Full Stack Publishing:

The accidentally brilliant business model we've created at Lost My Name

At Lost My Name we love to talk about our magical, personalised books.

We’re really proud of them, our customers love them and they are the foundation of our growing success as a business.

However, behind our innovative products lies a second important and connected innovation - the design of our business model.

We call it ‘full stack publishing’, which is a snappy way of saying that we run a very vertically integrated operation, closely controlling all aspects of product development, marketing, sales, operations and customer support within one firm.

It’s this business model that has enabled us to grow the month on month sales of our products 10x in the past 12 months, our team 3x and permitted us to invest significantly in a range of new R&D projects - all while remaining profitable on a monthly basis.

There's a lot written about 'full stack-blah' at the moment. I know. But if you'll bear with me hopefully you'll see why this is more than a soundbite for us.

In this post I’m going to outline the history of this business model design, provide some thoughts on why it’s so totally powerful and some reflections on what it means for the future of the firm. I hope it will be inspiring for anyone thinking about these questions at their own startup

We were born full stack

The business model design behind Lost My Name has emerged quite naturally from the requirements of our unique product.When our co-founders Asi, Tal and David dreamt up the concept for a series of interconnected stories tied to the letters of a child’s name they weren’t thinking about business design. They were thinking about how they could create an amazing, magical, personal story.But when it came to getting that story out to the world a few things became clear.Firstly, in order to create the books they were going to have to build an interface to allow customers to input the letters they wanted - the name - to create their book. This would require a custom website of some sort. It made sense that on this site you could also preview and pay for the book. This led to the inevitable conclusion that for the best experience, the book would have to be sold direct, via their own website.

Secondly, to then get the book printed they realised they were going to have to print each book individually.

Using Print-on-Demand technology was of course implied from the start, but what wasn’t clear was how it would get printed.

Well, it turned out there wasn’t an existing solution for managing the production of high quality multi-part stories, so they had to build the systems to manage the high resolution rendering of the books and send them to print at a print on demand facility.

Thirdly, because the book was previewed and purchased on a proprietary website and manufactured in a unique way in a non-traditional setting, there was no way to use the existing distribution and publishing channels to tell potential customers about the book.

So they were going to have to build a marketing operation from the ground up to drive traffic to the site.

Fourthly, because the product is innovative and relatively complex (and, of course, mistakes are made in the printing and delivery process) and there are no other partners involved, they realised they’d have to build their own customer support services to handle questions and issues.

All this added up to a simple reality - to get this product in the hands of customersthey were going to have to build every single part of a publishing operation from scratch.

Writing and illustrating the book, marketing it, selling it, printing it, shipping it and supporting it. They had to do the lot. Because if they didn’t, they couldn’t create their amazing product.

At the outset this felt a bit insane.

I’m good friends with Asi (our CEO) and although we weren’t working together at the time I remember at the time when they were starting out how much schlep was involved in getting all these different processes to work together.

But in hindsight it’s been a huge advantage and has led to a unique business design that we now call ‘full stack publishing’ that has a wide range of unexpected beneficial externalities.

What’s great about Full Stack Publishing from a business perspective?

The full stack publishing model borrows some of the best bits of various business models, throws in some extra new ingredients with the end result being a very profitable operation. Here’s what’s great about it for both our customers and our investors:#1 - We get to keep all the money and decide on our margins - this is the key to the whole thing. Unlike the rest of the publishing industry who have to divide up revenue between a complex mix of rights holders, publishers and distributors we get to keep all the money we make because we own all parts of our operation.

As a result we’ve sometimes described our business a bit like ‘The Apple of Publishing’ - we invent, make and sell a premium, high margin, mass appeal product through a vertically integrated operation. Meanwhile the rest of the market sells a cheaper, undifferentiated product using IP owned by other players.

#2 - We own the customer relationship - this is also crucial. Because we sell direct we get to own the relationship with our customers which means we can sell to them again, and it leads to the next point…

#3 - We control all parts of the customer experience - because we’re in control of our whole operation we can design unique customer experiences that others cannot replicate and thus build brand loyalty. This also lets us pursue complex, cross cutting product and service innovations.

#4 - We’re global from day one - another important benefit of owning everything is that we don’t have any legacy territorial distribution or IP nonsense to navigate. We can sell to anyone, anywhere that has an internet connection and a credit card.

#5 - We operate with zero inventory and very low operational overheads - this is perhaps the biggest operational innovation to flow from personalised, print on demand publishing. We don’t hold any stock at all. In fact, we only have exactly the number of products that our customers want to buy from us. This means we don’t have any warehousing or stock buying costs putting pressure on our balance sheet.

