For those of you who missed Philip's announcement last Friday, Europe’s biggest and best digital publishing conference has just gone on sale. Yes, FutureBook 2016 is coming, and I’m delighted to announce that the live BookTech Company of the Year Award is back for the second time.
Launched last year, #BookTech is our attempt to expose people in publishing to the most promising new book-related businesses, and to give entrepreneurs the chance to pitch before a panel of expert judges, get feedback on their product or service, and network with industry insiders - some of whom who may even be interested in collaborating on their ideas.
Once again, we’re looking for startups across trade, self, independent, print and digital publishing, catering to authors, editors, marketers, readers, designers, booksellers, translators or any one of the many categories of people involved in bringing books to life. Candidates don’t have to have created some sort of mind-blowing proprietary tech, but they do have to demonstrate that they’re using digital tools and/or an understanding of their audience’s digitally-influenced behaviours in powerful, relevant and original ways. Submissions are welcome from across the world, although founders must be available to attend the final pitch-off at FutureBook 16 in London on December 2nd.
Our learnings from last year’s competition have, however, led us to amend the entry rules in one important way. Whereas the first BookTech Award welcomed startups at any point in the funding process, we’re now focusing on seed-stage businesses only - including those still in early ideation, planning or crowdfunding. So if you’ve already scooped series-round investment, congratulations - but you don’t qualify.
This reflects our aim to uncover the fresh concepts you haven’t heard of yet, rather than those that are already making headlines and winning other awards. It should also level the field for our competitors, as they’ll be at a similar level of development, and we hope it will provide them with feedback and networking at a particularly critical early stage.
With this in mind, we’ve also fine-tuned our judging criteria. Our esteemed panel of judges (more on them soon) won’t be looking for proven commercial successes or super-slick presentations; we’d rather see rough and ready but horizon-broadening ideas. This means they’ll be awarding points in four key areas: creativity of idea, clarity of market opportunity, audience-product fit and viability of the business model.
Our five finalists, announced at the end of October, will be profiled both on FutureBook online and in the printed conference supplement, and we’ll continue to track their success throughout the next year as we have done for our 2015 alumni.
This year’s conference comes at a time when (thankfully) the scaremongering rhetoric around ‘disruption’ has faded, and the smart people in publishing are focusing on integration instead. The big publishers are working hard to bring the ever-evolving skills and strategies they need to cater to new media and audiences in-house, while ambitious indies and individuals are realising that they need good relationships with the old guard to turn their experiments into sustainable businesses. So although BookTech is a competition, it’s really designed to be a win-win for all concerned.
So what are you waiting for? Startups, fill in the entry form here and everyone else - spread the word! Any questions, you can send me an email or a tweet, and don’t forget to join the unfolding #BookTech discussion at @FutureBook.