We hear about startups when they get an injection of funding, or when they launch, but what about all the hard work in between? What does it take to grow a sustainable and profitable business in today's marketplace? We asked Novel Effect, one of the five finalists in FutureBook's 2016 BookTech Company of the Year Awards, to share their challenges and learnings on the journey from great idea to going concern.
BookTech was an amazing experience for us, and we've stayed very busy since. We've been able to sign several deals with publishers that were in attendance and are currently in negotiations with almost every major publishing company.
When talking traction, the first thing we say is “We were finalists at BookTech Company of the Year". It has been a perfect proof point to get into the door of so many great organizations. It has also propelled us into multiple other competitions, from LearnLaunch’s Across Boundaries Conference in February, to SXSW, where we were a finalist for the most innovative companies in entertainment and content (we use voice recognition technology to add perfectly timed theme music and sound effects to traditional print books as you read aloud).
And only last week, we've launched a pilot program with Hachette to launch a pilot program using our technology to enhance four titles from the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers line. More books will be added to the program throughout the year.
So what else is new with Novel Effect?
Product wise, we keep growing and expanding our library to include a lot more books than we had at available at FutureBook. We’ve gotten to work with world class authors from R.L. Stein to Todd Parr. We've also started beta testing the Android and Amazon Kindle versions of the app.
We’ve also been expanding into new applications. We will soon be releasing an entirely new genre of interactive playscripts, that blends a book and an audiobook. Take the classic Romeo and Juliet as an example. You read aloud Romeo’s lines, and the rest of the character’s lines respond back to you in real-time so you are now not just reading the story, but are “in” the story.
Team wise, we’ve grown... and we aren’t slowing down. We’ve welcomed new members, brought on investors and advisors who are executives at Amazon and Spotify, and created an internship program with audio engineers at local universities.
Most recently, last week we attended South by South West (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. We were selected as a finalist for the SXSW Accelerator, which chose five companies around the world as being the most innovative for entertainment and content, and included a pitch competition similar to BookTech. In addition, we were selected by Tech.Co to compete in their StartUp competition. SXSW has been a simply amazing experience where in three short days, we added numerous investors, made connections throughout many industries, and formed over a dozen partnerships.
Being available to talk with other founders and startups, pick each other up, and move forward together has been amazing. Knowing there is always someone else who has been in your shoes and shared your struggles keeps you going. “Winning” a competition like this isn’t what is important. And I’m not just saying that because we didn’t win. It is about what you do with the connections you make that will write the story. It only takes one person, one meeting, one inspiration to accelerate a company, and making the most of those moments is what matters.
We have also been invited to present Novel Effect at the Launch Festival in San Francisco April 3rd-7th. The Launch Festival brings together over 10,000 founders, investors, and stakeholders to learn and discover from each other. From investor speed dating to live pitches to demo stations.
There are challenges to be faced as we grow, of course. Building out our library on a startup’s budget has always been one of the biggest. There are ways we can cut costs, but that comes with sacrificing quality and uniqueness. While there will always be a balance, we’ve learned that it is absolutely essential to create experiences that will amaze. Good enough is not okay, and our readers deserve and demand the best we can create.
Managing time will always be a major challenge for any start-up, and ours is no different. Many opportunities have come along and we want to take advantage of all of them. Ultimately, though, there are only so many hours in the day and dollars in the bank. Prioritization has sometimes been a struggle when there is so much we can do with our voice reactive platform.
We've also had to learn how to make sure we carve out family time amongst all the work to-dos. Story time is quite mandatory in the Novel Effect household, even with all of the stresses of building a startup. Our whole mission is about creating these magical moments reading as a family - but we can't do that for other families if we can't even do it in our own.