Every year the number of audiobook listeners is increasing in the world. Thus, according to the data of the Pew Research Center, in 2018 this figure rose from 14% to 18% in the US, and 43% more audio books were sold in the UK compared to 2017. What is the situation in Ukraine? Here a market for audiobooks is just developing, but user demand is huge and growing at a rapid pace. LingArt online audiobook startup has collected nearly a hundred subscribers in just one month and is actively working with publishers. We are talking about why the future belongs to audiobooks, how to go through the phases and where to look for support for a startup with LingArt startup founder Mykhailo Malkush.
We are meeting with him and his sister in one of Kyiv’s coffee shops. They came here for a mentoring session by Tech StartUp School.
What is LingArt
Lingart is an online platform for multilingual interactive audiobooks. This service synchronizes text with sound and allows users not only to combine reading a book with listening to it, but also to choose other languages and listen to technical literature.
After moving to Kyiv, I started spending a lot of time on using public transport and bicycle trips. Sometimes it could take more than an hour and a half, so to make it more fun I started listening to audio books. And when I was making the transfer from the bus to the subway, I realized that it would not be possible to listen to the book here, so it would be better to continue reading in text format. But, unfortunately, there was no such opportunity. I also often wanted to know the translation of the word while listening to the book in English, but there was no such opportunity. So I decided to create a program that solves my specific problems. Subsequently, I developed the first LingArt prototype. Last year in August I invited my sister Yaryna (problem solver) into my project and we applied for a Startup.Breakthrough.
His sister, Yaryna, is a professional translator. Prior to participating in the project, she worked in Lviv at a US export company as a negotiation specialist.
Lingart is a platform for multilingual interactive audiobooks. We load standard classic books on the server, the algorithms synchronize texts in different languages and separately text with audio. It is synchronization that makes it possible to switch between reading and listening. It will be very useful for those who are learning foreign languages because you can switch on the English language and see the translation of the language you have chosen. Also, our program is unique in that it gives you the opportunity to listen to books with illustrations, such as technical literature.
First of all, we will choose the books to which we are entitled. If we have agreed with the Polish publishing house about 200 books, and with the Ukrainian one about 20, then if these 20 overlap, it means that we will have them in two languages. In fact, most popular books have been translated into different languages. Our main task is to negotiate with bookstores and copyright holders. So far, I have been voicing our first books because they are in the US on a Public License. We will be able to speak about the growth of the client base and the first profits when having 50 books in our program.
LingArt will collect 40% of the profits on taxes and for ourselves, and 60% will be split between copyright holders and publishers in proportion to the amount of time that listeners spend on their books. Payment for the number of book pages viewed is also possible. We want partners to be in equal conditions, so payment will not depend on the number of books. Because if we have a 10-page book that has been listened to 100 times from one publisher, and a 500-page book from another, we won’t be paying for one copy, because it’s hard to compare these volumes. The program will not have any advertising, only a paid subscription. Every day we send out 10 offers as to the cooperation with the publishers. We plan to launch the mobile app on Google Play and Appstore.
From the beginning, I have been investing only my own money. However, as early as November, we plan to make a full-fledged release with mobile apps and content. So far we are not focusing solely on finding an investor, but looking for him in the background. I was told that someone is interested in our startup and is ready to invest. But these investments mean $ 20,000 or $ 30,000, it is not an investment. Rather, it is more of a problem than a benefit. Investments are needed not just to do something, but to launch the product quickly. We are also planning to expand our LingArt geography to more countries.
I deal with the project architecture, and we have two people working full time and five more working part time. Since I have a basic job, to work on LingArt I take vacations, work on weekends and at nights. Our meetings are almost always held online, as our team is split between different cities – Kyiv, Kherson, the USA. In such a work format, it is always worthwhile to control everything we do and not do what is not needed.
We have signed an acceleration agreement with Tech StartUp School, which has already started and will last for a year. However, there are still many people who you can ask for advice. While working on LingArt, I realized how open-minded are those people who create something. We were pleasantly impressed when we addressed for help or an advice the well-known marketers, Senstone founders, Wise Guys, and they responded to us. When during the mentoring session we said that we would like to enter the Polish market, the Polish lawyers immediately said that they would help with everything and gave their contacts. This is a whole other level of communication – with no arrogance and with interest.
We haven’t advertised anything yet because our product is still being tested. When there are 50 books and a mobile app, then we will launch a full-scale advertising.