Story Terrace wants to make sure that in the future everyone’s life story is captured in a meaningful way. To do so, we have made it easy and affordable to work with a professional writer and turn anyone’s life story into a beautiful 100-page book.
The process is simple:
1. We match customers with one of our 400+ writers based on their location, personality and background;
2. Customers are interviewed at home, and their writer drafts their life story, which is edited in-house and approved by the customer;
3. Story Terrace prints beautiful hardbound books, including photographs;
Our customers either buy a full-service package to have their own biography written or purchase as a special gift for a loved one. While we offer self-publishing services, most books are shared with family & friends only. Packages including full-colour hardcover books start at GBP 1,350.
Story Terrace markets its services in the UK, the US and the Netherlands, but creates books in English for customers worldwide.
Founder & CEO Rutger Bruining regretted he didn't record his grandparents' stories. He had several ideas how to solve this issue over the years, but none of them seemed scalable. It was when Rutger realised that freelance journalists and authors across the world were looking for fulfilling work, and were keen to interview ordinary people about their lives, that he set out to reengineer the process used by the book publishing industry to make it more fun and affordable than ever before to turn anyone's life story into a book.
Rutger is not the only one with a desire to record his and his family members' stories. According to research, 74% of affluent Americans between the age of 40 and 59 would be interested in creating a biography about themselves or a loved one at some point in their life.
Substantial accomplishments to date
- In 2017 revenues grew by 125% and gross profit by 183%;
- In the first quarter of 2018, we booked our highest ever quarterly sales of £246,776 - this was supported by record quarterly sales booked in all three markets (the UK, the US and the Netherlands);
- During the lifetime of the company we have generated £1.3M of revenues;
- More than 475 book packages sold;
- More than 400 writers vetted and added to our online pool;
- Coverage by The New York Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune and more;
- Selected as one of ‘7 media startups to watch’ by The Next Web; selected for Websummit Alpha; selected for Websummit Beta;
Between December 2015 and September 2017 Story Terrace has raised investment from experienced British, American and Dutch angel investors. They include:
- successful entrepreneurs such as Ryan Petersen (co-founder & CEO of Flexport) and Rafael Ortiz (co-founder of NexTag);
- private equity executives such as Marek Gumienny (former Chairman of Arle Capital Partners) and Jacob Polny (Chief Investment Officer, Telemos Capital);
- experienced managers such Patrick Pruniaux (former MD of Apple UK & Ireland) and Hugo van Vredenburch (former COO of Goldman Sachs Global Equities Division and Chairman of Interactive Investor);
Investors are represented on the Story Terrace Board by Marek Gumienny and Joost van Heyningen Nanninga (Senior Partner, Egon Zehnder International and advisor CVC Capital).
Story Terrace mostly sells biography packages by generating sales leads online, which are generally converted over the phone by in-house sales people. The customer either pays 100% upfront or in stages. Our main external costs are freelance writers, printing & postage, and typesetters (the latter are being phased out). In 2017 gross profit was 51%.
Internal project costs mainly relate to our editorial team. We make a positive margin on our sales after costs of goods sold, editorial overhead and advertising. During the first quarter of 2018, this metric improved versus 2017.
Story Terrace is also in the process of piloting a service to turn life stories into virtual reality experiences. As the virtual reality experience piggybacks off the work done for the book, Story Terrace is uniquely placed to bring this product in an affordable manner to market.
Use of proceeds
Story Terrace will invest in two areas:
- 60% for marketing & sales: strengthening the team including bringing CMO Giles Schippers (ex-Getty Images) onboard full-time, increasing our advertising budget so we can quicker test new channels, and executing our PR/ influencer/ social media strategy with a focus on early adopter groups identified in our current customer base;
- 40% to build out our technology platform which will reduce costs (less costs for external freelancers and less editorial time spent per project);
Story Terrace has two primary customer groups:
1. Baby boomers looking to capture their own life story;
2. 35-55 year olds looking for a unique gift for their parents;
Our current focus is on the more affluent segment.
According to research 35% of 40+ year old Americans earning over $75K are willing to spend on average $2,288 on a service like ours. That means a $28 billion opportunity amongst 12 million Americans. And if you extrapolate that to other English speaking countries (the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa), the opportunity grows to 17 million users and more than $39 billion.
We currently acquire most of our customers through Google search (paid and organic). There is still significant room for growth here. Video based advertising on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram provides an even larger opportunity. Our CMO Giles Schippers is leading this effort.
Furthermore we will be investing in broadening our marketing mix to include sustained efforts in unpaid social, influencers, targeted partnerships and PR (to date we have mainly generated PR in an ad-hoc manner, which is a good indicator of the potential).
In a later stage we expect to be testing radio, podcasts and potentially TV ads.
Story Terrace wants to create a new product category. Competition is therefore limited. LifeBook also creates books for customers, but they have a different process. Unlike Story Terrace, they send interviewers that are not professional writers with questionnaires to customers. The transcripts are then used by writers to create a manuscript.
What our competitive landscape will look like in a few years is uncertain. Competition could come from family tree companies like Ancestry.com or another startup that is looking at capturing or sharing memories with loved ones at scale such as Joy (smart photo album) or StoryWorth (prompts to write down stories that are bundled and printed).