PressPad is one of the better known Polish startups out there. It is a publishing tool for newspaper and magazines publishers that can boast over 270 magazine owners as clients. Pawel Nowak, PressPad CEO and serial entrepreneur tell us about the history of his startup, its founding and plans for the future.
Michał Frączek: What is the history behind PressPad? You have been on the market for more than two years now, so what have you achieved so far?
Pawel Nowak: Yes, we started back in 2011 and we will be celebrating the third year of our company soon. Back in 2011 we envisioned a cross-platform publishing tool for newspaper and magazine publishers that will break PDF hegemony. Yet here we are today publishing, you guessed it, PDF magazines as native iOS and Android apps.
One may say it’s a failure. I call it listening to the market, pivoting and finding the right market/fit. We learned that content format isn’t actually that important right now (it will be, and we are preparing for that). What is important is to get this content on mobile platforms and help publishers make money from it. And this is what we are focusing on in 2014.
MF: What is your competition, and why are you better then them?
PN: From a technological point of view our competitors are Mag+, Magzter, Adobe DPS and other tools that help publishers get their content on mobile devices. When it comes to marketing that content, we don’t have any direct competitors. PressPad is to magazine publishers what HubSpot is to online businesses. We help publishers make the best out of mobile platforms and actually make money.
MF: How many people are involved in PressPad right now? Please introduce your team.
PN: At this moment we are a team of eight people located in Krakow, Poland. Half of the team is all technical, and the rest supports sales in one way or another. Poland is blessed with talent, therefore we were able to find incredibly skilled people and build an awesome company culture. Because of our traction and growth since Q3 2013 we have been constantly under water when it comes to people. We are raising another round of financing now to support this growth and accelerate it even further.
MF: You’ve been testing your business model for some time now. Can you tell me what works best for you and why is it better than previous ideas?
PN: I never thought we would actually test business models, but we did. And in August of last year we stumbled upon something very interesting. One of our tests tripled our number of customers in a week. After a couple more weeks we decided that this model is the one to go with.
Instead of offering our service for a flat subscription fee, like traditional Software as a Service tools, we decided to change it:
1. We made PressPad free for publishers.
2. After a magazine app is published and each month is closed we deduct our fee from whatever the publisher makes. The rest is transferred to them without a commission whatsoever.
3. The last part of this model is the crucial one: we don’t require publishers to complement our fee if they don’t earn enough.
This changed two things in the relationship between us and the publishers. Firstly, there is no entry barrier of any kind. The product is incredibly easy to use, we don’t require any payments up front or to maintain their apps. Secondly, we were able to move from the “technology vendor” space to mobile marketing – a space much wider than SAAS tools for publishing and also much more interesting. We are able to build strong and lasting relationships with clients now. We have had zero churn for quite some time.
MF: You are working with more than 270 magazine owners. What kind of magazines do you publish most often? Which are the most popular?
PN: We have divided our content into several categories for the sake of statistics. Most of them are lifestyle, fashion, wedding, or LGBT. But those categories may be due to the fact that we market them more aggressively. We have yet to find out.
For now we occupy 2% of the App Store Newsstand. We plan to reach 10% of that category by the end of 2014 and grab one percentage of the entire App Store and Google Play Store.
MF: Do you remember any strange or very original magazines that you have published? Do you have any examples?
PN: There are strange things that we publish, but they may be strange only to us and normal to others. One that I remember raising my eyebrow was a pool maintenance magazine. Before I’d never say such a topic would find readers. It did and I learned something new.
MF: From its start PressPad focused on the global market. Do you work with any Polish publishers? Which country is mostly represented on your publishers list?
PN: Our clients are spread across the World. We don’t focus on any particular market, although we have partners in some countries that work only on their respective local markets.
MF: You’ve raised a $250K seed round in 2011, and now opened round two. How much are you seeking and what is your valuation right now?
PN: I hope we will be able to disclose that information once we close this round. We are looking for a SEED 2 round now in Israel and I’m flying to New York soon, the publishing capital of the world.
MF: What are your and PressPad’s plans for 2014?
PN: We have very clear goals: close this round, accelerate our growth, become the number one app publisher in the world and prove to ourselves that we can build a multi-million dollar company. I believe we can do all of that.