Inside The Multi-Million Dollar Startup That Nobody Believed In
Seven years ago, a student had an idea about how to read more books but in less time. He discovered that by sharing his notes on popular nonfiction books, he helped his friends stay on top of their reading lists. What if he could do this for a larger group of people? Excited and full of ambition, the idea was turned into an app called Blinkist. The app has titles from all kinds of nonfiction categories, and just like the student’s notes, it allowed people to get the gist of each title, in merely 15 minutes.
Today, the Blinkist app is used by over 23 million people and has raised over $35 million in VC funding. But it wasn’t all plain sailing — there were times when Blinkist, an underdog startup from Berlin, came dangerously close to collapse.
–The New York Times
Since its launch, the app has won awards from Google, been repeatedly featured by Apple, made countless headlines in the likes of The New York Times, The Guardian, and TechCrunch, and Apple CEO Tim Cook recently stopped by the office to meet the team.
–Tobi Balling, Blinkist co-founder
At the start, Blinkist stirred up little investor interest. The app was repeatedly refused funding, nobody believed in the idea, and back in 2012, apps weren’t as popular as they are today.
Although they had little money, the small team of four quit their full-time jobs and worked tirelessly on their app. After months and months of burning the midnight oil, the app was launched, and the future looked bright for Blinkist. But an overnight success? No, far from it.
It took 3 months to get to 100 downloads and weeks to put new content into the app. They were small steps, but Blinkist was on the verge of starting a movement in micro-learning. By combining bite-sized learning, with an app and a subscription service to reach millions, it quickly became clear Blinkist was something special.
$35 Million Later
American VC firm Insight Partners, an early investor in Twitter and Tumblr, took notice of Blinkist, and although the app was still in the early stages, they saw the global potential.
–Nicolas Wittenborn, Vice President of Insight Partners, Blinkist investors
As soon as money was in the bank, Blinkist skyrocketed. The founders were able to build a tech team, employing people from SoundCloud, Twitter, and even Google to take Blinkist to the next level. A sharp team of writers and knowledgeable experts were also hired to help read the books and create the thousands of snappy, memorable, and easy-to-understand explainers.
–Holger Seim, Blinkist co-founder
How Millions Now Read More
With Blinkist, each 15-minute explainer can be listened to or read, so even the busiest people can still fit reading and learning into their lives. Designed for lifelong learners, there are thousands of titles in the app, with the latest top sellers and must-reads added every week.
–Holger Seim, Blinkist co-founder
Blinkist is particularly proud to help busy people squeeze reading and learning into their lives. Because the app is solving a problem we all share –– too little time –– there’s no single type of Blinkist customer.
–Sarah Schupp, Professor & Founder of UniversityParent.com
The app is popular among ambitious entrepreneurs, busy parents, university professors, and everyone in between. It’s the audio feature which is the saving grace –– with it, learning can happen through listening while commuting, cooking dinner, or even working out.
Startup founder, Kristo Ovaska, uses Blinkist to read the key ideas from 2 books a day; that’s 10 titles a week and over 500 a year!
–Kristo Ovaska, CEO and Co-founder of Smartly.io
Award-Winning Design Makes Learning Easy
Blinkist’s unique design makes learning, but more importantly remembering what you’ve learned, easy. Its clean, sharp, and distinctive design caught the attention of Google when the app was awarded a Material Design Award.
–Google Material Design Awards, 2017
Since the design award, the multi-million dollar startup has catapulted from strength to strength, earning praise from the United Nations.
–The United Nations
And even got a mention from Apple CEO Tim Cook, who dropped by the Blinkist office in 2019 to meet the team and see how the app is built. He later commented on the visit that he was, “impressed with the growing and talented team at Blinkist. Helping everyone understand and experience some of the best non-fiction books is a great example of how a single idea from college can evolve into a solution for a problem we all share — too little time!”
Quite a journey for the four founders who launched the app initially as a way to read and learn more, and now it’s being used by the head of the biggest technology company in the world.
The secret behind Blinkist is that the founders always stuck to their purpose — to help more people read and learn from more books. They knew they wanted to be the destination for lifelong learners, and are well en route to making that happen. If you’re curious and want to keep learning every day –– download the app now and surprise yourself with how much you can learn in just a few minutes.