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Meet Read-O, the Spotify for Books

New Blog

This blog post first appeared first on old medium publication (, and was moved to this blog with the relaunch of our website in summer 2024.

We try to do for books, what Spotify is doing for music and Netflix is doing for movies: A personalized recommendation.Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

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There are over 70.000 newly released books in Germany alone each year. How can you find the next book to read?Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

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There were years in my life — around the Harry Potter time — I read a lot of books. I stopped because I could not find more books to read.Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

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We assume there are more than one million reviews for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Book 1) alone.Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

Partnership with CONTENTshift

This interview is in association with CONTENTshift, the accelerator program of the Association of the German Book Publishers & Booksellers. You can learn more here The winners are announced during the Frankfurt Book Fair each year The accelerator program aims to push the boundaries of publishing.

We tried to find out, why do you read? … You want to feel emotions. … So, we want to find out which emotions are stimulated by which books. That is why we came up with an emotion profile.Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

The Founder

We interview Ben Kohz COO ( and Co-Founder of READ-O (, one of the two winners of the 2021 CONTENTshift accelerator program. Ben studied political sciences but ended up in the food industry after graduation. He started to put up vending machines for farm produce in Munich.

We are currently working in German, but our AI can analyze more languages.Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

The Startup

The startup READ-O ( is an app, that allows you to discover new books, based on administration. The app does this by applying AI. The AI of READ-O deduces an emotional profile of a book from the reviews on the internet. With their technology, they can establish a profile with even 10 reviews.

Each review for us has the same value, from a normal person or the New York Times.Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

Venture Capital Funding

READ-O is currently raising close to 1 mn US$ in new funding. Half is already committed. They want to finish fundraising end of March.

Our AI analyzes the reviews and the contained emotions.Ben Kohz, COO and Co-Founder READ-O

The Video Interview is set to go live on Thursday, January 20th, 2022 at 16.00 CET

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The Interviewer

This interview was conducted by Jörn “Joe” Menninger, startup scout, founder, and host of Reach out to him:LinkedInTwitterEmail

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[0:00] Startup Red Dot IO.Your podcast and YouTube blog covering the German startup scene.With News interviews and Live Events,hello and welcome everybody this is Joe from year startup podcast and you to block from Germany today I’m bringing you one of the winners ofcontent shift the accelerator program of the German book publishers and printers,Association therefore I’d like to welcome Ben from read-o hey how you doing hi I’m fine I do.

[0:45] I’m doing good as well you may notice that we are both a smiling simple reason my little son just crashed our first attempt at the recording so this is take two,nonetheless we are here in February and actuallyyou are the winner of content shift which took place at the Frankfurt book fair already last year in October the simple reason you are only published by now is that wereally hack problems to sneak into content because we get so many startup request by now but I still,wanted to do this now that we got all of that out of the way let’s talk a little bit about you I can tell you are.Actually so you graduated from University.Actually in political science and then surprisingly you went on to work in the food sector how did this.

[1:45] Yeah I was kind of Journey in the last three to four years I started in 2015 my first semester and Pathak signs and was a lovely study time especially.But the most important part of it a lot of free time.So I was not very hard to get through the first courses and I’m a little bit person who always has to do something.So at the second semester I started to work as a journal loose and then I worked and the university paper.And in the third semester I started with a friend we talked in the evening and in Bavaria it’s the situation that after 8 p.m. you can’t buy any food,all supermarkets are closed and after eight pm just have to go to McDonald’s or,by reading expensive food at any kind of place like a rest around that so and we were students that we had no money and one evening after one or two beers we sat down together.We are why do we can’t buy any good food any Acts or something just for a quick supper.

[2:58] And then we just Googled a little bit in the evening and we find okay that there are solutions there are like snack automats like a vending machines for snacksand their vending machines in the out of the Cities at farms where you can buy X and cheese and all those stuff but they’re not in the city so we started in at my study time that we brought those vending machines.For farming people we brought them to the city to Munich.This was my first startup which held for round about three and a half years and we had a kind of Journey and one and a half years ago we sold it to our customers.

