Islington entrepreneur: ‘My lightbulb burst - but it sparked my idea to save the high street’

PUBLISHED: 14:34 14 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:54 14 March 2016

If you can't get people into the bookshops, get the bookshops online: Max Kreijn, Nick Brackenbury and Thomas Schoffelen of NearSt

If you can't get people into the bookshops, get the bookshops online: Max Kreijn, Nick Brackenbury and Thomas Schoffelen of NearSt


Most entrepreneurs have a lightbulb moment: the sudden realisation of a business idea. For Max Kreijn, that moment literally involved a lightbulb.

Max, of St Peter’s Street, Islington, is co-founder of NearSt, a website/mobile phone app for books that has been dubbed the “Amazon killer”.

In contrast to Amazon’s online delivery service, which has seen bookshops across the country suffer, NearSt encourages people to use high street stores.

Bookworms can search for the title they want to read, and NearSt will list its availability from nearby shops. Customers can reserve the book for collection, while a delivery service will start next month.

So how did this idea - nominated for European business start-up competition Get in the Ring tomorrow - originate from a lightbulb?

“A year ago I was having a dinner party in my apartment,” Max, 32, explains. “Just before my friends arrived, the bulb blew. I thought, ‘damnit’, people need to see!

“So I went out to buy a replacement around Islington - and it took me 45 minutes. I wondered how it was possible to find literally anything online, but not in a shop near your house.”

So began NearSt with co-founders Nick Brackenbury and Thomas Schoffelen: “Young people pretty much don’t know shops exist. It’s just how they’ve been raised.

“We simply want to get people back in shops, by making them visible to people who are constantly on their phones, or tablets. It’s an alternative to Amazon.

“Our ambition is to one day list every high street product, but we had to start small with a category and that’s books. Bookshops have suffered most due to online retailing but they have an important high street role: not just as shop but places for discussion, and that’s beautiful.”

NearSt, based in Victoria, is currently linked to 30 bookshops across London - although none yet in Islington.

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