The internet promised quick and reliable access to all kinds of information, but in 2019, finding high-quality, well-vetted educational information is harder than ever.
For people that process information better from reading than they do from watching a YouTube tutorial or listening to a podcast, the options are few and far between for quality “how-to” material that is also searchable. There’s where Holloway comes in.
Holloway is an online publishing startup that focuses primarily on “non-fiction reference material,” according to cofounder and CEO Andy Sparks. Think the famed “For Dummies” series, but on the internet. And on Thursday the startup announced it raised $4.6 million in seed funding to get its materials in front of the internet masses.
“We came to VCs and said look, all the different types of knowledge you find in a library, most of them had a big innovation for the internet,” Sparks told Business Insider. “Encyclopedias had Wikipedia and the dictionary obviously had Dictionary.com. Non-fiction pop business books and fiction are dominated by Kindle. But there’s this whole category of non-fiction reference, things you spend hours studying, and no one has brought that content to the internet.”
Sparks explained that part of the new funding will go towards helping Holloway bring on even more experts to write and edit the guides. Holloway has been working with industry experts like Aditya Agarwal, former CTO of Dropbox, and Jennifer Kim, an advisor with accelerator Y Combinator, with the goal to add more depth and niche areas over time to meet reader demand.
“Knowledge workers don’t get degrees and just have the same job for 10, 20, or 30 years any more. Even four years later, your job is totally different than what you studied in college,” Sparks said. “Millions of people are searching for that kind of stuff so there’s a ton of opportunity for a company to come in and start reliable, well-researched content for those queries.”
Convincing investors to back a content-publishing startup wasn’t an easy feat, Sparks said. Although NEA, The New York Times, and South Park Commons ultimately signed on, Sparks had to lean on reports of recent fundraising success at online Q&A site Quora, now said to be worth $2 billion, to make his case with VCs.
“There was a lot of skepticism around book publishing, but this was also around the time Quora started raising,” Sparks said. “Subscriptions were starting to be a bigger deal. So we pitched it like, hey, this is a bet someone should work on.”
Here’s how Sparks won over the investors backing Holloway’s seed round.