[3:37] Why did you stop it and can you take us along the journey because at one point you stop,with the food vending machines and then you got into novels with a I just was kind of jump happened sure.Food economy is like a very very special business,and we were with one point where was the K the business was running but was not super good we had a lot of problems because we both working full-time and we have this like a side Hustle the whole / starter.And there was one point where we had to decide if we do it on a full risk so we’ll completely join our startup.

[4:21] Or do we think Kate’s not the big thing it’s not we’ll won’t explode in the next month or years.And the problem was that we had a few team members were doing the logistics and working as a part-time already.

[4:35] But we we weren’t expecting the next big thing we just had okay was running okay but won’t be like this super thing,so we both that okay we will stop it we will sell it and then we will focus on the next thing and yeah this worse than the point where I just looked around and I had a friend.Who said okay I need someone who’s doing marketing which is good and telling people stories and this is where I met Jonathan and this is where it’s also the point where reader came into my life.Mmm-hmm have you always been a big fan of books,I had there was like a few years in my life around about the Harry Potter time.Where I read like lots of books and I couldn’t stop it.

[5:29] And through my first year in South Africa where worked there is a PR agent.I stopped because I wasn’t really able to find any bookswhich meet my taste and this is like it’s processed slow process where we stopped reading a lot and we’re just watch TV more and Netflix came into my life and changed my habits quite a lot.Um and when I started to think about read-o and I thought about my own journey of books on my own Journey how I started and stopped reading I really could.

[6:07] Sympathize with the problem which were you trying to solve that I wasn’t able to find books which really meet my taste,if you just think about the situation at the moment if you especially someone who already reads a lot like you trying to find the next novel.

[6:25] What can you do you can go to your books or you can go to Amazon maybe tell Leah or any big book stores online.And you just go there and there are over 70,000 new releases every year in Germany.Just just think about how long will it take just to look to each cover which take 10 seconds it will take two days to just look through all those 70 covers to find any.And this is something which I as a customer before I started working with read-o also had a big problem with I wasn’t able to find any find any books.Which I wanted to read and this is also the point where we do started to really make made lots of sense in my my hand,I understand you can basically classify books letting your how is it called is it the read-o machine or do you have a special name for the AI inside of it,we call it the motion profile becausewe have this problem in mind that we assumed and we thought in the first process before we had data that lots of people have the same problem like as we have that they wanted to read they wanted to read more but they’re just not able to find any.And then we can calculate how can we help people to find books which we meet their tastes and the first step was to think about what do I want to have out of a book what is the thing the point why do I read.

[7:53] And we try we will try to simplify it and we always say if you open the book.

[8:00] You don’t want to read you want to laugh or to cry in the simple point you want to feel emotions.And this is the point where we say okay this it’s completely makes sense so we try to know,which emotions I’m which books and to do this,to know which emotions on which books we developed an artificial intelligence to analyze those read-o emotion profiles.I understand so basically the AI gets to read all the books just one question.That’s it right now work only in German or does it also work in other languages at the moment we only analyzingGerman books but the foundation of the aa’s also though that we can translate it to English literature but the point is which makes us really unique and which is our you espe especially we don’t analyze the books,because this is really complicated and also the science of NLP of the national language of processing is not that far that you really can analyze primary textures what we do.We are analyzing reviews so they are millions of written book reviews in the internet and we have an Roi which analyze those and extract the emotions out of the reviews.

[9:26] So we don’t go for the primary literature so for the text of the book we go over the reviews.And then now how know how the emotions are which readers feel or feltI see see see and for me so basically you’re not going through the books you are analyzing the Motions in the reviews I’m was it hard for you tooTeach an AI emotions or you just work in the pattern yeah that’s similar to that that similar to that look for those words they did you start out right there.

[10:03] We started with that and it works kind of good if you have a lots of emotion lots of reviews so if you have like over 10,000 views for a book there is easy patterns really work good.

[10:14] But the big problem is that we have lots of books which like 10 to 20 reviews so we have an eye specialist and he has visor in our team and he specialized on onething and the main focus which is to that we are able to analyze books.With 10 or less reviews so which really few data points,it’s easy to do this with ten thousands but it’s really difficult to do this analyzing with 10 reviews I was wondering when you’re talking about,70,000 books and thousands of reviews so there have to be a lot of people who give books reviews but I’m wonderingwhat’s like the average number of a best-selling book like a Harry Potter you’ve been talking about of reviews out there in a very,very small print publication out there I assume sometimes they’re even books without any reviewsthat’s completely right it’s not really easy to assume or to summarize the all reviews about Harry Potter because there are lots of platforms where they published so we assume they’re over a few million reviews about Harry Potter one.

