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Kelli Fairbrother Co-Founder

Kelli Fairbrother
© Sage Group plc 2023

Name: xigxag

My startup in a nutshell: At xigxag, we're making books more accessible, more engaging, more social and more sustainable with an exclusive listen-and-read concept and the most advanced digital book platform ever imagined.  

Our team: 

Co-founders Kelli Fairbrother and Mark Chaplin started xigxag as audiobook lovers - disappointed by a complete lack of competition and innovation in the market. 

Kelli is CEO with over 20 years’ experience in consumer, product and tech. She's former McKinsey, Harvard Business School, US Army, and West Point.  She led the billion-pound launch of Premier Inn into Germany for Whitbread.

Mark is CTO and among the best in the world at digital media tech and a former Director of Production Technology at ITV. He can build anything, physical and virtual, and he is responsible for building xigxag’s market leading mobile app and best-in-class publishing tech platform. 

Kelli and Mark met at Deluxe, one of the leading fulfilment partners to Netflix.  And they helped sustainable print-tech scaleup Gelato become a unicorn.

George Walkley serves as Content Lead for xigxag. He’s a 25-year veteran of the publishing industry, whose experience includes working at a major bookselling chain through its growth phase and IPO, and setting up Hachette’s digital book business. 

Karen Powell, a talented digital marketing executive and Kelli’s former McKinsey colleague leads on marketing and Deniz Matur is a talented full stack developer who has been with the team for over a year.

Our founding history: 

In 2018, Kelli was listening to Hans Rosling's Factfulness on the tube with no wifi. The narrator informed her that, in order to see the brilliant infographics at the heart of the story, she had to download a pdf from a desktop website.

It seemed the entire audiobook experience hadn’t really moved on since books on tape and was so limited compared to modern digital media experiences. In 2023, in an audiobook, users still can't see illustrations, they can't search, lookup words, take notes or share any aspect of the book. And the dominant business model actively hinders customers from listening to more than one audiobook per month.

Kelli reached out to her co-founder Mark and they reflected that the ebook experience had also not really been innovated in decades. 

Digital natives have high expectations for digital experiences, so audiobooks and ebooks seem remarkably ‘flat’ relative to other digital media and social media experiences.

At xigxag, we believe that if you want to engage young people in books (and keep them engaged), you need to build digital book experiences that are as exceptional as social media experiences - far more engaging, flexible and accessible than legacy digital book platforms, which is exactly what we’re building at xigxag.

This is how our business idea transforms the content industry: 

At xigxag, we’re making books more accessible, more engaging and more sustainable.  We aim to engage young people in books (and keep everyone enjoying more books), by building a digital book experience as exceptional as a social media experience - far more engaging, flexible and accessible than today’s options. 

At xigxag, we’ve built the first-ever fully integrated listen-and-read experience for books. This enables, for proficient readers, a richer and more flexible experience and, for the reading-challenged, the first-ever independent access to best-selling books. 

Users can listen when they are on the go, switch to reading or read along. They can lookup words, search for keywords, concepts and characters. They can take notes and capture audio quotes as well as the text transcription of the quote.

We have built our app and content platform on Google’s carbon neutral cloud platform.  We consume no trees or water in production and we send no books to landfill.  As a certified B Corp, we are developing a suite of publisher services to help the publishing industry be more sustainable, including our First Listen product. 

First Listen allows publishers to share promotional copies of their audiobooks — with reviewers, influencers, authors (gratis copies), consumers (prize winners) and colleagues (building buzz in house) — either prepublication, or at any time after. It’s fast, secure, cost effective and completely self-service — and the more sustainable way to share advance copies.

We’re grateful to have been invited to participate in the CONTENTShift accelerator by Teresa Frühhaber at Ambivation and we are so honoured to have been selected as one of the finalists. We have been really impressed by how the Börsenvereinsgruppe brings together the best of booksellers and publishers all under a single organisation. The CONTENTShift jury members and mentors are all super impressive, well-regarded experts in the book and media sector and the programme is proactive and forward-thinking in recognising the value of innovative startups. We’re looking forward to working with our mentors in the run up to Frankfurt Book Fair to identify opportunities for collaboration, advice, innovation, growth and networking. Vielen Dank! Kelli Fairbrother

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