Meet Read-O, the Spotify for Books

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

"We try to do for books, what Spotify is doing for music and Netflix is doing for movies: A personalized recommendation." Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

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"There are over 70.000 newly released books in Germany alone each year. How can you find the next book to read?" Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O 

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"There were years in my life – around the Harry Potter time – I read a lot of books. I stopped because I could not find more books to read." Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O 

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"We assume there are more than one million reviews for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Book 1) alone." Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

Partnership with CONTENTshift

This interview is in association with CONTENTshift, the accelerator program of the Association of the German Book Publishers & Booksellers. You can learn more here https://www.contentshift.de/. The winners are announced during the Frankfurt Book Fair each year https://www.buchmesse.de/en. The accelerator program aims to push the boundaries of publishing.

The next application phase is just around the corner. Have a look: https://www.contentshift.de/en/contentshift/news/two-startups-share-first-prize-at-contentshift-2021-congratulations-to-bottalk-and-read-o

"We tried to find out, why do you read? … You want to feel emotions. … So, we want to find out which emotions are stimulated by which books. That is why we came up with an emotional profile." Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

The Founder

We interview Ben Kohz COO (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-kohz-547024137/) and Co-Founder of READ-O (https://read-o.com/), one of the two winners of the 2021 CONTENTshift accelerator program. Ben studied political sciences but ended up in the food industry after graduation. He started to put up vending machines for farm produce in Munich.

"We are currently working in German, but our AI can analyze more languages." Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

The Startup

The startup READ-O (https://read-o.com/) is an app, that allows you to discover new books, based on administration. The app does this by applying AI. The AI of READ-O deduces an emotional profile of a book from the reviews on the internet. With their technology, they can establish a profile with even 10 reviews.

"Each review for us has the same value, from a normal person or the New York Times." Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

Venture Capital Funding

READ-O is currently raising close to 1 mn US$ in new funding. Half is already committed. They want to finish fundraising end of March.

"Our AI analyzes the reviews and the contained emotions." Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

Welcome to start up bread, that I own, your podcast and Youtube blog covering the German startup scene with News, interviews and live events. Hello and welcome everybody. This is Joe from start, operator all your start up podcast and Youtube blog from Germany. Today I'm bringing you one of the winners of content shift, the x Writ Program of the German Book Publishers and Printers Association. Therefore like to welcome then, from Rido. Hey, how you did? Hi, I'm fine, I do I'm doing good as well. You may notice that we are both smiling. Simple reason, my little son just crashed our first attempt at the recording, so this is take two. I'm nonetheless. We are here in February and actually you are the window of content shift, which took place at the Frankfort Book for already last year, in October. The simple reason you are only published by now is that we really had problems to sneak in the content because we get so many startup requests by now, but I still wanted to do this. Now that we get all of that out of the way, let's talk a little bit about you. I can tell you are actually so. You graduated from university, actually in political science and then, surprisingly, you went on to work in the food sector. How did this happen? Yeah, it was kind of a journey in the last three to four years. I started in two thousand and fifteen, my my first semester, and politic signs, and was a lovely study time especially, but the most important part of that a lot of free time. So it was not very hard to get through the first courses. And I'm a little bit the person who always has to do something. So at the second semester I started to work as a journalist and then I worked and the university paper, and in the third semester I started with a friend. We talked in the evening and in Bavaria it's the situation that after eight pm you can't buy any food. All supermarks are closed and off the a PM. Just have to go to McDonald's or just buy really expensive food at any kind of place like a restaurant. It so and we were students, so we had no money and one evening, after one or two beers, we set together we are why do we can't buy any good food, any eggs or something, just for a quick supper, and then we just schooled a little bit in the evening and we find okay, their solutions. They are like snack automats, like vending machines for snacks, and they are vending machines in the out of the cities at farms where you can buy x and geese and all those stuff, but they're not in the city. So we started in at my study time that we brought those vending machines for farming people. We brought them to the city, to Munich, and this was my first startup, which held for rather about three and a half years, and we had a kind of journey and one and a half year ago we sold it to our customers. Why did you stop it and can you take us along the journey, because at one point you stop with the food vending machines and then you got into novels with a I just how was kind jump happened? Sure, food economy is like a very special business and we wear a one...

