By Daniel Kalder
In all the heated hubbub about trends in global digital publishing, we don’t hear much about Africa. And yet Durbanville, South Africa is home to Snapplify, a digital publishing solutions provider with an increasing world presence. Publishing Perspectives spoke to Snapplify’s Bianca Gardella to find out more.
“Snapplify was founded by tech entrepreneur Wesley Lynch in 2011,” says Bianca Gardella. “The company was a start-up born out of Realdigital, a 13 year own software development company founded by Wesley as well. Wesley saw the gap in the market regarding digital publishing solutions in Africa and took it.”
It’s easy to see from the roster of African clients Snapplify has acquired in the short space of time since the firm’s launch that the gap Lynch detected was very real. Today the firm produces apps for the local versions of such major international brands as Rolling Stone and Popular Mechanics, as well as South African papers such as The Star and iMaverick — South Africa’s first daily newspaper for tablet. However, Lynch and his partners in Snapplify were intent on developing business outside of Africa too. Adds Gardella:
“Wesley saw the need to launch globally and took a brave step and launched the company at the Frankfurt Book Fair. This opened up many doors and saw Snapplify sign international clients on the spot. This led Snapplify to open a UK office.”
Opening Global Markets
One of those international clients is Ka-boom, the California-based publisher of licensed kids’ comics starring the characters of the global mega-brands Peanuts and Garfield. But given the amount of competition from elsewhere, what is so attractive about Snapplify?
“We offer our clients their own custom branded app, something which the majority of our competitors do not. With the competitors, you would need to download their app and download the content from their app. With Snapplify, we allow the client to have their very own app with title bars at the bottom of the app which links to their website, social media pages and contact forms. There are also no lock-in clauses with Snapplify and our clients can opt out any stage.”
Thus while most of Snapplify’s business is conducted in Africa and UK — the two locations where the firm has offices — new clients are signing up in Australia, India, America and Spain, while they have “partners located in various countries.” Originally operating on a profit share system, that model was abandoned when it became clear it was not financially viable. “We now offer our clients a set monthly fee depending on their volume of content and features they make use of. Packages start at $100 a month and go up to $1,250 a month.”
Once a client has uploaded material to Snapplify, it doesn’t take long for a custom branded app to become available for download. “It all depends on the app stores, iTunes takes 7-14 days to review and approve an app where as Android can be 1-2 days. We would safely work on three weeks.”
According to Gardella Snapplify’s product is highly flexible and easy to use: “The app is content managed, our clients can add, edit, publish content to their apps whenever they want and from wherever they want and no technical knowledge is needed. Snapplify also supports multiple formats including PDF, EPUB and multimedia files, making it easy for everyone to distribute their content.”
Africa as a Base is a Challenge, Opportunity
Still, that African business address has not always made things easy. “Being an African based startup, it was difficult to acquire more international business. We needed to grow the business but it was difficult to attain foreign clients. This was overcome by setting up a presence in the UK and attending multiple international events. The more bigger companies saw us the more serious they took us.”
In Africa however, Gardella sees huge potential for growth:
“The adoption of mobile is growing phenomenally in Africa. More people have access to a mobile phone than they do drinking water, unfortunately. With the price of smartphones decreasing, more consumers will be accessing content on these devices. The printing costs are not that high compared to distribution and warehousing costs. Offering readers an alternative method to access their content is proving to be highly profitable for our clients.”