#6 - We’re profitable from day one - because we’re zero inventory, we control our margin and we charge customers money for our products it means we can be … profitable! A rare thing for a company experiencing the kind of 10x year on year growth we’re undergoing right now, but a great position to be in when it comes to raising investment and staying in control of our business.

#7 - Our NPD process is incredibly lean - as we remain close to customers and control all our production processes we’re able to stay very lean as we develop new products and product improvements. This is in marked contrast to other content driven businesses who have to make big bets on products before they see any customer contact.

When you look at these benefits in the round I think you can see some of the best elements of three different business models - content, Ecommerce and SaaS.

ContEcomaaS - a three headed business beast!

In my opinion you could say we’ve found a new kind of business model that sits (sort of) at the intersection of three existing business models - Content, Ecommerce and SaaS - and takes the best bits from each while leaving the worst bits at the door.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but let me explain.

Content model

Why we’re like a content business - like all content businesses we create emotional products. This allows us to charge based on value rather than price. Why we’re not like a content business - Unlike other content businesses, we control every part of the system behind the content that gets it in the customers hands, which means we don’t have to share our revenue with others or worry about how our content can be distorted by other brands and experiences.###Ecommerce Model

Why we’re like an ecomm business - we’re like all ecommerce businesses in that we facilitate a transaction with our customer and make money (and profit) when they buy from us. Why we’re not like an ecomm business - we’re unlike an ecommerce business in that we have no stock, no warehouse and no unsold inventory, ever. ###Sass Model Why we’re like a SaaS business - we are like a SaaS business in that we’re very close to customers, indeed, we co-create our product with our customers, and our product (our books) can be updated constantly to make it more relevant and useful to different categories of customer in close to real time. Again, this makes us not like most content businesses.Why we’re not like a SaaS business - we’re not like a SaaS business in terms of our business model in any way. Yet. We don’t play a LTV game.

What does this mean for us going forward?

We’re pretty excited about this accidental yet inevitable business model we’ve discovered. It’s going to power our business forward in all sorts of useful ways going forward. The first thing is that we’ve now built a solid platform to make launching our next books easier and faster. Which is great. And because we’re profitable we can afford to invest in this next round of products while continuing to grow at breakneck pace.Our operations team can easily produce new titles and make them available to customers all round the world. Our marketing team can tell our customers about them directly. Our website can sell them. And we have fantastic relationships with hundreds of thousands of families to help us create even better products going forward.

As you can tell, we’re pretty excited about it all. If you’d like to come and help out - we’re hiring!

Thanks for reading.

If you found this useful, please consider sharing your feedback with us on Twitter @lostmynameHQ or pass the article along to others.

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Join us!

If you’d like to come and work, play and hang out with us, here’s what we’re looking for. Though you could just send us something phenomenal, leaving us with no choice but to follow up, to:

careers@lostmy.name

Financial Controller

We’re looking for an experienced Financial Controller to oversee the global reporting and compliance functions, leading a team of two finance analysts to deliver continuous improvement in the financial operating model.

Reporting into the CFO, the successful candidate will demonstrate a high degree of commercial acumen and be comfortable working in a fast-paced and dynamic start-up setting where every week will present new opportunities and challenges to navigate.

With ample room to grow, this role is a great chance for the right candidate to work alongside the leadership team and deliver tangible improvements for the business allowing us to deliver on our 3 year strategic plan.

The key areas of focus are:

Reporting

  • Ownership of the financial month end close process for Lostmy.name Ltd and Lostmy.name Inc
  • Consolidation accounting for Lostmy.name Group (UK and US Entity)
  • Preparation of month end commentary packs and presentation of results to the senior leadership team together with key action points
  • Cash flow and working capital management

Compliance & Control

  • Overseeing global tax, regulatory and compliance agenda including Sales, Income and Payroll Taxes in the UK and US
  • Owning the year end external financial statement audit process
  • Laying down a robust control environment in order to deliver accurate financials with a high level of data integrity

Business Partnering

  • Leading cost saving initiatives to help the business to improve operating efficiency
  • Working closely with the BI team in order to streamline and automate the reporting process
  • Working closely with the engineering team on the R&D tax credit workflow

Requirements

  • Qualified accountant (minimum 2 years PQE in an industry position) - ACA, ACCA, CIMA
  • Experience managing a team and overseeing a financial month end close process for a group
  • Experience with US accounting/tax is a plus
  • Willingness to roll up sleeves and get stuck into the detail while simultaneously keeping an eye on the big picture
  • Self- starter, high degree of emotional intelligence and comfortable making decisions where there may be a high degree of uncertainty
  • Experience using cloud accounting software; we use Xero in combination with receipt bank. Experience of these packages is a plus but not a requirement
  • Experience in start-ups/tech/publishing/retail/consumer products is a plus but again not a hard requirement