...point where it was UK. The business was running but was not super good. We had a lot of problems because we both working full time and we had us like a side hustle the whole first start up and there was this one point where we had to decide if we do, would on a full risk. So we completely join our start up, or do we think it's not the big thing? It's not. Will won't explode in the next month or years? And the problem was that we has a few team members, we're doing the logistics and working as a part time already. But we we were in this expecting the next big thing. We just had. Okay, it was running okay, but I won't be like this super thing. So we both that, okay, we will stop it, we would sell it and then we will focus on the next thing. And Yeah, this more than the point where I just looked around and I had a friend who said, okay, I need someone who's doing marketing, who's good and telling people stories, and this is where I met Jonathan. This is where it's also the point where we do came into my life. HMMMM, have you always been a big fan of books? I had. There was like a few years in my life run about the Harry Potter time, where I read like lots of books and I couldn't stop it. And through my first year in South Africa, where work, there's a PR agent, I stopped because I wasn't really able to find any books which meet my taste. And this is like its process, slow process where really stopped reading a lot and we're just watch TV more. And Netflix came into my life and changed my habits quite a lot. And when I started to think about Reado and I thought about my own journey of books, on my own journey how I started and stopped reading, I really could sympathize with the problem which really trying to solve, that I wasn't able to find books which really meet my taste. If you just think about the situation at the moment, if you specially someone who wil really reads a lot, like you, trying to find the next novel, what you can you do? You can go to your books or you can go to Amazon, maybe tell yer or any big book stories online and you just go there and they're over seventyzero new releases every year in Germany. Just just think about how long will it take just to look to each cover, which take ten seconds? It will take it two days. She just looked for all those seventy covers to find any, and this is something which I, as a customer before I started working with real also had a big problem with. I wasn't able to found any find any books which I wanted to read, and this is also the point where reado started to really make made lots of sense in my my head. I understand you can basically classify books, letting your how is it called? Is it the reado machine, or do you have a special name for the AI inside of it? We call it emotion profile because we had this problem in mind that we assumed and we thought in the first persons, before we had data, that let's of people have the same problem like as we have, that they wanted to read, they wanted to read more, but they're just not able to find any. And then we said, okay, go how can we help people to find books which really meet their taste? And the first step was to think about what do I want to have out of a book? What if the thing, the point? Why do I read? And we try, we really try, to simplify it and we always say if you open a book, you don't want to read, you want to laugh, to cry. In...

...the simple point, you want to feel emotions. And this is the point where we say, okay, that's it's completely makes sense. So we try to know which emotions im which books and to do this to know which emotions are with books. We developed an artificial intelligence to analyze those reado emotion profiles, I understand. So basically the AI gets to read all the books. Just one question and that's it. Right now, work only in German or does it also work in other languages? At the moment we are only analyzing German books, but the foundation of the A is also, though, that we can translate it to English literature. But the point is which makes us really unique and which is our USP especially we don't analyze the books, because this is really complicated, and also the signs of nap of the national language of processing. It's not that far that you really can analyze primary of texture. What we do we are analyzing reviews. So they are millions of written book reviews in the Internet and we have an eye which analyze those and extract the emotions out of the reviews. So we don't go for the primary literature, so for the text of the book, we go over the reviews and then now how know how the emotions are which readers feel felt m I see SEC and for me. So basically, you're not going through the books, you analyzing the emotions in the reviews and was it hard for you to teach an ai emotions or you just were work in the hadn't yet? That's similar to that. That's similar to that. Look for those words. Did you start out right there? We started with that and it works kind of good if you have a lots of emotional lots of reviews. So if you have like over tenzero reviews for a book, those easy patterns really work good. But the big problem is that we have lots of books which like ten to twenty reviews. So we haven't an I specialist under he has visor in our team and he specialized on the one thing, the main focus, which is to that we are able to analyze books with ten or less reviews, so which really few data points. It's easy to do this with Tenzero S, but it's really difficult to do this analyzing with ten reviews. I was wondering when you talking about seventyzero books in thousands of reviews. So they have to be a lot of people who give books reviews, but I'm wondering what's like the average number of a best seller book like a Harry Potter. You've been talking about of reviews out there and a very very small print publication out there. I assume sometimes they're even books without any reviews. That's completely right. It's not really easy to assume or to summarize the all reviews about her put to it, because they're lots of platforms where they published. So we assume their over a few million reviews about Harry Potter one. So there are lots of reviews out there. They are, of course, audio reviews, they have video reviews, their newspaper reviews and they are those written reviews from normal persons. Those are the categories of reviews and we usually analyzing the written viewews of normal people which are saying, okay, I felt the book was for me very sad or very happy. This is the easy kind of things we can do. But the other point is how many reviews are there for like...

