Startup of the Week: Blinkist – because knowledge is sexy

Michelle Kuepper 2012-10-16 9

Blinkist, the first fledging startup from Deutsche Telekom incubator Hubraum, is expected to launch in open beta at the Media Entrepreneurs Day today. The mobile app offers a solution to the growing number of time-poor and short attention-spanned people who haven’t picked up a nonfiction book in years but still want to impress their buddies with their knowhow at the next Trivial Pursuit night. 

I caught up with founder Holger Seim to find out why Blinkist could be a more rewarding alternative to spending hours playing Angry Birds….

Hi Holger, who are you and what are you doing?

Blinkist is an iOS app that lets you read the nonfiction books you always wanted to read but never had the time or motivation to actually finish a whole book. The core of our service is a new format - blinks - basically the main facts we’ve pulled from books, which make life long learning and exploring more flexible and fun.

There are three ways we’re doing this: Firstly, we’re making learning easier through a format that is fun to read, easy to understand and perfectly suited to moments of downtime. Secondly, we’re inspiring people who want to learn new things but don’t know where to start. We want to help them gain knowledge by partnering with well known curators. Thirdly, we offer readers the option to read anywhere, anytime. So if they want to quickly gain some new knowledge, they can do that with Blinkist in their pockets.

How did you come across your idea?

We had this problem, books were piling up in our bookshelves and we just didn’t have any time to read

them or didn’t have the motivation. We didn’t find a service that helped us solve this problem, so we wanted to help ourselves and other users. People were saying that there are a lot of services that offer a sort of summary service, like Wikipedia for example, but we found that we weren’t using sites like that to continuously learn new things, which is what we wanted to do. So we decided there was a hole in the market for a service that offers high quality information, a shortcut to reading a book.

How do you pick the books?

For now we’re focusing on top lists on the internet and bestsellers. We also want to partner with well known knowledge curators, experts and institutions that have the knowledge to say which books are the best in a field. It’s all non fiction books, it’s about the knowledge, not the entertainment. You want to learn things that you can use in your life or job. And to get the main facts from the books we’re using crowd sourcing.

Who are the founders and how did you find each other?

Three of us were studying together in Marburg and we founded a startup consultancy there. So we had our first founding experience and saw that we liked starting something. We began new jobs in consulting firms and realised corporate jobs weren’t what we were looking for. So we saw the problem we wanted to solve and decided we may as well do it. We met our fourth founder, our CTO, through friends, and he was excited about the idea too and the chemistry between us was great so we started at the beginning of this year.


What is your USP and what makes you different from everyone else?

There are other services that offer book summaries, like getabstract.com, but they’re taking a different approach, they’re focusing pretty strongly on a B2B model and their format is very different to ours, it’s not suited for mobile usage. They offer quite long summaries, 5-6 pages of pdf, so it is hard to remember the facts. It’s not there for learning. We, on the other hand, are focusing on a mobile app, for people reading on the go on their smartphones in moments of downtime. I don’t think we’re going to compete against getabstract, it’s a different product.

We know we’re competing with more entertaining offers but we strongly believe people have a thirst for knowledge and there is a market for Blinkist, people will want to use their downtime to learn. It will of course be a challenge to compete against things like Facebook and the news on their mobiles.

What is your business model?

We will be monetising through purchases, we want to make our content so valuable to users that they are willing to pay for it. There will be on demand and subscription models. So the prices won’t be high but the information won’t be free either.

Who is financing you?

We got the initial funding from Hubraum, we were the first startup for them. But now we’ve launched, we’re looking for more funding.


Is there something that you missing?

We really need online marketing and communications support at the moment. It should be done more professionally, I’m doing it at the moment but I have so much else to do. We especially need it for our launch and then to get our message out continuously after the launch.

Who would you like to have a lunch with and what would you talk about?

I’d like to have lunch with Jeff Bezos from Amazon and talk to him about his vision and his insights on the future of publishing, because that is what matters to us in the end beyond offering knowledge from already existing books.

Any advice you’d give for fellow startups?

It sounds obvious but a lean startup formula is really important – get your MVP out there as soon as possible. I think we should have launched a month earlier, we should have had a more vicious time plan.

What are you most excited to see on Blinkist?

I’d love to learn more about marketing and branding, I can see I have a really big gap in knowledge so I would love to learn first hand on Blinkist.

Image credit: Flickr user austinevan
Flickr user david_shankbone

For related reading, check out

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Berlin Startup Academy and hub:raum team up to offer startups €5000

 

 

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