Digital publisher The Pigeonhole, who were recently shortlisted for an innovation award at the London Book Fair, have got together with the Berlin-based startup Page19 to launch a new business series.
Page19 (so called because apparently the average reader of nonfiction never gets past page 18) take non-fiction books you wish you'd read and condenses their groundbreaking ideas into easy, digestible essays. The Pigeonhole makes sure one of these – they're called 'staves' in Pigeonspeak – reaches your iPad or iPhone daily in a beautiful format. Best of all, it's free!
We talked to Jacob Cockcroft, one of the founders of The Pigeonhole, about the series, the startup world and what he's learnt since starting out in business.
What's your favourite business book? Which book should everyone read before founding or joining a startup?
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb is by far the most powerful business book I have read. Not so much for the direct lessons on black swan events, as for the underlying life/business philosophy it advocates. He is a brave and inspirational thinker, directly challenging conventions. However, I don’t agree with his diatribe against orange juice.
Which stave would you especially recommend in the Page19 series?
They are all fantastic, and deeply insightful in their own way. The series will expand your mind, and give you great dinner party chat. If I had to pick one, the second stave about People Hacks is a must.
You once worked in the corporate world. How have you learnt to speak developer-ese?
In my latter years in the corporate world, I was in charge of implementing technological solutions to protect banks against financial crime (terrorist financing, sanctions busting, money laundering). This gave me a great platform for building technological solutions and overseeing their implementation. So I earned my stripes by working with developers in probably the toughest sector of them all. In comparison this is easy!
Why did you decide to get into startups?
I have always had an entrepreneurial streak, starting from doing paper rounds at the age of 12, all the way through to running my own teams in the corporate investigations world. The Pigeonhole was my moment where I saw a problem that I could solve (namely, by bringing awesome digital innovation to the publishing industry) in a world that I love – books.
Tell us about The Pigeonhole and your five-year plan
The aim is simple. It is to be THE place for sociable reading. We aim to have 100,000 regular uses within two years, and continue to be the most innovative digital publishing platform. We have an incredible pipeline of features to roll out – all of which are focused on empowering readers who love to talk about the books they're reading. Our new digital marginalia is a great example of this.
What are the pieces of advice you've learnt that you wish your younger self knew before starting up The Pigeonhole?
Be brave; don’t worry about what the others are thinking or saying about you. Just believe in yourself and focus on the execution. Execution is everything, worrying solves nothing.
Who would be on your dream board of directors?
JK Rowling – I think Pottermore is fantastic and reflects a deep understanding of digital potential. I would also love to recruit Spencer Hyman to the board, one of our angel investors, who has a brilliant business mind, and has held senior roles at Amazon, LinkedIn and Last FM.
You're currently in San Francisco. How are our transatlantic cousins treating you?
It’s an amazing and fascinating place. After experiencing the Berlin and London startup eco-systems, this is something else entirely. The sense of possibility, the self-belief, the power of ideas, it’s been an amazing personal journey for me. The response to The Pigeonhole has also been fantastic. It feels like a great fit for our US operations. I can now really visualise The Pigeonhole future. We can do this.