...a non fictional book? If there is like a photography for beginners or something where it's not really needs to do a review? Of course this is like a challenge which we have, but at the moment we are focusing on novels and they are novels which are sold once or twice. They're usually more than ten previews there. So we are easy to lead able to analyze them, and at the moment we have over five hundred thousand books analyzed already. So they are lots of lots of books which are already now database and we're still growing. Uh Huh. Before we get into how you recommend and how you classify the people, I would be curious do you actually assign a higher priority to reviews in something like German newspapers, like big print newspapers like effort, said, set Deutcher, or magazines like the Shpetle, who publish a Best Sellal list here in Germany that is equal to New York Times best seller list. Is it bad case, or is like any review equal for us, any reviews equal, which say each opinion, each people who say something about the book has the same amount of word and value force. So there's another question which you also ask kind of together, the question about best sellers. And if you asking a people like normal people, who is not reading that much, what if the good book, they usually say, oh, the best seller. That makes completely sense in the first thinking, because those are the books which are bought the most. Okay, they have to be good, but if you imagine that you only have to listen, or had to listen to the most soul song. Would that meet your personal taste? I'm I don't think that would be mine. So the personalization part of this is the most important for us. Best Sellal lists are okay and they good to know, baby, but they shouldn't really be the point for deciding you and next novel, that your next novel should fit to your personal taste and should not be the most bought book. And this is what we trying to do. We trying to do what spotify and Netflix is doing at the moment for a move music and video. We trying to do a personalized book recommendation, that we are really unalyzing those books and we recommending books that, I'm matching your personal taste. This is this is a magic combination that we know which emotions are in the books and we know which subjects with themes in the books, and then we analyzing your reading profile, because in our reading APP, and we do APP, you can enter your favorite books and after this, we analyzing your reading profile and to your reading profile, were giving you personalized book recommendations. That would be something I would have to ask, because you already took that way, took that away from me. But admittedly I was wondering if you just have like a lot of buckets where books and the people who like them fit in. For example, if you like Harry Potter, you also like that ad APP or is it more like, okay, you like Harry Potter, but you're also like some Bei novels, some becolypse novels or something like this, and so that makes you a special case. So maybe you would also like that. Or is it currently more on the if you like this, you would also like that. Logic. We have both logical built in our APP. You can look for Harry Potter especially and you find look alike books which are matching emotionally and thematically for the one book. But if you entering your favorite books, and this is a plural, so more than five books, then we doing the special things. So if you...

...have Harry Potter, for example, and a Zombie thriller, we looking for K you. You like zombies and you're looking for magical stories. So we trying to figure out if their book out there which matching those both emotions and have a theme about zombies and magic, and maybe we'll find you book which is really is summarize of those and which has a Zombie elemans and magic elements. So we completely building an own profile which has both elements. You will find this Somembi wizard book for me, we hope. So. If there is out there, will find it. Yes, okay, I see CC. I'm talking about publications. He said there are seventyzero books published each year. Is this just novels or also a loan in Germany? Non Fiction every year in Germany it's a combination of non fiction and fiction. Yes, and now the question. Are also all those cell of publishers in your list that can published via this and that platform? Mostly it's always the question of data. So of course we try to get most books in, but some platforms don't share their data. So, especially if you're writing as a like a hobby writer, then you may be publishing on ink it and at the and this moment we don't corporate with ink it or other platforms. We have those amazone books in our APP so you can find them. Was the kind famous platform for authors and all books which are published through the foul l be the PSITANS. Leave about Abusha, which is a German platform. They are all in our books. The literal translation would be something the central register of deliberable delivereral booth books. That's correct. Yeah, and and the company behind this catalog is also internationally active. To Ful MPHAB is the company behind them and I think they're known around the world. M I see. So let me take a little bit of a leap here. Everybody would like to use read Oh, they can go down here in the show notes. They'll be a link to our blog post. We of course, could find all the links and show notes from this episode, including, of course, Rideau and your linked in profile. But how would be curious. How are you guys financed right now, because I do assume it's nothing that generate sufficient revenue for a whole team yet. Yes, and at the moment we we are funded by business angel. But maybe we take go a few steps back. There was this moment when Jonathan asked me if I want to join the team and I want to take ownership of the marketing and the sales apartment and if I guess, I want you, and they ask the same question. Okay, Johnny, how are you finance? How do you want to finance the start up? And we had a very, very good situation at the moment we were founded through his dependingum, I think it's scholarship. Yeah, it's the English word. Scholarship from the German government called exist, and it's really great, great program because you have three people who can work full time for the scholarship. So they are fine founded and financed by their scholarship and they concentrate on the building, the startup. So for one year we are completely financed with Johnny me and Andy The k AI specialist, and then we started for one full year, or forty hours, sixty hours a week, and we made glove of things happened, and then we got a business angel in our team, to business angels who found it the first round, and at the moment...

