Digital MinistryUK

Digital Startup Profile - Bardowl Audio books

This startup profile is one for those of you not interested in working for the man, motivation and how to tackle stress (hit people hard). Chris Book the aptly names founder of Bardowl Audio books give is an inside eye on the trials and tribulations of launching a new model to a pretty traditional industry.

  • chris book bardowlStart-up Name: Bardowl
  • Website:
  • Owner: Chris Book
  • Location: Bath, UK
  • Startup Age: 3 weeks since launch 


1. What’s the elevator pitch on what you are doing and why does the world need this?

Current Audiobook services are broken in 2 ways. You can’t stream audiobooks to smartphones and you have to buy a book outright even if its through a credit based subscription service. Bardowl aims to do for Audiobooks what Spotify has done for music. For a single monthly fee the user gets unlimited access to audiobook catalogue.

2. Was there a defining Eureka moment that led you to start this?

I had one of the 1st Generation 1 Apple iPhones in the UK. I was listening to BBC Radio programmes like Book of the Week via streaming over wifi on the BBC iPlayer and thought, hold on a minute, if you combined that sort of smartphone tech with a large audiobook catalogue there could be a business in that.

3. What are your biggest challenges to making it work?

Technology has been challenging, we use a combination of Streaming and Caching to make the audiobook experience the best it can be in the market. The other big challenge has been convincing Audiobook publishers to work with a start-up business that has an unique business model, a model that is completely different to the “per-book model” that is maintained in Printed books, eBooks and Audio Downloads.

4. What drives you as an entrepreneur?

  1. I couldn’t work for the man any more. Waking up in the morning and knowing the ideas you have just had could be implemented that day with no bureaucracy is a liberating feeling.
  2. I want to change the world in a small way before its all over for me. I think audio is an amazingly powerful way of spreading knowledge and truth around the world. Anyone in any country  can learn from a narrated story, its relatively recent that humans started learning from the written word. Its a very democratic way of spreading the truth. Theres a whole load of entertainment and relaxation to be delivered through audio too!
  3. If successful what really drives me is investing in other people who have ideas for changing the world, whether for profit or for social change. Governments affect change too slowly, people who are financially free and able to invest in great ideas can make that change happen quicker, I want to be a new Philanthropreneur. (Google It!)

I don't sound too much like a Miss World contestant, do I people?

5. What is the number one lesson you have learned?

Everything takes much much longer than even the most pessimistic estimate, especially where you are relying on using other peoples content.

Telling everyone openly about your idea and business plan is the best way to go about things, the personal introductions to people have changed this idea into a reality. Being “stealth” or worrying about patents is not the best path to tread with a software business.

 6. What’s your Stress-taming tactic?

I hit people! No not like that. I am a 2nd Dan Black Belt at TAGB Tae Kwon-Do. 2 or 3 times a week I train in the evenings and teach martial arts - its the most amazing way to break up the stress of a business week. Having children helps too, my two keep me sane and feet planted on ground. My 15 year old son keep asking whether I have repaid his university fund yet, I cashed it in 18 months ago to keep the dream alive, I have 3 years to get it back.

7. How do you handle rejection?

Good question! I think I move on quickly and find the next opportunity. They’ll come back if they know whats good for them. I think I am always nearly right in the end ;)

Also, I hit people.

8. What’s next?

We are going to launch Bardowl in other countries outside of the UK. Australia, Europe and of course USA and Canada. We are going to take on a massive incumbent and box clever to beat them on their own patch. Its exciting having an enemy in your sights when you know you have the better product and proposition., Its a challenge when they have unlimited resources and cash and we have nothing. As for after Bardowl see answer 4.

9. Any advice to young Treps?

Go for it. Now. Don't wait. Its like having children, there is never a right time. Don't over analyse the risks, the financial costs. Don't get comfortable in a well paid job. There is nothing better than running your own business. But also beware, its not all sweetness and light. There are plenty of Dead, Divorced or Depressed ‘Treps (as you strangely call them).

Don't take yourself too seriously, smile a lot, make people laugh, dont worry when people look at you like you are mad. Its the people who are stuck in a rut in a cubicle with people they hate, moaning all the time that are really mad.

10. Is there anything the Digital Ministry community can do for you?

Spread the word about audiobook streaming being the future, intro me to Australian Publishers, find me an investor for our A round who doesn’t now think I am a crazy ego-maniac, Gates wannabe, Pugilist after this interview.


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