Worldreader: Helping Readers Build a Better World
Founded in 2010, Worldreader was an international nonprofit organization that promoted reading to children around the world. For many years, Worldreader distributed e-readers to under-resourced communities and funded its operations primarily through philanthropic donations. In 2019, Worldreader launched the BookSmart mobile reading application, and soon thereafter came the idea of a new, self-perpetuating funding structure: the "flywheel." Worldreader aimed to charge schools and community-based organizations a $6 monthly subscription fee per child to use BookSmart, with the goal of using earned revenue to sustain operational costs and using philanthropy to cover other strategic priorities. However, Worldreader soon realized that ability to pay varied greatly among potential "customers," leading to several exceptions to the initial price. The team also worried that the subscription hindered achieving scale and conflicted with Worldreader's ultimate goal of impacting millions of children. As Co-Founder and CEO David Risher and his team prepared for an upcoming meeting with UNICEF, which typically sought fixed-price contracts, they considered whether a price per-child, per-month would be acceptable. More broadly, they considered whether they had landed on the optimal price point and funding strategy-and the potential implications of pursuing earned revenue on Worldreader's ability to bid for international development grants.