[11:33] So there are lots of reviews out there they are of course audio reviews and video reviews they are newspaper reviews and they are those written be used for normal person’s those are the categories of previews.And we’d usually analyzing the written views of normal people.Which I think okay I felt the book was for me very sad or very happy this is the easy kind of things we can do.

[12:00] But the other point is how many reviews are there for like a non fictional book if there is like a,for the graffiti for beginners of something with no really needs to do a review of course this is like as challenge which we have but at the moment we are focusing on novels.And they’re at video novels which are sold once or twice that usually more than 10 people there so we are easy to lead able to analyze them,and at the moment we have over 500,000 books analyzed already.So there are lots of lots of books which are already in our database and we still growing uh-huh before we get into how you recommend and how you classify the people I would be curious.

[12:44] Um do you actually assign a higher priority to reviews in something like.

[12:54] German newspapers like big print newspapers like FR Ted is Zoo torture or magazines like Dash Beetle who publish a bestseller listhere in Germany that is equal to New York Times bestseller list is it that case or is like any review equal for us anyreviews equal we say each opinion each people who sang something about the book has the same amount of worth and value Force sothere’s another question which you also ask kind of together the question about best sellers,and if you asking a people like normal people he’s not reading that much what it’s a good book they usually say oh a best-seller that makes complete sense in the first thinking because.Those are the books which are bought the most okay they have to be good but if you imagine that you only have to listen or had to listen to the most sold song.With that meet your personal taste.I don’t think that will be mine so the personalization part of this is the most important for us bestseller lists are.Okay and they’re good to know baby but they shouldn’t really be the point for deciding your next novel.That your next novel should fit to your personal taste and should not be the most part.

[14:16] And this is what we trying to do we trying to do what Spotify and Netflix is doing at the moment for moves music and video we trying to do a personalized book recommendation.That we are really analyzing those books and we recommending books that are matching your personal taste.This is the magic combination that we know which emotions on the books.And we know which subjects with vegans and the books and then we analyzing your reading profile because in our reading app and the reader app you can enter your favorite books.

[14:52] And after this we are analyzing your reading profile and to your reading profile we giving you personalized book recommendations that would be something.I would have to ask because you already took that away took that away from me but admittedly I was wondering if you just have like a lot ofbuckets where books and the people who would like them fit in for example if you like Harry Potter you also like that adapt or is it more like,okay you like Harry Potter but you also likesome be novels some beer apocalypse novels or something like this and so that makes you a special case of maybe you would also like that or is it currently more under if you like this you would also like that.Logic,we have both logical build in our app you can look for your Harry Potter especially and you find look alike books which are matching emotionally and thematically for the one book.Bad if you entering your favorite books and this is a plural so more than five books then we do the special thing so if you have Harry Potter for example and a zombie Thriller.We looking for okay you like zombies and you’re looking for Magical.

[16:10] Stories so we trying to figure out if their book out there which matching those both emotions and have the theme about zombies and magic and maybe we’ll find you boo.Which is really is yeah summarized of thoseand which has started some be elements and Magic elements so we completely building a known profile which has both elements he will find this zombie wizard book for me.

[16:37] We hope so if there is out there we’ll find it yes okay I see Cece and talking aboutpublication since that there are 70,000 books published each year is this just novels or also alone in Germany nonfiction,every year in Germany It’s a combination of nonfiction and fiction yes.And now the question are also all those self-publishers in your list that can published via this and that platform,mostly I’m it’s always the question of data so of course we try to get most books in.But some part forms don’t share their data so especially if you’re writing as a like a hobby writer than you maybe publishing on ink it,and at this moment we don’t cooperate with incurred or other platforms,we have those Amazon books in our app so you can find them which was the kind famous platform for authors.And all books which are published through the foul be the fence likeness FIFA Balabushka which is a German platform.

[17:46] They are on our books the literal translation would be something the central register of deliverable.Deliverable books that’s correct yeah and and the company behind this catalogis also internationally active to femmephobia is the company behind them and I just think they are known around the world.

