Startup Profile: PlayTales
PlayTales produces award winning apps featuring unlimited interactive books for kids. The high-quality content and interactivity, variety of stories available in 8 languages, and effective international distribution is what makes them unique. I recently sat down with Enrique Tapias, CEO of PlayTales to learn about how the company was started, how it operates, and what is in store for the future.
Tell us about yourself first. What is your history? Where did you go to school and work in the past?
My name is Enrique Tapias, I am a 41 years-old entrepreneur with a lovely wife and 3 kids (9, 7 and 3 years old). I grew up in cities all over the world because my father was a Navy Officer when I was a child—every three years we moved to a new place throughout the USA and Europe (Spain, Luxembourg, Brussels, and USA). I had the chance to change schools, make new friends, and experience different cultures throughout my childhood.
Who have been your business startup inspirations? Did you learn anything from them specifically?
As far as people go, my startup inspiration would be my business partner, Jose Miguel Lopez; he has been my teacher and coach since the beginning of my entrepreneur efforts. I have learned a lot about the characteristics and traits necessary for running a business and leading a large group of people from him. We often looked to the success of Disney and their online books for inspiration and based our own goals of global brand recognition and developmental direction on the success of Disney. When Disney made one of its first digital stories, their Toy Story 3 book that was featured on their website, it had over 1 million reads in a week. We decided to take that idea of a digital book for children and improve it by applying the concept to mobile devices. It’s actually pretty funny because Disney Digital Publishing is now one of our best customers three years later.
What was your inspiration to start your company?
The fact that there were no interactive eBooks available for my children…all of the eBooks out in existence were either for mature audiences or the teen age group. I wanted to give my children access to interesting digital content and eBooks as well. We realized that we had the technology and ability to provide this not only for my children, but for kids all over the world. PlayTales was created to offer families (including mine) a wholesome kid-friendly application that provides unlimited, top-quality stories that can be accessed at anytime and anywhere in the world.
Tell us how your company started and when. Who was involved and what did each person do?
After we developed our first 10 interactive storybooks for iOS devices, we decided to create a bookstore app that would feature a large variety of interactive eBooks to choose from. We had a clear vision of what we wanted to do and our goal was (and still is) to become the world leader and market reference for children’s interactive eBooks. The company, (named TouchyBooks at the time) was founded in 2010 by a tight-knit group of mobile and tech professionals, our positions and responsibilities are the same as when the company was originally started; Braulio Mojarro our COO watches over the production team and guides the creative content of our stories, Jesus Bartus, CTO, is responsible for developing and updating the publishing technology we use to add books to all major mobile platforms worldwide. Our president, Jose Miguel Lopez Catalan, is responsible for founding the startup, finding investors, partners, and new business ventures. I work as the CEO, my job is to supervise the overall maintenance of PlayTales, make sure everything is running smoothly and on schedule. I also work with each of the PlayTales teams, creative, technology, and marketing, to guide them in quarterly objectives and the developmental direction we want PlayTales to go.
Tell us an interesting story about your business. Were there any “wow” moments? Anything funny or unusual?
There have been a lot of “WOW” moments since founding PlayTales, but probably one of the most memorable for me was when I received a call from the CEO of Disney Digital Publishing, congratulating me on the quality of our first story Moon Secrets and offering us the chance to develop one of Disney’s digital books. We flew to New York to sign the contract and began working on our first project, the Winnie the Pooh Puzzle Book. Now, two years later, Disney Digital Publishing is one of our best customers and we’re very happy to be working with them.
Another big moment was during the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona when we received the Mobile Premier Award for best new app. This is an international event and is open to developers, startups, and any other organization. Out of 48 finalists competing for the AppCircus Audience Award, it was PlayTales Bookstore that was named the 2012 fan favorite. Being chosen for the award was a huge accomplishment for us and the emotions I experienced when accepting the award were priceless, it was like finally seeing all of our hard work pay off.
