Worldreader: Helping Readers Build a Better World

Case Solution

Marco Bertini, Elie Ofek, Julia Kelley
Harvard Business School ()

Founded in 2010, Worldreader was an international non-profit organization promoting reading among children around the world. For many years, Worldreader distributed e-readers to underserved communities and financed its operations primarily through philanthropic donations. In 2019 Worldreader launched the BookSmart mobile reading app, and soon after the idea of ​​a new self-sustaining financing structure emerged: the “flyer.” Worldreader aimed to charge schools and community organizations a monthly subscription fee of $ 6 per child for using BookSmart, with the goal of using the revenue generated to cover operating costs and using philanthropy to cover other strategic priorities. However, Worldreader soon realized that the creditworthiness of potential “customers” varied widely, resulting in several exceptions to the original price. The team also feared the subscription was hampering outreach and contradicting Worldreader’s ultimate goal of influencing millions of children. As co-founder and CEO David Risher and his team prepared for an upcoming meeting with UNICEF, which normally aimed at fixed-price contracts, they considered whether a monthly price per child would be acceptable. In a broader sense, they considered whether they had found the optimal price and funding strategy, and the potential impact of revenue tracking on Worldreader’s ability to apply for international development grants.

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