Backed by author Amy Tan, mobile fiction startup Radish raises $3M – TechCrunch
Radish is officially launching its mobile apps for reading bite-sized chunks of serialized fiction â€” and itâ€™s announcing that it has raised $3 million in seed funding.
This isnâ€™t the first startup to experiment with new ways to deliver fictionÂ via e-readers and mobile devices. In fact, I wrote about one of them in my very first piece for TechCrunch five years ago.
But then, Radish co-founder and CEO Seung-yoon Lee isnâ€™t claiming he invented the concept â€” he told me he was actually inspired by the popularity of serialized fiction on mobile devices in Asia, and he predicted that novels will see the same shift to cliffhangers and serialization that weâ€™re already seeing in TV. (Meanwhile, in the publishing world, e-book sales are declining, while print seems to be rebounding.)
The model hasnâ€™t taken off yet in the United States. Among fiction-related startups, Wattpad has had the biggest success, but itâ€™s more focused on monetizing through TV and movie deals, as well as sponsored content, rather than having readers pay authors directly.
On Radish, on the other hand, readers buy coins, which can then be spent on the stories theyâ€™re following. (The exact price varies depending on how many coins you buy, but it
can be less than 50 centsÂ costs about 12 cents per coin.) For each story, youÂ get the initial chapters for free, then need toÂ pay three coins for early access to subsequent installments, with the revenue split 50-50 between Radish and the author.
Radish has been in beta testing for the past year, and Lee said the leading author on the platformÂ is already making $13,000 per month. (He declined to identify the author, but said theyâ€™re writingÂ â€œa historical romance serial set in the Victorian age.â€)
â€œThere are a lotÂ of self-published authors out there who have quite a following and who would loveÂ to experiment,â€ he said. â€œThese self-published writers are inherentlyÂ entrepreneurial â€” theyâ€™re used to making money on their own. Iâ€™m telling them that you guys can monetize first while youâ€™re writing.â€
Lee noted that Radish isnâ€™t claiming any intellectual property rights from thoseÂ authors. And while the company recruited its initial lineupÂ from the world of self-publishing (there are more than 700 writersÂ on the platform already), itâ€™s also looking to work with authorsÂ whoâ€™ve gone through more traditional channels, and to experiment with other forms of storytelling.Investors from the tech, entertainment and publishing worlds are backing Leeâ€™s vision. The seed round comes from (deep breath) Greylock, Lowercase Capital, Softbank Next Media Innovation Fund, UTA, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (Bertelsmannâ€™s corporate parent owns publisher Penguin Random House), Sherpa Capital, ITV Chairman PeterÂ Bazalgette, former Microsoft executive Charlie Songhurst,Â Nicolas Berggruen, LendingHome co-founder and CEO Matt Humphrey, BDA China founder Duncan Clark,Â Jeremy Yap and others.
And yes, that list alsoÂ includes Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetterâ€™s Daughter.
â€œThe whole concept of Radish makes terrific sense to me,â€ Tan said in the funding release. â€œReadersÂ read for free and pay a small amount only if they want to read the next installmentÂ without delay. The writers get paid immediately â€” and they still retain copyright and canÂ later publish in another format. The most compelling stories are a win-win for readersÂ and writers alike.â€
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