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Readz streamlines digital content distribution in the mobile age

With massive files, restrictive apps, and a diminishing yet present technological barrier, there’s no doubt digital print still has a good distance to go. As content consumption on tablets and smart phones continues to skyrocket, many users are looking for a better, lighter platform to read their favorite digital publications.

L.A.-based startup Readz is hoping to answer many of the complaints voiced by users and content producers with the creation of its flexible publishing platform built for mobile. Readz gives content providers the tools to quickly build their own app and even circumvent strict mobile regulations using HTML5, allowing publications to push instant updates at any time.

We sat down with Readz CEO Bart De Pelsmaeker to discuss the creation of his innovative mobile publishing platform, using Thai boxing to clear your head, and his picks for an entrepreneurial dream team.

What was the inspiration behind Readz?

I’ve been working in publishing and printing for quite a while. I was looking for a very long time at these e-devices when they came out. I thought that was really interesting because I was traveling a lot and I thought it was really practical.

So that got me hooked and when Apple launched a tablet I really felt like this was going to be an amazing platform, this is going to be widely used. I was really looking forward to enjoying magazines, but as a user I was not very happy with the way it was being done.

A lot of the apps were not good -- were not native -- and it reminded me a lot of days when I was working on internet sites in HTML1 and people would give me printed brochures and say, “Put this online.”

I thought, You don’t put print online; you have to go for something different, this is the Internet. It happened over and over so I saw an opportunity to change it. That’s when I started looking for investors. I pitched the idea, got some traction, built the prototype, and went from there.

When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I think when I was 15, but life happened so it came a bit later. I was in small companies on the side but I started working in the large corporate world and having a company was always something of a hobby.

At a certain point I said, “I really need to do it the other way around. I should make whatever I’m interested in not a hobby anymore, but my life.”

As a busy entrepreneur, how do you like to relax?

It’s so hard. One of the things I find is that you cannot turn yourself off. Even when you have a moment you just start to think about long-term things for your company. I think the only way to really relax is to do something really intense.

I started doing Thai boxing a couple of months ago. It doesn’t give you any chance to think about anything else but sports, or else I get punched in the face. It’s very relaxing because I put my brain on something else for a couple of hours.

That’s really the only way to do it. Even when I watch TV or watch a movie I’m thinking about what can be done and all the stuff I’ve got to do.

If you sold your company today for $1 billion, what would you do with the money?

With that much money I think I would have to give part of it to charity. Put part of it away, put part of it aside for my family, and the majority I would use to start more businesses.

If you could add any person to your team right now, who would you choose?

It’d probably be between Paul Graham and Mark Cuban. Paul Graham because he’s just so good at startups and he’s an ultimate guru in terms of technology, so he really understands how to bring it to market and he’s very well-connected.

Mark Cuban because he’s such an unconventional guy. He’s so unconventional and he always comes up with these really brilliant, fresh ideas. I would just love to have somebody of that caliber within the company.

What is your idea of happiness?

Being in a state where you get challenged but you believe in it and you go through it and it turns out to be the right choice so you get rewards for your risks. I think that’s happiness -- and this could be in business and but also in personal life.

I believe that family, that’s also important and it’s also a risk. If you do a partnership with somebody special that’s always a risk and if it turns out to be right choice it’s very rewarding.

The same in business: you commit yourself totally and you work on it and if it turns out to be the right choice that’s very rewarding. We see some of that coming back, I think, and it makes me really happy.

What’s next this year for Readz?

We’ve built a publishing platform that allows people to build an app really quickly and easily. What we’re going to do next is build a lot of social tools in it, which will allow brands to have their own interest-based network.

We’ve done a lot of study on that, along with months of UI work, and are building that now. It’s really exciting because a lot of people are very interested. It’s going to be our second tier.

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