Startup of the week: Inkitt

Startup of the week: Inkitt

Inkitt, co-founded by Ali Albazaz and Linda Gavin, claims to predict future bestsellers.

The pitch

Inkitt is marketed as "the world's first data-driven publisher". The company has built an artificially intelligent algorithm that analyses users’ reading patterns to predict future bestsellers. Once a future bestseller is found, Inkitt works with publishing houses to get these novels to print.

Who's behind it?

Ali Albazaz and Linda Gavin launched Inkitt in 2015. Albazaz's background is in development and sales. He started coding when he was 10 and running small businesses at a young age, while Gavin is a designer whose corporate work includes the Twitter logo and Apache Flink.

The pair were particularly inspired by the story of 50 Shades of Grey author EL James, and the way she published her work online and got feedback from readers. "We are both writing, in fact we both regularly post our own work on Inkitt," says Albazaz, "so this idea of being answerable only to your readers - not a commissioning editor or a big publishing house - was very appealing to us."

Ali Albazaz and Linda Gavin.

What's the gap in the market?

"We are not so much filling a gap as bridging the gap between online and print publishing," explains Albazaz. "We believe in the power of technology to make predictions about what people want to read, but we also very much believe in the power of the printed word. Our approach is objective and data-driven; it means Inkitt does not make mistakes. Our promise to publishers is this: when we deliver a book, it will become a bestseller. And to authors, if you come to us with a potential bestseller, it will be published and it will sell."

Biggest challenges?

Inkitt is still quite young, celebrating its first anniversary in February. Albazaz says: "It can be difficult being a small fish in such a big pond as the publishing industry. But we are already gaining traction and you can feel things starting to snowball. Since launching about a year ago, half a million people have read stories on Inkitt. We are now focused on building a close-knit online writing community that stretches from the US to Australia and beyond."

Ultimate ambition?

"To have a large catalogue of books which the publishing houses can use to find their next blockbuster. We want publishers to come to Inkitt when they are looking for a future bestseller - because they know that we will deliver every time."

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

Albazaz says: "Firstly, get to know the industry inside and out, because it will show if you don’t. Secondly, be persistent. Many people in this industry are used to saying ‘no’ for a living. All you need is one ‘yes’ to completely turn your luck around."