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Radish Raises $3 Million, Serves Up Bite-Sized Fiction

Move over Crave, Bound, Rooster, Hooked, Wattpad, and the kid-focused Amazon Rapids; today there is a yet another startup offering bite-sized fiction.

Techcrunch reports that Radish has raised $3 million to implement basically the same two-decade-old idea used by the startups mentioned above:

Radish is officially launching its mobile apps for reading bite-sized chunks of serialized fiction — and it’s announcing that it has raised $3 million in seed funding.

But then, Radish co-founder and CEO Seung-yoon Lee isn’t claiming he invented the concept — he told me he was actually inspired by the popularity of serialized fiction on mobile devices in Asia, and he predicted that novels will see the same shift to cliffhangers and serialization that we’re already seeing in TV. (Meanwhile, in the publishing world, e-book sales are declining, while print seems to be rebounding.)

The model hasn’t taken off yet in the United States. Among fiction-related startups, Wattpad has had the biggest success, but it’s more focused on monetizing through TV and movie deals, as well as sponsored content, rather than having readers pay authors directly.

On Radish, on the other hand, readers buy coins, which can then be spent on the stories they’re following. (The exact price varies depending on how many coins you buy, but it can be less than 50 cents costs about 12 cents per coin.) For each story, you get the initial chapters for free, then need to pay three coins for early access to subsequent installments, with the revenue split 50-50 between Radish and the author.

Radish has been in beta testing for the past year, and Lee said the leading author on the platform is already making $13,000 per month. (He declined to identify the author, but said they’re writing “a historical romance serial set in the Victorian age.”)

If you had asked me when Hooked launched a little over a year ago, I would have told you that this idea would not attract enough paying customers to be commercially viable. That opinion was reinforced by the demise of Shelfie yesterday.

Nevertheless, bite-sized fiction has drawn support from Amazon, publishers, and venture capitalists; do they see something I don’t, or are they gambling on a long shot?

Either way, may the best startup win.



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