With one week left for startups to enter our 2016 BookTech Company of the Year Award, we're delighted to announce the judges who will be grilling this year's finalists at the FutureBook Conference on why their business is going to help shape the future of books.
Paul Field (left), a seasoned investor in the tech and publishing space, has watched hundreds of pitches over the years.
Following a career as a highly skilled newspaper executive working in both print and digital (Field launched both the Daily Mail's Mail Plus, a suite of interactive apps, and Mail Online, the world's biggest newspaper website) Field now applies his 20+ years of experience in the media to the startup world.
Field is c.e.o. EMEA of TouchCast, a New York-based company whose ground-breaking video technologies are transforming communications for clients such as Accenture, WPP and the BBC. He is also an operating partner at bMuse, an incubator which nurtures and launches highly disruptive media startups, and an investor. Among his investments is Ignite, one of Europe's top angel-led accelerator programmes, where he acts as a mentor to early-stage startups and founders.
Away from work, Paul serves on the board of Free Word, the international organisation promoting freedom of expression, literature and literacy, and his questions for our BookTech finalists will combine a deep professional understanding of what it takes for a startup to start up with a personal passion for ideas that will help books thrive.
Representing the legacy publishing world is Rebecca Smart (right), managing director of Ebury Publishing. Formerly c.e.o. of the Osprey Group, Smart has been hailed as "one of the publishing industry's leading thinkers" and "a hugely admired innovator" and won FutureBook's 2011 'most inspiring digital person' award. Smart may work for the largest publishing house in the UK, but she's famously committed to pushing the boundaries of what it means to create, publish and sell books.
Writing recently in The Bookseller on the popularity of books published by YouTube stars, she summarised her positive attitude to the future of the form: "We have an opportunity to continue creating a genuinely democratic world in which anything goes, a rich, gorgeous tapestry with something for everyone, where publishing is relevant and current." Her experience translating big ideas into practical strategies that will work day to day in a complex global organisation will bring an essential commercial and cultural rigour to the judging of the BookTech pitches.
Now six years old, Unbound remains one of the biggest recent success stories on the UK publishing scene, using crowdfunding to bring authors closer to their readers and producing prizewinning books that may otherwise have never seen the light of day such as Paul Kingsnorth's Booker-longlisted The Wake and Nikesh Shukla's The Good Immigrant.
As author and editor of nine books—including the first viral internet phenomenon to turn into a Sunday Times bestseller—Kieran is well positioned to understand the pressures and opportunities for writers in a digital age, and to identify the platforms and tools that might make a real difference to their careers. Having judged 2015's inaugural Award, he will also have some interesting comparisons to make between our latest slew of hopefuls and the progress that has been made by last year's finalists including Reedsy, Gojimo and Write Track.
To see our judges in action, and have the chance to ask our five BookTech finalists questions of your own, book your tickets for the conference now. And if you're a book-related startup, get your entry in before next Thursday to be in for a chance to receive invaluable feedback from our judges, network with an audience of the most swtiched-on publishing professionals, and meet some of your most talented peers.