Starting in the Norwegian military, through a career as a street artist, to being one of two founders of the online company Bookis, Lasse Brurok moved from the military straight to your bookshelves.
If you live in Oslo, you may have seen his work. Large pastel tanks, pink cubes in graffiti, his art is something you’re guaranteed to stop for on the side of a building in Oslo. However, Lasse Brurok has made his way in to Norwegian homes in more than hanging on their wall; he is also filling up their bookshelves. As one of two founders behind Bookis, an online platform to buy and sell books, Brurok has changed the dynamic of how we get our literary fix, while having a clear philosophy for the company that is growing beyond Norwegian borders.
Working in Teams
Brurok first learned the importance of team while being in school. He experienced that he had difficulties concentrating and reading. He believes these challenges later would become advantages, because he learned two crucial lessons:
- Find people who are smarter than you, and find a way to work with them.
- Simplify as much as you can.
The second rule became crucial for Brurok when he took a bachelor’s degree in Leadership and Organisational Development, while being full time in the Norwegian Army.
Brurok spent eight years in the military before devoting himself to art. However, his career in the Norwegian military ended rather abruptly, during a wine lottery. Somebody had put his name in the game, and without knowing, he himself had done the same. He won the entire thing, but was accused of cheating. “When I saw that wine bottle being handed over to somebody else, I thought: okay, I am done. It’s weird that the wine lottery would be the thing that would make me quit the military. I don’t even drink wine. The plan was to quit, but after a long exercise with little sleep, I suddenly quit right away, and I never looked back after that.”
During his time in the military, Brurok finished a bachelor’s degree in management, using his own method for studying fast and efficient—a method he is teaching others today. However, management was further down the line for Brurok. After the military, Brurok decided to focus entirely on his career as an artist.
The Next New Adventure
Although Brurok enjoyed working as an artist and the accompanying success, he still could not get a particular idea out his head.
Just back from his studies in finance in the US, his military buddy Arne-Morten Willumsen had presented Brurok with a great new business idea: selling used books online—and better yet—making it sustainable and cheap.
While working on an art project for Cecilia Flatum, a partner at Deloitte Norway, he told her: “Listen, my buddy and I have this great business idea, and I think I want to invest the money I have saved.”
She completely shut him down, telling him this was the moment to focus on one thing. That one thing should be his art, especially if he had any aspirations for a career that had a potential for growth. Being a woman he very much respected, he agreed with her, and thought she made a valid point. Right up until he met his friend Willumsen the same night; within half an hour had signed the Founders agreement for Bookis.
How These Guys Get into Used Books
The newly established partnership behind Bookis discovered that there was no market for used books in Norway. There was no equivalent to Amazon, and Finn.no (the Norwegian version of Craigslist) did not have a system that worked particularly well for the seller nor the buyer. By creating a platform where people could post their used books, not only would it be simpler for the consumer, it would also be beneficiary to the environment and be a sustainable business.
They entered a partnership with Schibsted and their concept “Helthjem” (translation: straight home) where people leave their books on the doormat to be picked up by the person delivering the newspaper. “Helthjem” will then deliver the book directly to the buyer.
Today, Bookis has up to 3000 transactions a day, and has already expanded into Sweden, with sights on expanding into new markets. Bookis has challenged the Norwegian publishing world by competing on prices because they have dared to think differently. Nobody working at Bookis has any experience from the publishing world. If you prefer an old way of thinking or doing, Bookis would not be the ideal place for you to work.
Looking Out for Each Other
Brurok explains that they have brought the sense of team unity that you experience in the military, into their business.
“In the military you get a promotion when you sacrifice yourself for your team. In business, you get a promotion when you sacrifice somebody else to get ahead. For us it is all about the team, and building team culture. This is our most important take away from the Army,” says Brurok.
The Bookis founders have taken some bold choices in how they run their business on a day to day basis. Counting fifteen employees, Bookis is a company devoted to the people that work there. Brurok says their philosophy is always people first, and subsequently focusing on developing employee’s competence and confidence.
“It is important that people feel supported, especially since we will throw you into deep water the first day. Either you swim, or we will throw you a life line, but the important thing is to try—and maybe fail. And then start up again. We don’t encourage failure, but we do believe it is important to accept failure and still be able to get up on your feet, and give it your all the next time around. That’s how you learn the fastest.”
Diversity is Key
Today Bookis has a 50/50 split between women and men.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Brurok continues, “It extremely important for us to have diversity in order to have a culture within the company with a broad spectrum of qualities and competence where people can challenge each other.”
Slots for Reading Emails
Brurok explains that they have a few ground rules at the company. Once company philosophy is that it is not kosher to be the only one staying all night to work, nor coming to work as normal if you had a late night.
“Would you go to the gym if you didn’t have enough sleep? No. The same thing goes for work. We have seen how people work better and more concentrated when they also have their personal time.”
In a world that is more online every day, Brurok and his partner have also introduced slots for meetings and emails. People should not feel obligated to respond to emails, unless it is the time they have put aside for doing exactly that. And meetings are not allowed on Wednesday, Monday and Friday morning.
And his art, does he still find time for that? Definitely. While the weekdays are devoted to Bookis, during the weekend you’ll find Brurok still spending time on his art.
Although—being a founder is never a clear-cut job description.
“When stating Bookis, I gave Arne-Morten one condition: I did not want to have anything to do with marketing. Today I am head of marketing,” says Brurok.
“The dream job is not something you get, but something you have to develop every day.”
This is Bookis
- Founded by Arne-Morten Willumsen and Lasse Brurok and launched in 2018.
- Used books that you can sell or buy online.
- Can be considered the Norwegian equivalent to the early concept of amazon.com.
- Partnered with “Helthjem” from Schibsted. People leave their books on the doormat, to be picked up by the person delivering the newspaper, who will then deliver the book directly to the buyer.
- 130, 000 users.
- 500,000 books have been posted by private users.
- Today, Bookis has up to 3000 transactions per day.
- 9/10 books that are bought, are used.
- Launched in Sweden in 2020.
- As the first one in the world, Bookis just launched royalties on used books.