Benefits

  • Competitive salary and a real stake in the business - you'll share our success
  • Be part of a fast growing company creating products that are really loved by customers all round the world
  • Manage your own work as part of a small, tightly knit team
  • Flexible office hours
  • Awesome BUPA healthcare for you and your whole family
  • Fantastic mobile phone scheme & childcare vouchers benefits
  • Training budget of £1000: we'll sponsor any conference you wish to attend or speak at
  • Delicious team lunches

Senior Copywriter

Words are brilliant. But there are millions of them, and without good writers, words just sit there in the wrong order saying the wrong things. Rotters.

We’re looking for a remarkably creative comms writer who can make words do exactly (exactly!) what they need them to: entertain, surprise, jump through hoops, play the cello — anything they command. Someone with the ability to be playful and hilarious, who isn’t afraid of a good pun, but who is also marvellously disciplined and hard-working. And they should be brilliant at ideas too.

Feeling confident?

You should have a lot of experience writing comms. You have the knack to be funny and clever without being self-indulgent. You have a light touch but can also land a message with real weight. You know how to edit yourself, how to think about messaging hierarchy, how to make people open emails, click buttons and buy products. And you should be able to create funny, sharable content that your mum might see and chuckle at before boasting to friends that you came up with it. You should also be self-motivated, pro-active, collaborative and self-sufficient. You should know how to write for email, social media or on the side of a banana.

Most importantly, you can make people smile every time they read your words or ideas.

Lost My Name is one of Britain’s fastest-growing brands and this is an opportunity to help turn a successful start-up into a global name. We are a playful, kind brand. This opportunity will be ridiculously exciting to a smart, funny, eloquent, engaging, intelligent, autonomous, experienced, creative and all-round superb candidate.

The team you’ll be working in delivers creative output at a higher-frequency than any other team in the business. We literally ship handfuls of content every week and watch and learn from the public reaction. We get to directly shape and influence the brand by continuously exploring and publishing new concepts and ideas.

This role is the sole copywriter in the team, which gives you a central role in expressing the tone of the brand. You will report to a very experienced writer, who can help you sharpen your talent even more.

Key areas of focus

  • Writing emails and blog posts for our weekly Editorial content
  • Writing humourous, sharable content for Twitter & Facebook
  • Collaborating with our designers to devise and develop creative editorial concepts
  • Writing pithy, dad-joke-esque comments on our Instagram content
  • Writing emails for product promotions
  • Helping to firm up our tone of voice for Twitter and Pinterest channels
  • Helping to champion and promote the brand tone of voice across the business

Experience

  • 5+ years’ experience as a copywriter for well known and/or playful/entertaining consumer-facing brands
  • 3+ years of experience with SEO, email, web copy
  • Ability to produce both long-form and short-form writing
  • Extensive experience and understanding of all social channels, including behaviours and algorithms

Benefits

  • Competitive salary and a real stake in the business - you'll share our success
  • Be part of a fast growing company creating products that are really loved by customers all round the world
  • Manage your own work as part of a small, tightly knit team
  • Flexible office hours
  • Awesome BUPA healthcare for you and your whole family
  • Fantastic mobile phone scheme, childcare vouchers benefits
  • Training budget of £1000: we'll sponsor any conference you wish to attend or speak at. Travel the world and share your knowledge on us!
  • Delicious team lunches

Japanese Speaking Customer Service Angel

We're looking for someone to help us share the Lost My Name magic with our friends in Japan! We’re looking for a brilliant Customer Service Angel to help support our increasing presence in Japan. What kinds of things would you get up to in this fun, flexible role? We are so glad that you asked...

Customer Service, mostly...

People approach us with all kinds of queries. Sometimes they just want to know how much shipping is to Tokyo (it's FREE!). Other times, a book has gone on a different route in the mail system and we need to re-create it ASAP in time for a birthday party. Occasionally a customer would like to change a shipping address, or add a personal dedication.

We also get an incredible amount of feedback with ideas for improvement and future products, and just lots and lots of heartfelt thanks for such a wonderful book. These are just a handful of examples of the issues and topics we deal with on a daily basis. And we like to answer and solve ALL of these inquiries in the same way: super responsive, polite, empathic and delightful. We handle our customer support through a collaborative online platform where you can respond, solve, escalate, re-assign, tag and archive all queries in an efficient and transparent way. If you know how to use Facebook or Gmail, you’ll have no problems with our system.

