With Booktrack, music, sound effects and ambient audio are automatically paced to an individual's reading speed and synchronized to match the story line while they read. In September 2013, with support from the Google Chrome team, the Booktrack Studio Platform was launched to allow anyone access to the tools and marketplace to create, share and sell this new type of digital content. Booktrack is funded by investors including Peter Thiel, Derek Handley, Sparkbox Ventures, the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Park Road Post Productions.
What part has research and development played in your business and any updated versions over the years?
Research and development has always been the cornerstone of Booktrack's business. Today we continue to put the majority of our team's effort into developing new solutions for the rapidly developing online and digital reading markets.
Do you have an allocated R & D department?
Due to the nature of our technology, nearly all effort spent by our team is green fields development as what we are creating has never been done before. Hence, the majority of our team are involved in R & D on a daily basis creating new products, features, and distribution options for the emerging online, mobile and tablet digital reading markets.
How much time did you spend on R & D before launching Booktrack?
From the very beginning we placed a big emphasis on prototyping ideas, user testing, and protecting Intellectual property through patents. We started this prototyping activity two years prior to forming the company, and this was a time when tablets did not exist, the Kindle was just being launched, and eReading was thought to be a fad. Our original prototypes worked with paper books but we were always focused on eReading and predicted that new devices would emerge that would make Booktrack possible. When the iPad launched, we finally had a device that could seamlessly deliver a soundtrack experience on a device that people would read on - so we formed the company, raised an investment round from local and international investors and brought Booktrack to market.
What sort of percentage of revenue would you devote annually to R & D? Has this changed over the years?
More than 60 per cent of all revenue is put towards R & D. This has not changed over the years as we have always been pushing the boundaries of technologies and what was possible in mobile applications and now in the browser.
What does your research and development actually involve?
Booktrack is a digital product, so all of our research and development relates to software product development across multiple platforms - mobile, tablet, browser, PC and Mac. A key part of our R&D program is also working with key partners such as Google who provide support while we are developing technologies to soundtrack the web and on mobile applications. We have also enjoyed working with Auckland UniServices in researching the effects of Booktrack on learning and engagement with younger audiences, to back up a study done by New York University that showed a significant increase in comprehension and retention when reading with a Booktrack soundtrack.
How is your attitude toward R & D perceived by your markets?
The R & D focus Booktrack has is perceived very positively in local and overseas markets. Our investor base believe this gives the company great value, and the biggest companies in the world regularly keep in touch to see what we are developing to see how we can work together. All organizations put a premium on innovation, and the larger an organization, gets the harder innovation becomes. Hence there has been a lot of interest in Booktrack due to the R&D focus, as owning a piece of the future of reading is a very attractive proposition. We think there is a lot great innovation happening in New Zealand and initiatives like the Auckland University Spark program promote entrepreneurship very well which is essential to the future of New Zealand.
Have you applied for and received grants to help with R & D? With any particular
Callaghan Innovation have been hugely supportive of Booktrack right from the early days. Both in terms of funding R & D but also connecting the business with local and overseas businesses who can help. In New Zealand we have to recognise that we are a long way away from the biggest markets in the world, and to compete on a level playing field in those markets, government support for lightweight export companies like Booktrack from Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, as well as Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development, has been essential to business success.
How easy is it to get funding for R & D?
Callaghan Innovation are one of the easiest organisations to work with in New Zealand. Whether it be to help get an idea prototyped for market validation, IP protected, or large R & D grants, Callaghan Innovation easily works with all business sizes.They will then point you in the right direction to one of their many advisors throughout New Zealand to see if you are eligible for support. Often their advice, networks and introductions to other people doing similar things is more valuable than the funding provided.
Booktrack is about to open up for an investment opportunity and it would be great to get as many New Zealand investors involved as possible.
Next week: For many small businesses in New Zealand, they can't find the materials to manufacture locally or there is a factory in Korea or India just doing it so well and so efficiently, that it is the best option. Tell us your overseas manufacturing stories. It can be pioneering stuff.