A Q&A with reKiosk co-founder and CEO Aziz Isham. The Brooklyn, New York–based company was founded in February and had its official public launch this Summer.
SUB: Please describe reKiosk, and the value proposition you offer to independent content creators.
Isham: reKiosk is a way to sell ebooks and music directly to your fans, and to have fans sell for you. reKiosk is the first platform of its kind to provide an easy, free and shareable way to sell digital files online—whether it’s your own original work or someone else’s. It’s great for musicians and publishers and it’s great for bloggers, critics and other curators who want to open a digital store where they can recommend ebooks and music and get paid to do so.
reKiosk is a website, built from the ground-up, for people who love independent media. We provide a sleek and easy system for digital sales, and allow other people to act as your ‘distributor’—receiving a share of your sales in exchange for selling and promoting your media. reKiosk is like a thousand small, indie record shops under one giant digital tent.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Isham: Content creators, obviously. For anyone who has written or recorded something they want to sell, we provide an easy and free way to get it out there and market it directly to your fans, friends and followers.
But you also get the advantage of being part of a community of people who are actively engaged with independent media—every file posted on reKiosk can be re-posted—‘reKiosked’—in someone else’s digital store. This means the service is also great for bloggers, critics, or any independent curator who might be interested in sharing his or her taste, and reaping the financial benefits of doing so.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Isham: At this point, we’re really excited by all the up-and-coming digital platforms that are catering to the new economies of independent media.
Gumroad allows people to sell their work, but lacks the robust affiliate model that reKiosk has. And obviously it’s impossible to talk about digital distribution without mentioning Apple and Amazon—though these massive box stores take a much larger percentage of profits away from creators for, in our opinion, not a whole lot of added value.
SUB: What differentiates reKiosk from the competition?
Isham: We’ve already spoken about Gumroad, but in general, since reKiosk was built from the ground up for independent media, we think we have an edge over some of the larger and more corporate offerings while providing the same level of security and convenience that they do. reKiosk was built around a set of principles and designed after years of experience in digital publishing—we’ve built a platform that caters to a very real need in digital distribution: an ability to sell directly to your audience and reap almost all of the profits, while providing the benefits of social media marketing and discoverability tools that selling from your own website might not permit.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Isham: We started this company last February and we started with a blank slate. Basically, we took everything we know from spending years as digital publishers and asked questions like: ‘Do we really need that feature?’ when we designed our site. For example, if I want to sell a PDF I wrote about basil horticulture, do I really need to shell out $250 for an ISBN number? The first thing we did was the act of subtraction—with digital sales you’re dealing with a new animal, and sometimes you need to remove a lot of features that print distribution has acquired over the last century in order to make a service that feels intuitive to online distribution.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for reKiosk? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Isham: I’ve been working on models for distributing independent media for the better part of the last ten years—but the real ‘aha’ moment for reKiosk came when we asked the question: ‘How do you let creators keep the lion’s share of profits while combatting the massive marketing budgets of the big box stores?’ The answer, we realized, was to build the entire site around a viral, easily sharable affiliate model.
Basically outsourcing a lot of the marketing to impassioned curators and evangelists—people like ourselves, our friends, bloggers and critics.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Isham: This was a long and somewhat uninteresting process. But we liked the image behind the digital kiosk—thousands of small, independent store inside a larger technical and legal infrastructure. If Amazon is Walmart, reKiosk is a covered bazaar.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Isham: So far, the biggest obstacle has been getting the backend working just right. The site looks very simple and the interface is minimalist, but there’s a lot going on under the hood. Luckily, my sister and our co-founder, Darya Isham, has a master’s from Columbia in math and statistics, so our modeling was in good hands.
SUB: You just launched publicly. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Isham: We think so. I mean, the excitement and outpouring of support has been absolutely incredible. But really, we chose to launch when we were ready—it just happened to be the end of August when that happened.
SUB: Are you in the process of raising outside funding or do you plan to raise outside funding in the near future?
Isham: We’re definitely open to it—but we also want to preserve our ethos of being for independent media, built by independent media. Right now, we’re a little scrappy, and we like it that way—I’ve seen just as many companies fail by being over-funded as I have by being underfunded. Striking the right balance is always a challenge.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Isham: We take a small commission from every sale made on our site—though it’s nowhere near the 30-to-50 percent that most ecommerce sites do. We also have a freemium model for kiosks—small kiosks of fewer than 15 files are free, any more than that and users must pay a monthly subscription fee.
SUB: What are your goals for reKiosk over the next year or so?
Isham: We’d like to keep attracting great content, expand our discoverability platform, and open the site up to other forms of digital media—including short films, enhanced ebooks, video games and more. We want reKiosk to be the go-to place for direct-to-friend digital sales.
reKiosk – www.rekiosk.com