A few years ago, Asi Sharabi was thumbing through a children’s book his 3-year-old daughter received as a gift, trying to assess whether it was worthy of her bedtime rotation. This particular story had a trick to it, something Sharabi had never seen before. Prior to printing, it was personalized to include his daughter’s name on some pages. “I got the warm and fuzzy feeling of seeing my daughter’s name,” Sharabi says. “But it lasted exactly two seconds. The book was total garbage.”
It was 2012, and Sharabi was running a small ad-consulting firm in London. Around the same time, he’d read The Lean Startup by the American entrepreneur Eric Ries, who advocates that new companies adhere to a strict methodology, emphasizing things such as data-driven experimentation and iterative product releases. As Sharabi pondered his daughter’s book—powerful concept, shoddy execution—he thought Ries’s ideas might apply. Sharabi did some online research and learned that personalized children’s books had been around for decades, at least since the 1970s. But much of the technology, if you could even call it that, had remained static. The genre lacked any seminal texts. So he convened a small team of partners, consisting of writer David Cadji-Newby, illustrator Pedro Serapicos, and technologist Tal Oron. They set out to create a uniquely customizable—and, ideally, awe-inspiring—children’s book.