...we have completely founded with this money. But there's one thing which we still now wasn't discussing where I'm discussing. It's our bob products, because we found throw it. Okay, we have an APP and we are really good at recommending books, but they are the players out of the market internationally and nationally, which are having book websites, bookshops or any kind of book related products. And at and one and a half year ago, we started to promote our service as a white labor service. So there are some publishers, there are some webshops which are using our recommendations for their shops. So if you looking there for a book, you finding Harry Potter, for especially, and then we recommend the look alike books on their web page. And this is something which is growing quite fast and can be that we are like having a good growth, especially in the BB market. The BTC APP is a long shot, understood. I do know that a lot of investors listen to this program on a regular basis. We had more than thirty startups being approached by our by our listeners. So would you be open to talk to additional investors? Definitely. Yeah. We, like like nearly all startups, we are looking for the next spanning round at the moment, which is the case to complete our product market fits, and we are looking at the moment we're around about seven hundred thousand euros in the next round, where three hundred Fiftyzero is already covered. So that'll the recording is done in mid of November, two thousand and twenty one. It will be published in February two thousand and twenty two. When the investors are listening to this, how long do they have time to get in then I will be kind of short notice, but I think round about end of March you will we want to finish this round. So there is some time left and we always looking for people who are interesting in our story and in our journey and want to meet us. So I just can invite you to contact us and there will be the next round. They will be the next chance to jump in and if you want to support us in one way or another, you always welcome our table. Sure, and down here in the show notes there still link. Also at the beginning we've been talking about this interview you is incorporation with the content shift x Ray Program and I would like to ask for your experiences with the content shift x rated program except for that, you get your final word at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is just a place to be for every book lover. I really love it. They have still a lot of physical books and very interesting stuff there. Let's that's completely right, and the book fair was a very great moment, a great chance for us to meet all those people which we had been in digital contact for over two years now, to just meet them and read them, have a coffee with them, with really pleasant to meet most of them. So there was a chance, like one year ago, to apply for the content shift award and there was over, I think, forty of fifty startups which applied. And the good thing for us it is really based on the digital publishing theme. So it's about publishing, it's about innovation in the public publishing industry. So we had a very good fit with our business models. So we want go. We awarded for the first ten start up the finalists, and then we took the next step to the five...

...last finalist and then we had a few workshops which we blowed our mind because we met at those workshops great eight people out of the whole industry, like people from Chalia, from Lehman's media, from MPOB. We just not only talk to any people, there was a leading board. They are people who really know the industry. We could help us with projects and could give us great introductions. So alone this workshop, those three days which we worked and meet and had workshops together, they were completely worth and their value a lot for us. Just only three days workshop worth participating. Very good closing words. Only thing left for me to say is best of luck, good luck with the fumbing round, and let us know how you guys doing, especially when you expand into English language. We will thanks. It was a pleasure to be totally my pleasure. Thanks. Bye, bye, bye. That's all. Folks find more news streams, events and interviews and www dot's start off reread that isle. Remember Sharon is carry.

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