What else should you know?

The role is a remote working opportunity, with some time flexibility to suit you - e.g. mornings, evenings and weekends. There’ll be an induction period with our marvellous training and co-ordinating team, along with a detailed explanation of how it all works.

So do you think that you can help us? If so, then click Apply Now.

  • You got a flair for friendly and positive digital communication - you know how to be nice, and genuinely lovely online
  • Fluency in Japanese and English language (written and spoken) essential
  • You’re looking for a genuinely exciting and meaningful new adventure, and the idea of making children more curious and kind sounds awesome
  • You must be available for at least 20 hours per week (flexible, including weekends)
  • You’re a super motivated, dedicated, smart and an energetic self-starter
  • Ability to work under pressure and adapt quickly to adverse situations

Lead Designer

You’ll have a real passion for design and communication, and a genuine desire to do brilliant work. As a Lead Graphic Designer you will be responsible for taking the lead on the creative development of design projects across multiple platforms. Driving the creative standards of the Design Team and developing junior designers’ creative abilities, making sure the creative brief is fully explored and delivered to the highest standards.

Key Responsibilities

  • Responsible for the design and production of graphic design across multiple platforms.
  • Responsible for working with internal clients to deliver requirements on time and in line with the brand style.
  • Responsible for applying and co-ordinating the design across the brand.
  • Use a good awareness of design processes to question and challenge design briefs and solve design problems.
  • Be aware of current design trends and attitudes to help inspire the team
  • Understanding peripheral processes, i.e. print, interactive and mobile platforms.
  • Manage and develop junior designers.
  • Work closely with the studio manager to manage and prioritise the workload on a project.

About You

  • Ability to deliver against tight and complex timelines.
  • Knowledge of and sensitivity to trends influencing design in general.
  • Ability to manage multiple and competing work priorities, demands.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills, including ability to make persuasive presentations to internal audiences.
  • Driven and passionate.
  • Stress resistant and confident.

Qualifications and Experience:

  • Recognised design degree.
  • Significant industry experience.
  • Versatile and open mined.
  • Meticulous crafting and attention to detail.

Skills:

  • Excellent communication and presentation skills.
  • Dedicated, passionate and challenging.
  • Ability to lead, manage and inspire.
  • Strong ideas with a portfolio to match.
  • Self motivated and a team player.
  • Loves discipline of identity and branding.
  • Excellent working knowledge of Adobe Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat

Senior Brand Manager - Books

We’re looking for an exceptional product / brand manager to join our team and look after the ongoing growth of our book portfolio across territories, formats and licensing opportunities. This important role includes taking stewardship of the growth roadmap for our flagship title Lost My Name.

This role is similar to a licensing manager position within a publishing firm but with two vital differences.

The first difference is that you’ll be working within a very agile, vertically integrated business that currently does all it’s own retail, marketing, manufacturing and product design with a sales footprint in every major market in the world.

This means that if you have a plan to achieve growth through change to any of these functions you can make that change happen within days or weeks, not the usual timescales of months or years.

The second difference is that all the brands and products you will manage use personalisation and technology in creative ways to tell their stories. This means that you can have a one to one relationship with customers through the products you market to them - but it also means you face interesting challenges in doing traditional licensing deals.

If these opportunities and challenges excite you, and if you have a track record in building entertainment brands, particularly in the kids and families space, we’d love to hear from you.

Key responsibilities and targets

  • Drive incremental revenue growth in our book range
  • Key stakeholder in setting and driving overall unit targets across territories
  • Own the internationalisation roadmap for all our books
  • Own the format roadmap for all our books
  • Own the individual brand roadmaps for our most successful books, including developing new upsell and retention products via in house design or licensing
  • Line manage several junior delivery colleagues within the product team

Expected experience and skills

  • Business focused and experienced - You have a demonstrable track record growing revenue on entertainment oriented properties. We’d like to meet people who’ve managed and grown products and brands turning over more than £10M a year.
  • Analytical and data driven - you can show us through examples of how you’ve used quantitative and qualitative data to make the right decisions for the business.
  • Creatively sympathetic - you can also show us examples of how you’ve reasoned out plans and projects from a creative position and protected and enhanced creative value in the properties you’ve managed.
  • Strong communicator and leader - you know how to make change happen in a fast moving company and you’ve got experience of directly line managing more junior colleagues.
  • Gets stuff done - above all, we want someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the fantastic challenge of bringing the values of our books to as many people as possible across the world. Lost My Name is a young company that is just getting started on it's journey - You’ll be super excited to join in and start shipping from day one.
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