The eBook Revolution: A Page-Turning Success

eBooks in Motion is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, which publishes multimedia-enhanced educational content on mobile devices. Founder and CEO Michael J. Fisher talks to Markets Germany from their development center in Hamburg.

June, 2017

Hamburg’s wealth of expertise in publishing made it CEO Michael J. Fisher’s first choice for eBooks in Motion’s base of operations. The firm now enjoys success in America, Asia and the Middle East.

© picture alliance/Ulrich Baumgarten

In the early 1990s, Michael J. Fisher worked at the US Air Force Strategic Air Command, where he served in the intelligence community, analyzing aerial reconnaissance. After leaving the service, he was recruited to establish the Oracle Spatial Division in 1995, which led to co-founding GlobeXplorer in 1999, the world’s first open online collection of geospatial data (digital mapping and satellite imagery) in partnership with ­Oracle and Sun Microsystems and with funding from Mohamed Al-Fayed, the former owner of Harrods, London.

His journey as a serial technology entrepreneur continued when he joined Gate5 AG, a location-based services (LBS) solution provider based in Berlin, which was sold to Nokia and is now known as “HERE.” He was subsequently recruited by Navman International to build a new division, Navman­Mobile in Germany, which was sold two years later to Taiwanese company MiTAC.

From there, he spent a couple of years consulting with the mobile LBS company ZOS Communications as managing director of the MENA region.

»It was clear the publishing instustry was fighting to stay alive«

Michael J. Fisher,
CEO eBooks in Motion

But it wasn’t long before Fisher got the entrepreneurial itch again. After publishing some of his own books online, he decided that most e-books offered a poor user experience. Intent on revolutionizing e-publications, he founded eBooks in Motion Inc. with a GmbH in Hamburg to manage development out of Europe.

The management team bootstrapped the start-up with just $450,000 (€419,000), and in 2015 it was valued in excess of $4m (€3.7m) in New York, in the wake of the hype about publishing platforms Inkling, Vook and Atavist.

What kind of problems did you face as a start-up?

We set out to empower publishers and authors by creating the simplest way to produce flawless e-books and media-­enhanced communications and launched in Q1 2015. By Q3, however, it was clear the publishing industry was fighting to stay alive, so we regrouped to redirect our automated production technology to the education market.

eBooks was established in Delaware, so why did you set up the development center in Germany?

I’ve worked with German companies and developers, and admired their 360-view about how to solve challenging development projects to produce stellar solutions. The decision was based on the wealth of experienced back-end programming, which from a price perspective was extraordinarily favorable compared to the United States.

Why Hamburg?

Berlin may be the next Silicon Valley, but as is the case in California, both regions are challenged to retain talent. I’ve been very fortunate setting up in Hamburg because they have a wealth of expertise across a broad spectrum of publishing. Our back- and front-end development team created an innovative solution. And I’m proud to say that the entire team is still on-board.

Who are your key customers?

We’re focused on international corporations, higher education institutions and vocational training professionals. Sales leads are facilitated via partnership with EdTech organizations, such as the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Corporate Learning Consortium, Global Vocational Skills and UAE Learning Network.

What are some of the differences between seeking funding in Europe and the United States?

Most investors in Germany are risk averse and rarely provide early stage capital. Furthermore, U.S. valuations are traditionally three times higher than valuations set in Germany.

What are your biggest growth markets right now?

America and countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East are most actively applying mobile learning.

What is your business model?

Because we have a high profit margin per transaction produced on our online platform, we have room to share that with partners. Our global “go to market” strategy is facilitated via securing partners, resellers and affiliates that use our platform in return for a share in net revenue ranging from 15 per cent to 40 per cent.

What’s next for eBooks?

We’re streamlining the registration process, which was previously developed for B2C customers but now will be focused on B2B transactions.

Do you have an exit strategy?

We have been approached by several international publishers who offered to buy the company. However, we chose not to, due to the percentage offered. We’re now considering a few potential exit opportunities.

What are your strengths as an entrepreneur?

Identifying trends and filling the gaps in markets struggling to embrace digital innovation.

What motivates you?

I was raised with the mind-set of “see a problem – fix a problem.”