An interesting experience we had as our company began to grow was dealing with a major name change…originally, we were called TouchyBooks, but once we decided to go global with our bookstore app, our partners advised us to change our name…the word “touchy” had a negative connotation in the USA and if we hoped to gain acceptance internationally it had to be done. We’d already been functioning with our former name for two years, gained a lot of press coverage and awards, and now we had to risk losing all that recognition with a name change. In February 2012 TouchyBooks became PlayTales, and through a lot of hard work I believe we’ve been able to communicate with our consumers and the public that even thought our name has changed they can still expect the same top-quality interactive eBooks that they’ve become accustomed to.
What is your role in the company now?
I am currently PlayTales’ CEO and it is my responsibility to supervise the creative, technology, and marketing teams and guide everyone in the same developmental direction. I also help plan our growth strategies as well as work towards achieving new partnerships and clients.
What does your company sell and how does it make money?
We create, develop, and distribute standalone interactive eBooks as well as maintain several bookstores apps featuring these eBooks within all major mobile platforms worldwide (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Amazon, etc.). We make money through individual purchases of our eBooks, paid subscriptions to our bookstores apps which feature unlimited books, and we get paid for the production of eBooks for clients and partners such as Disney.
Which companies do you consider to be competitors?
Basically any standalone book app or bookstore app is our competition; Reading Rainbow and Storia for example.
What makes your products and services better than competitors’ offerings?
PlayTales offers users the highest- quality interactive stories out there. Our books are available in eight different languages and can be downloaded and read by users all over the world. We develop our own publishing technology to ensure the quality of our books as well, something that few of our competitors have. Our eBooks and apps are also featured in every major mobile platform in existence, not for iOS and Android, but Blackberry, Verizon, Amazon, Intel App Up, Nook, etc as well.
What are revenues so far this quarter? Year? What is your quarterly revenue growth from this same quarter in 2012?
We cannot disclose that information because of agreements and collaborations with our partners, but we achieved over 3 million users (iOS and Android) in 2012. Our goal for 2013 is to achieve 10 million users worldwide.
Does the company have any cash flow from financing activities? What is your total debt, if any?
Fortunately we never accumulated any debt, we have invested 2 million dollars into PlayTales up to date and we’re looking for more technology and publishing partners for expansion.
Are you planning an IPO? If so, when? How are you raising capital? We are now on series A for raising 3 million dollars.
We have considered IPO…we’ve just started Series A funding accumulation with a goal of raising 3 million dollars.
Where do you see the company in five years in terms of revenue and profitability?
Within the next five year we plan to become the children’s eBook market leader and have numerous collaborative projects with the best global partners and brands out there. We want to achieve between 25 million and 30 million users and produce annual revenue of over 20 million dollars.
What would you define as your “primary market”?
Digital Children’s Content and Children’s eBooks
How big do you think this market will be in terms of total revenue in 2015?
Market forecasts suggest the children eBook and digital content market will produce around 10 billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2015.
What forms of marketing do you use to attract clients?
Our marketing efforts are focused on communicating with parents and users. We contact Mommy Bloggers, tech media, and various app sites by submitting our apps for review to gain brand recognition through positive reviews and word of mouth. We also regularly maintain our blog and social media sites to promote consumer interaction, relationship management, and raise brand awareness. We host “app parties” on our social media sites and feature favorite characters and brands within our bookstore to create and maintain user interest.
How big is the company in terms of its workforce?
Currently we have 25 employees, most of which are in Spain. We also have a few people located in the USA, China, and UK.
What are the biggest growth catalysts (new technology, new offerings, etc.) for you right now? Tell us about any patents or other IP.
Right now the innovative publishing technology we have has contributed to the acquisition of global partners and contracts with major brands—which leads to more users. We don’t have any patents yet.
Is there any announcement you’d like to make?
PlayTales Gold Bookstore is our newest app and gives users unlimited access to interactive eBooks for a low subscription fee. It could be described as the “Netflix” of children’s eBooks. Users can choose a monthly, semi-annual, or annual subscription and have the ability to download as many books as they like as well as read their stories anytime and anywhere. Users don’t need 3G or WiFi to read downloaded books and are able to play the fun games and activities featured within this app.
To learn more about PlayTales visit them at http://www.playtalesbooks.com