From AR to Gen Z Introducing the 2018 BookTech Pitch-Off

Five companies from across the globe will take part in a live pitch-off at FutureBook, vying to win the top prize and showcasing their product to potential book trade collaborators


his is the fourth year of our annual start-up competition, and BookTech 2018 features our most diverse set of finalists yet. Whitled down from a strong global longlist, the five nominated companies demonstrate how innovation can be applied to different aspects of the publishing trade. Latvia-based Publica hopes to give authors an entirely new way of publishing and selling via blockchain. London’s Bookabees combines a kids’ book subscription box with a “lending library” model of selling. The Pound Project, founded in Birmingham, aims to make crowdfunding books more accessible, with beautifully designed monthly short stories starting at just £1. Californian contender Commaful hosts short, visually-led clickable stories for the Instagram generation. While the Bookful app, from Israeli content creator Inception, offers to aggregate the best kids’ books producing using—you guessed it—AR (see p04).

This breadth of innovation should make our

live pitch-off truly inspiring, and it will also make choosing a winner particularly tough. But then the BookTech judging criteria has always been distinctly, er, subjective. Aſter all, some of these companies have a good 12



months’ worth of sales data under their belts, while others are barely out of beta. Some are pioneering, cuting-edge digital technology, while others are using print in creative ways. Some are firmly consumer-focused, while others aim to make more of a difference on the publishing process. That’s why, although our judges will give credit for sustainable business models and proven results, they will mainly be awarding the originalit and promise of the concepts on show. Because that’s what BookTech has always been about: highlight- ing outsider ideas that have the potential to disrupt the status quo, and that might inspire delegates to think about their own work in a fresh and provocative way. Whichever team scoops the prize, one

Introducing The BookTech judging panel

thing’s certain: BookTech should have a substantial impact on their future, too. Last year’s winner, Shib Hussain of mobile storytelling platform unrd, explains: “Technologists are creating amazing experi- ences, but they don’t necessarily have the stories to make a success of it. The tech world has a ridiculously good level of understanding of the mechanics you need to create to make products ‘sticky’, to get users to convert, to extract data, and to transport users to a differ- ent world simply through lines of code. “However, none of this is possible without a

Marine Debray HarperCollins

Marine is responsible for HarperCollins’ corporate strategy and mergers and acqui- sitions processes.

Bec Evans Prolifiko

Bec is the founder of Prolifiko, a digital coach for writers that deploys persuasive technology and neuroscience.

Molly Flatt FutureBook

Molly is the associate editor of FutureBook and was among the programmers of this year’s line-up.

Parmy Olson Forbes

Parmy is a digital trans- formation journalist for Forbes, renowned for her work on the hacktivist movement Anonymous.

great story glueing it all together. And, luckily for many readers of The Bookseller, publishers have story IP in bucket loads. We’ve been exploring this opportunit with several publishers, propelled forwards by the exciting conversations we had with them during and aſter the FutureBook Awards.” So don’t just come to the pitch-off (although that’s a must, obviously). Don’t just prepare some “Dragons’ Den”-stle questions to pelt at the pitchers (although those are very welcome, too). Make sure you grab the finalists aſterwards and explore possible points of connection in your own time. Because in a landscape where platforms and skills are evolving too fast for any one company to keep up, the real success stories start with partnerships.


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