[18:12] I see so let me take a little bit of a Leap Year everybody who’d like to use readoh they can go down here in the show notes they’ll be a link to our blog post where you of course can find all the links in the show notes from this episode including of course read-o and your LinkedIn profile butI would be curious how are you guys financed right now because I do assume it’s nothing that generate sufficient revenue for whole team yet,yes at the moment we.We are funded by business Angel but maybe we can take a few steps back there was this moment when Jonathan asked me if I want to join the team and I want to take ownership of the marketing and the sales departmentand I think yes I want you and they ask the same question okay Johnny how are you finding so how do you want to finance this data.And we had very very good situation at the moment we were founded through depend um I think it’s.Scholarship yeah it’s things which scholarship from the German government,called exist and its really great great program because you have three people who can work full time.For the scholarship so they’re find found it and financed by the scholarship and they concentrate on the building the startup so for one year.

[19:41] We are completely financed with Johnny me and Andy the KA eye specialist and then we started for one full year of 40 hours 6 hours with weekand we made love of things happened and then we got a business angel in our team to business angels who founded the first round.

[20:02] And at the moment we have completely founded with this money but there’s one thing which we till now wasn’t discussing weren’t discussing it’s our B2B products because we found it throw me the okay we have a nap.And we are really good at recommending books but there are other players out of the market internationally and nationally.Which I having book websites bookshops or any kind of book related products,and and 1/2 years ago we started to promote our service as a white label service.So there are some Publishers are some web shops which are using our recommendations for their shops so if you looking there for a book.You gu finding Harry Potter for especially and then we recommend the look-alike books on their web page and this is something which is growing quite fast,and can be that we like having a good growth especially in the B2B Market the b2c up is a long shot.

[21:06] I’m just third I do know that a lot of.

[21:12] Investors a listen to this program on a regular basis we had more than 30 startups being approached by our by our listeners so would you be open to talk to additional investors.

[21:28] Definitely yeah we like like nearly all startups we are looking for the next funding round at the moment.Which is the case to complete our product Market fit and we are looking at the moment for around about seven hundred thousand Euros in the next round where 350,000 is already covered.So that’ll the recording is done in middle of November,20:21 it will be published in February 2022 when the investors are listening to this how long do they have time to get in and I will be kind of short notice.But I think roundabout end of March we will we want to finish this round so there is some time left and we always looking for people who are interested in our story and in our journey and want to meet us so I just can,invite you to contact us and there will be a next round they will be the next chance to jump in and if you want to support us in one way or another you’re always welcome at our table.

[22:36] Sure and down here in the show notes they’re still inkalso at the beginning we’ve been talking about this interview is in cooperation with the content shift accelerator program andI would like to ask for your experiences with the content shift x-rated program except for that you get your final award.At the Frankfurt book fair which is just a place to be for every book lover I really love it they have still a lot of physical books and very interesting stuff there.

[23:08] That’s that’s completely right and the book fair where is a very.Great moment a great chance for us to meet all those people which we had been in digital contact for over two years now to just meet them and greet them have a coffee with them and with some really a pleasant for to meet most of them,so there was a chance like one year ago to apply for the content shift award and there was over I think 40 or 50 startups which applied.And the good thing for us it is really based on the digital.Publishing theme so it’s about publishing it’s about innovation in the public publishing industry so we had a very good fit with our business models so we want to gowe awarded for the first 10 startup the finalists and then we took the next step to the five last finalist and then we had a few workshops,which we load our mind because we met at those workshopsgreat people out of the whole industry like people from Talia from LeMans media from.And for B we just not only talk to any people there was a leading boat there people who really know the industry we really could help us with projects and could give us great introductions so alone this Workshop.

[24:30] Those three days which we worked and meet and had workshops together they were completely worth and they’re valued a lot for us.

[24:40] Just only three days Workshop worth participating very good closing words only thing left for me to say is,best of luck good luck with the funding round and let us know how you guys doing especially when you expand into English language.

[24:58] We will thanks it was a pleasure to be here totally my pleasure thanks bye bye.

[25:06] Music.

[25:13] Interviews at

[25:19] Music.


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