Memories are the best gifts you can possibly give to you loved ones. But until we can export memories directly from our brains Black Mirror style, how do you actually wrap them up and hand them over to your family and friends? zapptales, a Munich-based startup founded by Barcelona-born Daniel Vicen Renner has come up with a solution to preserve your most precious memories which you already have a record of, even though you may not realize it. These are none other than the thousands of texts, photos, videos and voice messages hanging around in your messaging apps – and now you can turn them into a book.
To me, text messages have always carried some sort of special value. If you think about it, they are the sum of so many years of conversations and fleeting emotions: they’re the stories of personal relationships. I’ve always found them to be strangely elusive. What if my phone gets stolen, or they get deleted? When I was a teenager, I would copy my most cherished texts into a notebook by hand. It certainly wasn’t an efficient process but back then it was the only solution for preserving at least a fraction of those memories.
Today, we basically live our lives in messaging apps. Now that emojis, memes, images, videos and voice records have been added into the mix, and we’re all members of multiple group chats, the volume of memories being collected in WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger is larger than ever.
The first WhatsApp Book
The idea for the chat books created by zapptales was born out of Daniel’s wish to surprise his sister with something unique for Christmas. “When I moved to Munich, my whole family stayed in Spain, and we started using WhatsApp to communicate. When my sister had her first baby, she started sending us around twenty pictures a day, and telling the story of how the baby was doing and how she was feeling. It was very beautiful, because for me, it was almost like being there. I thought it would be cool to make her a book out of it for Christmas. So I took around 500 screenshots of the chat, put them together and made a book. It was a huge success: my sister even started crying when she saw it. And it became the first prototype of our WhatsApp book,” Daniel recounts.
After the initial surge of excitement, Daniel took six months to do market research, put together a team and come up with an MVP. By the end of 2015, zapptales got its first investment, and that’s when they started growing.
“The first year we printed 10 thousand books, and the next year we got up to 22 thousand. Right now we get around 80 orders a day, and we’re expecting to have printed more than 40 thousand books by the end of this year,” Daniel says.
Blow Your Friends and Family Away
Imagine putting together a book full of memories from your bachelor’s party WhatsApp group, the messages and pictures you sent to your family during your trip to Australia, or a conversation between you and your best friend that you’ve been maintaining for years and years. It’s definitely not something that anyone would expect to receive as a present, and even though it does have a sentimental element to it, it’s certainly not kitschy or “too much” like a pillow or a mug with your photo on it.
You can now create books from your chats in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as well, which will allow zapptales to explore new markets outside of Europe where WhatsApp is less commonly used. They’ve got all the tools to create and order your chatbook on their website. Now you can even “print” voice messages and videos in the form of QR codes that you can later scan with your mobile phone.
They take orders from and ship to anywhere in the world, but currently they’re focusing on the German, Austrian and Swiss markets, as well as spreading in Spain, Italy, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
“We want to grow in a healthy way: we want to offer good customer support and keep the quality high,” Daniel adds.
Munich as a Home Base and the Challenges of Running a Startup
As for running a startup in Munich, Daniel has only positive things to say. “The startup scene in Munch is growing and there are a lot of events, so networking is very easy. There are also institutions that help startups, coworking spaces, incubators… You have all the resources you need to start a business. Also, Munich is a very wealthy city, so you have many options to find institutional or private investors. We were looking for someone who could not only give us money, but also know-how and assessment. Someone who knows the business and can help us with the strategy. And we succeeded in finding them,” he says.
According to Daniel, the most difficult part of running a startup is finding the right people for your team.
“When you’re building a startup, the positions within your team are not clearly defined. Everyone has to do a bit of everything. The most important thing is that you’re resourceful. Even when you have no idea what you’re doing, you always find a way. I think that’s one of the reasons why zapptales started working so quickly: because we always found a solution. But more recently, we did start hiring people who have a certain expertise in specific areas, because at some point you need that too,” he says.
Even though a number of other startups have thrown the same idea into the market, none of them actually managed to create a viable business around it.
“Founding a company is not easy. You have to earn the trust of your customers, you have to offer a quality product and excellent customer support, and you have to maintain all of that while scaling your business. I think that’s where most startups fail. They think it’s going to be easy. You have to persist, you have to be disciplined, and you have to work a lot. And when you see that it works, that’s a great feeling,” Daniel concludes.