Startup Profile: Redshelf

Student debt remains one of the pressing issues in higher education today, and the cost of textbooks still plays an important role in the equation. There is a range of edtech startups tackling this issue in different ways, from unbundling textbooks to OER.

Redshelf which just raised a $2 million Series A led by the National Association of College Stores offers a digital distribution platform, enabling students to rent digital textbooks with different durations, offering up to 60% in savings.

Introduce your startup and give a short description of what you are doing.

Through the power of our software platform, the RedShelf goal is to create new efficiencies for digital content discovery, distribution, and consumption in the learning community. RedShelf ​aims to improve the online learning experience and accelerate the transition to digital in ways that support publishers, institutional bookstores, faculty, and students.

Who are the founders, how did you meet, what are your different roles in the startup.

Redshelf Team
The Redshelf team celebrating the Series A round.

Gregory Fenton, Co-founder/CEO & Timothy Haitaian, Co-founder/CFO.

Greg and Tim have been friends since high school and co-founded RedShelf while attending college after they experienced the difficulties of accessing learning content digitally. Greg oversees new business development and product development while Tim manages RedShelf’s operations and finances.

What is the main problem in education that you aim to solve.

We work closely with our publisher partners and aim to provide more affordable eTextbooks for students by offering our digital materials for both lifetime access and ​limited duration options such as​ (90-day, 180-day​, and 360-days​). The limited duration options provide a deeper discount and could offer up to 60% savings compared to a traditional print book.

In addition to affordable course material options we aim to provide the best reader experience through our HTML Cloud eReader.

In which markets / regions are you active. What markets / regions are next.

Students all over the world could purchase and read with RedShelf. Today, we are mainly focused in the higher education space within the USA.

Who is your target audience.

Over the last couple years campus bookstores have seen the rise in digital textbooks. In order for the campus bookstore to compete with online vendors such as Amazon or Chegg, an increasing number are turning to RedShelf to help them compete. RedShelf has more than 160 campus bookstore partnerships, and over 160,000 titles available.

RedShelf has partnerships with thousands of major and independent publishers – more than any of their competitors, and acts as the bridge between the publishers and the the schools. RedShelf is able to offer 20X as many titles as their competitors as a result of these publisher relationships.

RedShelf is able to attract so many publishing partners both because of their wide distribution of affiliated colleges and because their in-house e-reader allows them access to valuable user data which they can then relay back to the publishers.

How do you engage with your target audience. How do you convert them into users of your product.

Our sales team is actively working to build partnerships with publisher and institutional bookstores. For our students we engage mainly on ensuring our options are visible when searching for their course materials to purchase.

What is your business model. How much does your product / service cost.

RedShelf derives about 80% of its sales through retail partnerships with bookstores. The other 20% comes from direct-to-consumer purchases where RedShelf does not work with the local bookstore. While RedShelf can’t share exact revenue numbers, on average it has seen 400% year-over-year growth since 2012.

Who are your main competitors?

Some of our competitors within the college bookstore realm include: Course Smart, Barnes & Noble Yuzu and BryteWave.

If you raised funding, how much did you raise. Who are your investors. If not, are you planning to raise funding.

We’ve recently raised $2M in Series A funding from the National Association of College Stores (NACS) and previous investors.

Are there milestones you are especially proud of and would like to share.

RedShelf grew from 20 bookstores to 160 in 2014!

RedShelf was the first edtech startup to partner directly with all five major academic publishers which included Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Cengage, Macmillan and John Wiley & Sons.

What are the next steps in growing your startup.

RedShelf will use the funding to launch new features and products, improve upon the existing platform, and support new relationships with both publishers and educational institutions.

RedShelf plans to partner with at least 350 bookstores by the end of 2015, building on the explosive growth of 2014.

How can people get in touch with you.
Twitter: @readanywhere

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at