Our 'growth curve' series asks young publishing companies to share the challenges they face as they evolve from a startup to a sustainable business. Here, Lost My Name's David Cadji-Newby talks about the tough task of attracting talent.
The last three years have been one helluva ride. From humble beginnings sat at a kitchen table, we’ve won record investment on Dragon’s Den, received major investment from Google Ventures and delighted over 1.8 million children worldwide. Phew.
We’ve been told that we’re revolutionising the publishing industry by looking at things from a tech startup angle. Our innovative business model allows us to sell direct to the consumer and constantly iterate our products by responding to customer feedback. It’s working, too. We’re now a bestseller all around the world, and we have a full slate of new titles for 2017 and beyond.
Co-founders Tal Oron, Asi Sharabi, Pedro Serapicos and David Cadji-Newby
However, the last three years haven’t been without their challenges (going from selling 10 books a day to over 2000 almost overnight meant we had to learn to scale quickly) either, and now we’re facing our biggest challenge yet. We want to offer the best personalised gifts for kids while still following our original guiding principle; never just slap a kid’s name on a product. We’re brimming with ideas and we want to make these happen. To do that, we want to work with the the best talent around. And the best talent is in demand.
So why would the best creatives turn away from traditional royalty led agreements to take a chance on us?
It can be tricky to convince agents, authors and illustrators that we’re worth the gamble. Our business model and high cost price means we just can’t offer the guaranteed revenue model that established publishing houses can. So one thing we're doing is making sure we offer generous contracts with clear milestones to ensure we get the best for us and our freelancers.
We've also come up with a few more oblique strategies. This year, we set up our Story Studio and grew a new team to focus on innovative gift ideas, and to keep thinking about new ways of telling stories. We run a free monthly event called Strange Tales where we get outside speakers like BAFTA, Visual Editions (who we think are doing amazing creative publishing work), Punchdrunk (the immersive theatre company) and the RCA to tell us about instances of unconventional storytelling. It’s a great way for us to meet talent we couldn’t reach through traditional avenues, and we have offered work to a number of speakers and attendees.
Lost My Name's latest title
Finally, we also make sure (we hope) that we're a lovely company to work with. The simple steps of ensuring that we always pay on time, communicate clearly, and are friendly, passionate, personable people makes all the difference. As a small company, we can avoid the red tape, delays and impersonal work processes that can be hard to avoid if you're a larger publisher. We even have a dedicated microsite that chronicles what it's like to work with our team, features a blog with our thoughts and ideas about our work, and maintains a list of the latest job opportunities.
Attracting talent away from 'safe' brand names to newer and less conventional ventures is an issue familiar to many startups. But we sense that it's becoming easier, as traditional contracts and companies fail to fit the way people want to work now. It's more exciting, we think, to be part of a company that is continually pushing its own boundaries. We're willing to be changed by those we work with, rather than trying to fit them into an established mould.
It can be scary sometimes, because we're not always sure exactly where we're going next. But it's brought us success so far, and we're pretty certain that it's going to pay off even more strongly as we move from being a 'bright new thing' into a sustainable and thriving small business.