Award-winning audiobook platform, xigxag (pronounced zigzag) has secured a £500k equity investment from the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund (CIOSIF), as part of a larger £1m funding round.

The funding round was led by the FSE Group, the appointed fund manager for CIOSIF, and includes a number of private angel investors and a successful crowdfunding campaign on the Seedrs platform.

The funding will enable the company, based in Gunnislake in South East Cornwall, to expand the capacity of its development team and broaden its marketing channels with the recruitment of 17 team members over the next three years.

Not just another audiobook platform

We recently caught up with xigxag’s founders, Keli Fairbrother and Mark Chaplin, to find out more about how they’re innovating audiobooks. The duo are evidently incredibly passionate about the tool they’ve built, and as a result are enjoying a series of successes.

There are a handful of unique features that you won’t find on traditional platforms. The first noticeable aspect is that xigxag doesn’t make customers sign up to an inflexible subscription model to get a good price. Kelli explains more, “We reward customers for listening more, so they get better prices the more they buy over the course of a year.”

“They are reinventing the digital book concept and giving customers much more flexibility in how they access and enjoy digital content”

But the thing that really sets xigxag apart from its competitors is that they offer the first ever fully integrated listening and reading experience – and this is where the physical book readers should pay some attention. AI-enabled technology integrates human-voice-narrated audiobooks and ebooks in an exclusive new format called the x-book®. When you’re listening to a book on xigxag, you’re able to read along, see illustrations, look up words you’re unfamiliar with and even take notes for a fully immersive experience.

Customers have access to over 40,000 titles from 15 publishers on the xigxag app. Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Pan Macmillan and Bonnier are among the publishers on board with more in the pipeline and plans for US expansion already underway. For more detail about xigxag and for unique insights on Keli and Marks’s journey, make sure to check out the full interview here.

When we spoke, xigxag had recently closed a £550k crowdfunding campaign, as well as being named as one of Tech Nation’s top 5 early-stage businesses in the Rising Stars competition – following this, xigxag was voted Best New Business in the 2022 Cornwall Business Award.

Having also celebrated 40,000 downloads of the xigxag app, the team looks to have a promising future.

Investing in an immersive experience

On the investment, Meg Salt, Investment Manager at The FSE Group, tells us, “xigxag is in an excellent position within a vibrant sector. Their product is easily scalable and presents real scope for accelerated growth in the near future. We were impressed by the team driving the company forward.

“Management is made up of highly experienced individuals supported by industry-leading advisors who have immense collective knowledge. The business is committed to building the most engaging digital reading app on the market, with the potential to challenge the dominance of physical formats in the £100bn book publishing industry. We look forward to the next chapter of their exciting journey.”

The £40m Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund provides debt and equity finance from £25,000 to £2 million to help growing small businesses across the region. It has been established by the British Business Bank in partnership with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Ken Cooper, Managing Director from the British Business Bank adds, “This is the fund’s largest deal so far this year and has leveraged significant additional investment from angels and a successful crowdfunding campaign. This package will accelerate xigxag’s growth at a critical time in its evolution, including expansion into the US.”

John Acornley, LEP non-executive director and chair of the CIOSIF Advisory Board, comments, “xigxag is another example of a disruptive Cornish tech company using innovation to break new ground in global markets. They are reinventing the digital book concept and giving customers much more flexibility in how they access and enjoy digital content.”

CIOSIF is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

For more information about the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund including how to apply, please check out their website here.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.