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At MediaJobs.com we have established our mission of Finding the Great Companies First. In keeping with our mission we have created this interview series with some of the newest startups in the New York City market area. We encourage you to learn about some of the newest companies and think about what might be a good fit for you.
What is the name and location of your company and who are the founders?
24symbols, a subscription service for ebooks, was built in Madrid, Spain by four founders with technical and marketing/sales background.
How did the idea for your start-up come about?
We the founders worked at a B2B startup and were thinking of a moonlighting project related to publishing. As we thought more about it, the idea of a “spotify for ebooks” started to gain traction. When, in January 2010, Apple introduced the first iPad, we knew this was an endeavor worth trying.
Of the key people involved what is everyone’s experience and background?
The founders come from the B2B industry, with technical background (MS and PhDs in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering) and tech, product, sales and marketing experience. But now the company is quite balanced between tech, bizdev and publishing people that handle all the challenges we have every day.
How do you see your company creating value or disrupting an existing market?
When we started everyone said we were absolutely nuts. A few years later, we are competing internationally against startups and big companies alike. The vision we had was simple: to enable people to read whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, with no limitations, and with a fair price. That’s the key disruption in publishing.
When was the business founded and how are you being funded?
We founded the company in 2010, and we have been privately funded in main rounds. A pre-seed round in 2010, and a seed round in 2013.
If so by whom are you currently funded by?
Our main investor is Group Zed, the international leader in providing digital content to mobile carriers around the world. They are also our strategic partners in providing our service to many of those carriers.
What is the current size of your business, number of employees?
We are 20 people now, and provide services to more than 10 countries. We started in Spain, but are now present in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Russia or Germany. In addition, and because of our partnership with Facebook, 24symbols is present in all countries where internet.org is offered (planned to be in 100 countries at the end of this year.)
If you are seeking further funding, how much and for what purpose will the new funds be applied?
We have shown that ebook subscription services work and are a viable business. Now we want to strengthen our internationalization process, push our content acquisition in selected languages, and continue offering the best possible cloud reading and social reading app you can possibly imagine.
What is the product and or service you are providing?
24symbols is a service to read and discover digital books online, based on a mobile subscription model. A multi-device, multi-publisher service that enables users to discover, read and share digital
books on the cloud (i.e. no book download is required.)
Explain how you are seeking entry into your marketplace.
Directly, via mobile carriers, and many other partners that have access to potential readers. We already have more than 1 million users worldwide.
What seems to be the biggest strength of the team so far?
A great mixture of quality, passion and balance. We are a tech company by heart, which enables us to be really quick and nimble, but with an increasingly stronger publishing background, which provides critical insights about how to offer the best service for readers, publishers and authors.
What was your greatest “Ah-Ha” moment to date?
There are many, but I remember early in the days we started how our pitch to publishers had to change if we wanted to engage them. While we were talking about cloud reading, no DRM in ebooks and new business models about subscription services, their main challenge regarding digital was whether they should digitize them or not. As a startup you want to change the world tomorrow, but it takes lots of time to do it.
What was the funniest thing that has happened?
Something that made me realize how fast this goes was when, in 2013, a well-known publishing analyst introduced us as the “granddaddy of subscription services”… just 2 years after we launched our beta version! This is the beauty of entrepreneurship 😀
If you can only do one thing in your industry what would that be?
Making them understand that as important as authors are, the real customer is the reader, and everything the publishing industry does should revolve around him/her.