Meet the founder of Lix, an e-learning platform taking on the elephantine academic publishing industry
If you search for the name Camilla Hessellund Lastein online, you will find a TED talk called “What I want to be when I die”.
In it Hessellund Lastein, a slight 24-year old from Denmark, confesses she is already terrified of dying: “I am terrified of leaving this world without making an impression.”
Hessellund Lastein needn’t be so worried. Her education startup, Lix, is taking on the elephantine academic publishing industry by building an e-learning platform that is safe from piracy.
Lix claims to have acquired up to 50 per cent of UK textbooks for digitisation, despite only just having launched in the UK. With the advent of digital textbooks, Lix is on a mission to end students carrying heavy materials between classes and spending a fortune on textbooks when they really only need one chapter.
The idea has proved popular with investors. Lix has just closed a $5.4m (£3.9m) round of investment led by Danish entrepreneurs David Helgason, founder of games engine Unity, cloud-computing innovator Tommy Ahlers, and Anders Holch Povlsen of Bestseller, a multibillion dollar global retail company, and the second biggest private landowner in the UK. That brings its total funding to $7.5m – a lot of cash behind what Camilla herself admits is not a very sexy business.
The idea for Lix came to Hessellund Lastein when she was studying business and economics at university. She remembers the frustration of trying to find a formula she had forgotten the name of in a textbook during an exam.
“I was so frustrated because I knew the answer but I couldn’t find it,” she says. “I use Spotify and Netflix and I thought, ‘Why isn’t there one for textbooks?’ It’s very simple. I later found out that many people had tried and failed.”
The “Spotify for textbooks” has been a harder sell for publishers. A few companies have gained traction. In the UK, Bournemouth-based Kortext has contracts with universities including Leeds and Plymouth to provide students with access to thousands of textbooks and universities with data to see how students are interacting with the text. In the US, VitalSource provides e-textbooks from 500 global academic publishers.
These platforms must compete for rights from academic publishers that hold the keys to educational texts. Streaming has been accused of destroying the music publishing industry’s ability to make money out of its catalogue. It’s hard to see how a similar platform could appeal to publishers in a different sector.