1The MagicBook team at Global Startup Battle 2014 (above). Marjorie and Christina at CES (below).unnamed

Q: Has your businesses or team changed since winning Startup Weekend, and then the women’s track for GSB?

Christina: “I think we’re still working on same problem and solution, but we have definitely received a ton of great feedback and ideas for the future and we’re prepared to listen and make decisions as new information from continuing validation efforts progress… The Detroit community has also helped us so much. Whatever we’ve needed, they’ve been willing to connect us.”

Marjorie: “We’re definitely the same core business, and our team had not changed at all… Although we are excited about even larger opportunities that we’ve come to recognize after starting this business. People at CES were really excited about the prospect of an API or platform they could use to take our product to their content”

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about starting a company since all this began?

Marjorie: “I would say the biggest thing is just the huge community aspect to all this. The startup community has just been so supportive and it wasn’t even something I knew existed before. All you have to do is be open-minded and plug in, it’s very welcoming and people are extremely willing to help us, provide connections, and really just help us out with things we have needed.

Q: What have you learned about yourself personally since this all started?

A: Christina: “Well, I always have ideas, but it can feel hard to go do something about it… there are always reasons not to do it, excuses, something in the way. But I’ve learned, ‘Why not?’ My attitude has changed. I think about, ‘why shouldn’t I be working on something that I actually feel passion about?’ My life shouldn’t be about paying a mortgage and making a car payment. I feel confident about working on something I care about even though it is a risk, and requires changes in my life… but I’ve taken the first step and my world is opened up now.”

Marjorie: “I’ve learned that you don’t have to know how, you just have to be passionate about something and you can figure it out as you go… and there are people to help you! I’ve really learned how to persist and find ways of doing what I want and need to instead of being trapped by responsibilities and scared to try something.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

A: Marjorie: “Besides GSB, I would say the biggest challenge has been legal issues. We really want to make sure everything is in order and are working through some complicated things. Also, we haven’t had a chance to breathe since everything started! Great experiences, and all valuable, but tiring and definitely a change from before. We were still working full time jobs up until 2 weeks ago… and we have families!

Q: Considering the city’s current economic challenges, how do you feel about starting a business in Detroit?

Marjorie: “Detroit has an amazing and helpful startup community. We’ve been totally blown away. We’re 40-year-old parents starting out fresh… we don’t match your stereotypical Silicon Valley founder profile, but it hasn’t mattered. We’ve been able to get all the help we need and then some.

Christina: “We’re really proud of the great network we’ve been able to build really quickly. We’ve already seen the benefits and it helps us keep pushing to know people are rooting and are excited for us. We’re really excited about being a part of the community and giving back as well, it’s very rewarding.

Q: What does the next 6 months look like for your team?

Marjorie: “Right now, we’re really focused on continuing our customer validation and nailing down the perfect market to start with and then a solid go to market strategy. We’re working to refine our MVP and we’re working to get our investor deck ready in the next 90 days so we’re prepared to raise angel money in the near future.”

Q: In terms of the product, what do you hope to have done this year?

Christina: “We will start full production 6-12 months out– meaning our App is refined and available, and our subscription service for available books is ready. We hope to offer between 10-30 titles by the end of the year.”

Marjorie: “We’re also working with teachers on a potential educational offering, and will be trying to grow the team. We’ll also be continuing to take beta tester feedback, and new ideas from the people who like what we’re doing”

Q: What advice would you give to other SW teams or teams looking to compete in GSB next year?

Marjorie: “Easy! Just listen. Listen to everything the mentors and coaches have to say, read the resources you’re provided, and be open minded. You don’t have to take every bit of advice, but you’re given so much during that time, it’s silly not to absorb as much as you can. Ask questions and take advantage of having everything in one place.”

Q: Do you have advice for females in the startup world? Have you felt disadvantage or discriminated against being a female founder in a community that is really male heavy?

Christina: “We’ve heard of things, but for us, no, we haven’t felt that. Coming from a corporate IT background, it’s the same issues we face in business and the startup community has actually been way more supportive than anywhere I have ever worked before. It’s been an issue in previous roles for sure, but not with this business, or in the startup world thus far.”


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Mitchell Cuevas
(@mcuevasm) I am the Sr. Marketing Director here at Techstars, am passionate about helping entrepreneurs, and am obsessed with finding, playing with, and implementing all the best new marketing (and other) technology I can get my hands on.