Inkitt invests $ 59 million and wants to turn its data-driven desktop publishing platform into a multimedia powerhouse – TechCrunch

Selling books during the pandemic went up, and it seems that the the amount we are reading also did. AND Inkitt, the startup that operates a popular, free platform of the same name so anyone can write and post stories – stories that Inkitt then analyzes using data science to determine which one to take to the next level to produce longer jobs for its paid app. separated. , Galatea – has raised $ 59 million in funding that could help you capitalize on this moment. The valuation with Series B is not being disclosed, but from what I understand from a reliable source, it is in the region of $ 390 million.

Berlin-based Inkitt will use the funds to continue developing its algorithms and technology, hire more people in particular to further expand in the North American market, and work on how it could extend the platform in the long term. That could involve more formats beyond reading (you are now taking your first steps in audio, for example), and it could also involve creating APIs and SDKs so that other parties, such as other editors, can use your tools for testing. too. shorter works to see what might work as books.

Inkitt has seen growth in recent years – the company now has 7 million users (AKA readers) and a community of 300,000 writers, almost three times the 1.6 million readers and 110,000 writers it had when I covered its last round of financing in 2019.

The startup has also caught the attention of others in the industry, underscored by who is investing in this round. Scott Sandell, NEA’s Managing Partner, co-led the investment with German publishing giant Axel Springer. Michael Lynton, President of Snap (and in previous lives, the CEO of Penguin Books and a senior Disney executive who started Disney Publishing); other Stefan von Holtzbrinck, president of the eponymous publishing giant (owner of Macmillan, among others), also participated, along with Kleiner Perkins, HV Capital, Redalpine and Speedinvest. Small led Inkitt’s Serie A.

Writers on the platform – at least those whose opening chapters fit well with Inkitt’s algorithms, which they then turn into longer works that resonate with readers – are also seeing large numbers, with some notable fairy tales among them.

Seemran Sahoo, from one of India’s most impoverished states, Odisha, has earned $ 2.7 million to date since The disposition, a novel that he wrote and published on Inkitt entirely on his smartphone. Sapir Englard from Israel originally wanted to use the proceeds of his book sprouted by Inkitt, The wolves of the millennium, to fund his tuition at Berklee College of Music in Boston; she has earned $ 8 million to date from the novel. (Both were released before Inkitt’s latest round of funding – they’ve continued to generate a lot of sales.)

These are outliers, but Ali Albazaz, founder and CEO of Inkitt, says that those who make the cut for Galatea can still do it very, very well. “Most of our Galatea writers made more than $ 100,000 in sales,” he said. But if books are at the heart of what Inkitt does today, Albazaz is dedicated to describing his broader vision for Inkitt as much more than just reading: The company has started taking small steps into audiobooks, and there are plans to develop films. , TV shows, merchandising, games and maybe even a theme park: “the Disney of the 21st century”, in his words.

That ride is consistent, but it’s not being taken at breakneck speed – this was almost exactly what Albazaz told me his plan for 2019 was as well. (Some things have not remained as prominent: the company’s unique selling point originally at Galatea was a set of “effects” that it would add sounds and shakes to the books, which would make the reading experience more immersive. These still they are there, but it seems that they are no longer central to all experiences, and even Albazaz referred to the effects in our conversation only as an afterthought.

As for why Disney’s vision has yet to be realized, to be fair, I have Been in a pandemic, and moving fast, breaking things is not always the best way forward. Furthermore, even though Albazaz said the company is receiving “between two and four requests per week from television, film and production companies” to make content-based Galatea / Inkitt books (as publisher, Inkitt owns the rights movies and other options). you have yet to sign any agreement. It’s partly due to this Disney idea: Inkitt wants a role in what’s next.

“We are finding out what is best for us,” he said. “We want to leave open the option that we have a video on Galatea.” That’s also another area that Lynton, who also spent years as the CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, could help.

Like other desktop publishing platforms like Wattpad, it has gone further in its own “Disney” ambition, with a wide range of content derived from works that got their first oxygen on its platform; Wattpad earlier this year was acquired by the Korean Naver for about 600 million dollars – Inkitt has paved the way for a new route to market for creative people who want to write for a living or simply want to take their work out into the world.

Built as an alternative to Amazon – Albazaz is unequivocal about his disdain for the e-commerce giant, which “took all margins and slashed profits” on books and ruined the reading experience with its Kindles – Inkitt also has its own quirks you don’t feel good about with everyone. A prominent author, whose name has not been released, was curious how a new job might work through the Inkitt machine and submitted it for publication. Inkitt’s data science engine, which is not sentimental about who writes, just what might ‘work well’, made plenty of suggestions on how the story should be altered to make it work for readers. The author was “furious,” Albazaz said, and so was the author’s editor, especially because of what the author had done with its book. The author ignored the suggestions and the book was published as the author wrote it. The book sold 1 million copies, definitely fine by some, but nothing to do with the author’s previous blockbusters.

“Those 1 million bought it because of the author’s name,” he said flatly.

In the long run, it will be interesting to see if Inkitt can not only sustain its growth and leverage it, as it wants, in a larger media game. Because so many ideas for other content come out of the stories you read, it is inevitably an area that Amazon and others like ByteDance (who are already giving some in the publishing world the chills), you may also want to explore over time. Amazon has extensive A / B testing for other parts of its operations, though it hasn’t made great strides in building a product to bring this to its desktop publishing endeavors … not yet, at least.

All of this also speaks to great opportunities and current traction, which is what investors like to see.

“Inkitt is well positioned to become the future of storytelling as it has moved beyond traditional forms of content to new formats that are innovative and attractive to millions of readers,” Sandell said in a statement. “There is a critical shift taking place in the way people consume stories, and Inkitt understands that. We are delighted to partner closely with Ali and the rest of the Inkitt board to help drive what is sure to be an exciting and exponential growth phase. “

“Inkitt’s technology is extraordinary, very successful, and truly illustrates the future of storytelling,” added Döpfner. “When you consider how many Inkitt authors are achieving great commercial success, you can clearly see how profoundly this company has altered the way people consume books. We are excited to be a part of the future development and to work with them as they continue their journey. “

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