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Kotobna, an online platform and a smartphone app, is a self-publishing platform where writers can publish and market their novels and make money out of it as well.

Mohamed Gamal, the founder of Kotobna, graduated from computer science engineering in 2004 and has worked in the IT and marketing department. This allowed him to have background knowledge in working with digital platforms and smartphones.

Since writing has been his passion, Gamal wanted to solve a problem he himself faced. When he tried to get his writings published, many publishing houses refused him as an emerging writer while others dictated that the publishing will completely be at his expense. Most of them also said they’d take a huge percentage of the sales and refused to market his books. This is when Gamal decided to think of solutions and, thus, created Kotobna.

Writers join Kotobna through the web or through android and windows devices. Users must register and pay the annual subscription fee that allows them to post and share an unlimited amount of books along the year. The book is put up for sale where anyone can buy it through the app or website. It appears free for the first 25 readers and then charges readers a small fee to benefit the writer.

What is the impact of Kotobna?

The platform allowed us to discover many talented writers that write various modern genres. When we announced that we needed writers to join, we were surprised by how many writers signed up. Kotobna is a platform for expression where your voice and work can reach the public.

The second effect Kotobna has had is that “we have given the chance to 266 writers to become more acknowledged.” The third impact Kotobna has had is that “we’re solidifying the idea of intellectual property rights which is an incredibly important issue. We encourage users to respect the copyrights of authors through our new business model that relates the written material to an affordable price and easy payment methods. We also protect the books being displayed on our platform.”


“The main challenge we faced was the investment. To grow and expand our business horizons we needed funds which weren't an easy process. In my opinion, this is because investors waste time and request stuff that is almost impossible for a startup to give them. They also ask for a huge percentage of stakes in the company which has led me to believe that the whole issues of investors, including angel investors, needs major enhancement,” explained Gamal.

Funds and Awards

The number of readers who have bought digital books off the platform reached 30 million in 2015 at a 37% annual growth rate. Even though Gamal hasn’t received any investments yet, he’s in contact with a few investors in a process that is taking extreme time and effort. Gamal expressed his frustration saying, “This is definitely one of the biggest challenges an entrepreneur will face when starting up a company.”

Gamal considers that one of Kotobna’s major achievements is delivering the displayed books to a wider audience beyond only the Egyptian community. Through Kotobna, it has become easier for those that don’t have immediate access to a bookstore to read the books online.

He has also mentioned that he wanted to focus on offering something with “true core value and focus on marketing that because it helps users develop themselves and expand their mental horizons even minimally.” Marketing, from Gamal’s perspective, is one of the major tools for survival even though he has not received any funds yet.

Success factors

One of the first success factors Gamal mentioned is that there are no competitors in the market. There is no other platform similar to Kotobna in the Arab world. The other factor is innovation; youth has a strong drive towards innovation which makes the books on the platform greatly in demand.

Say something for aspiring entrepreneurs

I would recommend this for emerging entrepreneurs: read two books. The first book is Lean Startup by Eric Ries and the second is Business Model Generation for Alex Osterwalder before you start up your company.


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