Converting Books to Blinks with Blinkist Co-Founder, Holger Seim

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Holger Seim

Holger Seim, Co-Founder of Blinkist

Holger Seim co-founded Blinkist along with fellow college classmates back in 2012 and is CEO of the Berlin-based mobile learning company. Before founding Blinkist, he managed strategic partnerships and innovation projects for Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s leading mobile network operator.

Blinkist is a very unique concept. How was the idea established?

We came up with the idea for Blinkist when we joined the workforce and wanted to find a way to continue to read and learn, despite having significantly less time. We realized that the majority of people were facing the same dilemma: A lack of time to sit down and read a full book, because more and more reading time was shifting to digital devices. At the same time, people are struggling with an ever-increasing burden of information on those devices, making it difficult to use “online time” to read and learn something meaningful. That was the starting point for Blinkist.

How are the books that Blinkist offers curated?

We use all the data that’s out there, such as bestseller lists, reviews from well-known journalists and readers, as well as social signals. In addition, we ask the avid readers on our platform what they’d like to read next and solicit thought-leader input to find the most intriguing reads out there.

Is the aim of Blinkist to replace reading a book cover to cover?

Not at all. But let’s face it: It’s getting harder and harder for most people to read a nonfiction book cover to cover. At this point, getting started at all is rough because there’s so much digital content that fits better into modern reading habits. Nonfiction books, and “learning content” in general have to become more competitive and adapt to a new generation of readers to remain relevant. We want to solve one piece of that puzzle by making it easier to get started and sparking curiosity to inspire people to read – and learn – on.

How would today’s busy entrepreneur find the value in Blinkist?

We provide actionable advice and inspiring food-for-thought to all kinds of challenges that entrepreneurs are facing. And since time is the scarcest resource for most entrepreneurs, we provide all of this in a time-saving format that fits into all of those moments of downtime that occur throughout a day. Using Blinkist will offer entrepreneurs a broader perspective on how to overcome challenges and can inspire them to take new roads and try new approaches just by making it easier and faster to learn from more experts and thought leaders.

Since the international expansion of Blinkist, how has the concept continued to grow?

The international expansion beyond Germany was the best step we could take in early 2014 because it helped us to accelerate our growth tremendously. We grew 10x in 2014 and are aiming for another 5x in 2015 that’ll help us to become profitable and more independent from fundraising by the end of 2015.

How many books, and ‘blinks’ do you read per month?

On average, I read about 1 book, and 8 books in blinks per month. This number varies according to the time of year, though.

Aside from your company/job, what is your greatest success?

Being able to maintain a healthy relationship with my beautiful wife during all those ups and downs and endless working hours that come along with being an entrepreneur.

What is one book (or ‘blink’) you would recommend to everyone?

Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity. It’s a very inspiring autobiography that is fun to read and – most importantly – helps you to learn how to think big and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I really recommend reading the full book – but in case you just don’t have the time, we’ve got you covered with blinks, too.

Who is someone we should be following on Twitter right now?

Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer. I keep finding a lot of helpful things among his tweets, the perfect feed for entrepreneurs.

Apart from Blinkist, what is one app that all FoundersCard Members should be using?

Asana. It helps us a lot to organize all of our projects and makes it easier for everyone in the team to have full transparency on what’s going on at any time. It also lets all of us sleep easier because it’s harder to lose sight of the important topics and deadlines when you’ve got a project organized with Asana.

Give us your best plug/brag a little about as to what you’re working on now/next.

We’re currently working on adding a social layer to Blinkist, making it possible for people to add meta-content to our blinks (ratings, reviews, notes, etc.) and discover books based on what their friends have been reading, rated, commented about, etc. I’m really excited for these features to be finished because they’ve been heavily requested by our users and I strongly believe that social discovery and a social activity stream will help our users to find more relevant content and nudge them to read and learn more. There’s a lot more to come based on all the capabilities a social layer offers, so I look forward to all the upcoming updates – and you should, too!

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