From Startups to Publishing Companies Ripe for Expansion: What Are Investors in the Publishing Sector Looking For?

Jeff Shelstad (Flat World Knowledge, Inc. ), Linda Holliday (Semi-Linear, New York Angels), Mark Jacobsen (O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures), Stephen Koenig (Interweave), Brian Rich (Catalyst Investors), Rick Richter (Ruckus Media)
General New York West
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This panel of venture capitalists, private equity funders, publishing startups and established publishers whose growth was made possible through equity investments will share their experiences, offer advice to others in the same boats, and discuss the pros and cons of publishers and investors working together.

Photo of Jeff Shelstad

Jeff Shelstad

Flat World Knowledge, Inc.

Jeff is the Co-founder and CEO of Flat World Knowledge, the largest publisher of free and open college textbooks for students worldwide. In January, Flat World announced a $15 million Series B funding round led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG and Bessemer Venture Partners. Prior, the company raised over $11.5 million in private investment capital.

Before setting out to disrupt the $8 billion college textbook publishing industry, Jeff served in various editorial and senior management positions in higher education publishing. He was Vice President and Editorial Director at Pearson Education and Publisher at McGraw-Hill. He has personally acquired some of the most successful business textbook authors in print today.

A proud native Minnesotan, Jeff graduated from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management in 1987 (Go Gophers!) and later received his Executive MBA from Duke University in 2004.

Photo of Linda Holliday

Linda Holliday

Semi-Linear, New York Angels

Linda Holliday is a media, internet and marketing veteran, serial-entrepreneur and active angel investor in digital media companies including Comixology, ScrollMotion and Organized Wisdom. She recently formed a start-up to publish serious non-fiction mobile apps. Founder and former president of Medical Broadcasting Company, now Digitas Health, a Publicis Company.

The company, a digital pioneer, built more than 1000 web sites, ran complex relationship programs on and off-line, designed robust educational programs and led industry efforts with major media and search companies. In addition to general executive responsibilities as President of MBC, Linda also led marketing, media, innovation, and business development. Digitas Health now operates with more that 500 employees out of 4 cities.

Linda’s digital communications passions include search, user experience and information architecture. A contributor to TED conference founder Richard Wurman’s Understanding series, she has been recognized for bringing fresh thinking to traditional and new media. Linda is an active advisor-consultant whose interests still center on the intersection between old and new media.

In addition to helping clients such as Johnson and Johnson launch various new products and businesses, She also successfully created and exited a thought-leading internet business intelligence company (ePharmaceuticals) as well as a production business that produced syndicated television programs (including Bodysense hosted by Mike Rowe.)

After receiving a BFA from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Wharton School, Linda led marketing for a nationally known commercial, film and Imax film production company and for several Cablevision sports channels.

Photo of Mark  Jacobsen

Mark Jacobsen

O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures

Mark is a co-founder and managing director of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (“OATV”), which has raised two funds and has over $100M under management. Prior to OATV, Mark was the EVP for New Ventures and Business Development at O’Reilly Media, and managed its investment portfolio. While at O’Reilly, he also had extensive operational experience including managing two startup companies, and overseeing O’Reilly’s conferences business, as well as responsibility for most business development and strategic relationships. Mark is currently a board member of CollabNet, Instructables, O’Reilly Media, TripIt, AMEE, Path Intelligence and LocalDirt, and a board observer of Chumby Industries. Mark holds a J.D from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. from St. Olaf College.

Photo of Stephen Koenig

Stephen Koenig


Interweave, a 35 year-old media company with private equity backing has successfully transformed its business model since 2005 from a traditional print publishing company into an integrated enthusiast media company serving the art and craft markets. As a result of this transformation, Interweave has experienced more than 300% growth since 2005 and has expanded their product mix to include events, digital video, TV, online communities, digital downloads, eBooks, eMags and apps.

Prior to joining Interweave where he oversees the book publishing, eCommerce and retail sales divisions, Koenig was with F+W Media and Harris Infosource, a DnB company. Koenig proudly got his start at as bookseller at an independent bookstore in Cincinnati and now lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with a growing brood of readers and technophiles.

Photo of Brian Rich

Brian Rich

Catalyst Investors

Mr. Rich is responsible for the general management and investment policy of Catalyst and oversees the management of each fund portfolio.

Prior to co-founding Catalyst, Mr. Rich founded and managed TD Capital (USA) Inc. (“TD Capital”), the entity that made Toronto Dominion Bank’s U.S.-based equity, mezzanine, and limited partnership investments from 1995 to 1999. As group head, he oversaw approximately 40 investments totaling more than $600 million. Before founding TD Capital, Mr. Rich was a Managing Director in the bank’s Media, Telecom & Technology Group. Prior to joining TD in 1990, Mr. Rich held positions at The Bank of New York and Intel Corporation.

Mr. Rich earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.

Photo of Rick Richter

Rick Richter

Ruckus Media

A leader in children’s intellectual property development and a seasoned publishing executive, Rick served most recently as as President and Publisher of the Simon & Schuster Children’s Division (1996 – 2008). There he established the company as a consistent award-winning children’s and young adult publisher of many bestselling brands, including Olivia (Nickelodeon, Spring ‘09) and The Spiderwick Chronicles (Paramount, ‘08), He’s Just Not That Into You (New Line, ‘08) and Yes, Man (Warner Bros ‘08). In 1990, Rick co-founded Candlewick Press, the prestigious children’s publisher based in Boston. "The goal of Ruckus is to combine the most creative minds in children’s media with tremendously exciting new mobile devices. We’ll be satisfied when a mom or dad can hand their phone or tablet to their child without one ounce of guilt, knowing that the experience the child is about to have will entertain them, challenge them, perhaps make them giggle, and be utterly satisfying.

  • Ingram Content Group
  • Qualcomm
  • codeMantra
  • Impelsys Inc.
  • Aptara
  • Bowker
  • Connotate
  • HP
  • Jouve North America
  • LibreDigital
  • Malloy
  • MarkLogic
  • Random House, Inc.
  • SPi Global
  • Sterling Commerce
  • Baker & Taylor
  • The BookMasters Group
  • Constellation
  • Jacquette Consulting
  • Mashery
  • Silverchair
  • Wolfram
  • Smashwords, Inc.

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