22 months after Garage48: Fastr Books story

Fastr Books is a startup that helps authors and publishers to proactively sell ebooks harnessing the power of social networks. They built their first prototype almost 2 years ago in Garage48 hackathon in Valmiera, Latvia. 22 month later they have gone through real roller-coaster, made a pivot and nailed down new plan how to conquer the word.

Guest blog by Eldars Loginovs, CEO of Fastr Books 

Startup roller-coaster 

In these 22 months we visited 38 startup events and conferences in 9 countries with geography varying from Estonia to Croatia and from Israel to USA. According to Tripit travel planner, I have travelled more than 100 thousand kilometres in the past 2 years. Our startup has been through an incubator, accelerator, got angel investment (we even managed to get it twice, so if your startup didn’t get it, blame us), got pre-seed investment from Startup Sauna Foundation and have pivoted from the original concept of a speed reading app into more mainstream ebook selling platform.     
Having been in all the stages a startup is supposed to go through we are now back to the very basics of any business - serve our customers and concentrate on the product development (and not spending this much on travel expenses). This month we launched our new Fastr Books iOS app with more than 3000 books (both paid and free) in 7 languages with book recommendations and social discovery features. By following other readers on Fastr Books you can see what your friends read now and what books are trending.    

How does it feel from inside? 

As a startup co-founder and CEO, I would say that the time during and after Garage48 event was probably the most exciting part of my life. Some days after you see that your metrics grow, get an email or review from a happy customer or sign up a deal with a partner, you feel like you’re on top of the world. But on other days you feel like everything sucks. Like all of this was a total waste of time and your chances against giants like Amazon are close to zero. After some time in a startup, your employed friends and parents don’t get, why you take the risk and continue building a business that seems to them doomed from the day one (because they have been taught by school, corporations and government to obey and stay on the safe side). But with all the emotional roller-coaster and some side effects, it is still definitely worth it.     

Where are we now? 

Now Fastr Books is a team of 4 people working full time in TechHub Riga in Latvia. We have contracts with 5 publishers locally and abroad, an agreement with a local library, couple of partnerships with book retail stores. Just recently on Facebook page we achieved a number of engaged users higher than any other books/publishing related startup. It is even similar to the engagement level of some global publishers. We have also reached an audience of 100 thousand Facebook users with some viral posts and zero marketing expenses.     
We constantly work on adding new content partners, so that Fastr Books app user can get a wide offering of book titles to chose from. Compared to iBooks, that is currently our closest competitor on iPad and iPhone (usually we get users to switch from iBooks to Fastr Books), we provide rewards for the active users and the ability to follow your friends. Rewards come as bonus points, that can be used for buying books and the discount can be up to 100% of the book price. 


Plans for the future 

This year we plan to sign up more publishers and expand our catalog to 100 thousand books, that is comparable to the offering of iBooks and Amazon. I would like to invite self publishing authors to our platform as well. We have started with the Fastr Pro speed reading app and it has grown quite popular in the App Store, it generated more than 220 thousand downloads. So currently we have thousands of active readers on Fastr platform, who could be interested in your books, if you are an author.   


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