Tech City: ‘Our ambition is to be the Pixar of publishing’

The founders of Lost My Name

The founders of Lost My Name - Credit: Archant

Tech City is the third largest technology hub in the world, and it’s right on our doorstep. Each week, we bring you news from the thriving area around Old Street roundabout. This week, Sophie Inge talks to the co-founder of Lost My Name

A few years ago, advertising executive Asi Sharabi received a personalised book as a present for his three-year-old daughter, Thalia. It seemed a wonderful idea – until he started reading.

“After the initial warm and fuzzy feeling of seeing my daughter’s name in a book, I realised how totally lame the book was,” Asi says.

“I forget the exact name of the book – that’s how memorable it was – but I felt annoyed that the story was the same for every child.

“The only difference was the addition of the child’s name. In fact, the shallowness of the creative idea and execution left both me and my daughter feeling hugely disappointed.”

After he’d shown the book to a friend – technologist Tal Oron – they decided to use technology to cook up a personalised book of their own. Then they teamed up with writer David Cadji-Newby, who came up with the storyline, and illustrator Pedro Serpicos, while Tal designed software to generate individual versions based on different children’s names.

“Together, we set out to make something inspiring and genuinely magical,” says Asi.

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The result was The Little Boy Who Lost His Name or The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name, launched in September 2013.

It’s the illustrated adventure of a child who wakes up to find that his or her name is missing, prompting a wild quest to find it. Along the way, the child meets weird and wonderful creatures who provide clues for each letter of the name.

“We used our own money in the early stages and kept costs to a minimum,” says Asi. “In the beginning, we focused on the development of our physical book in between juggling full-time jobs and family life. We then relied on word-of-mouth and blogging.

“After our first Christmas, we knew we had a hit on our hands but we needed investment in order to build our distribution and grow.”

Their big break came in the summer of 2014, when their company – called Lost My Name, after the book – appeared on TV’s Dragon’s Den. They walked out with the promise of a £100,000 investment.

In September that year, they launched their first translated edition of the book. And, by 2015, it was a bestseller in five countries – the UK, the US, Australia, Spain and Italy. To date, 1.3 million personalised copies of the book have been sold worldwide.

In December, the company was inducted into the Future Fifty programme, run by Tech City UK, which supports 50 of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK.

Along the way, it has published a second book, The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home – a story that takes children on a journey from the depths of outer space back to their own front door, and includes a satellite image of their home.

The company now has an office in Hackney.

“From the very start, we saw ourselves as a tech start-up which happened to make a physical book,” explains Asi. “We therefore wanted to base our headquarters in London’s tech nucleus, both for networking purposes and to attract the best talent.

“Hackney is an inspiring place to work, and we’ve been able to find a great warehouse space near the vibrant Broadway Market.”

The team’s books are available in nine different languages, including French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Italian, but it doesn’t plan to stop there.

“We will continue to expand globally, and plan to launch in Asia this year,” says Asi.

“Our ambition is to redefine personalisation and be the Pixar of publishing.

“We want to create the best personalised content for children’s entertainment on multiple platforms – and we have a number of exciting projects in development.

“Whatever we do in the future, we’ll always emphasise ideas and creativity.”