The Story of getAbstract
getAbstract officially began in 1999, when Rolf Dobelli (Chairman), Thomas Bergen (CEO) and Patrick Brigger (CTO) joined to build a business around an idea. However, the company’s story dates back years earlier. The three founders were high school friends who always dreamed of working together. The inspiration behind getAbstract emerged during the founders’ time at university. Like many students, the three learned by writing their own summaries of academic texts – and others would often borrow those summaries as study aids. After some years in the global business arena, Rolf noticed that many other executives faced the same dilemma that had challenged his schoolmates: an ever-increasing amount of books and limited time to absorb them. Rolf immediately contacted Thomas with the idea and Pat joined shortly thereafter.
getAbstract was founded upon five values, which reflect the goals of the founders and the spirit of the company:
- "World class standards – in all that we do."
- "Fairness – amongst ourselves, and with our employees, clients and partners."
- "Fun – we have an average of only 28,000 days on this planet. We better make it fun."
- "Profit – we strive for higher than average returns on invested capital."
- "Explicitness – clarity and openness in all our dealings – internal and external."
A Story of Growth
In 1999, the company made an agreement with its first publishing partner, Bloomberg Press. After writing the first summary (appropriately on Bill Gates’ Business @ the Speed of Thought), Rolf recognized the need for professional writing and editing, and began recruiting. In the meantime, Thomas began marketing the company, hiring a sales team, and establishing sound procedures and policies while Patrick set up the IT infrastructure, recruited technical engineers, established security procedures and started encoding the website.
getAbstract went live on January 15, 2000, with fewer than 100 summaries. After all the planning, phone calls and preparation, the entire getAbstract team had high expectations. Early in the morning, staffers switched on their computers and eagerly watched their screens, waiting for their first customers. They waited…and waited…and waited. It was a bitter surprise when, at the end of the day, sales were exactly zero. However, they opened a bottle of champagne and celebrated that memorable opening. Business picked up almost immediately thereafter, ending the wait and initiating the next stage of work. The company has consistently grown ever since. It has sold millions of licenses worldwide, granting users access to its library consisting of thousands of summaries. getAbstract currently has more than 400 publishing partners and employs 120 writers.
Soon after its launch, getAbstract received requests from the media for book reviews, because "no other company reads as many books as getAbstract". getAbstract now provides reviews for many prestigious publications, such as The Economist, Shanghai Daily, Mint, Washington Post and more.
getAbstract has since launched other initiatives that build on its core competencies:
- Since 2001, the getAbstract International Book Award has distinguished authors and publishers of business books that have made a significant impact worldwide. The winners include Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Robert Shiller, Benoît Mandelbrot and Chris Anderson, as well as their publishers.
- From 2002 to 2009, getAbstract presented business books in a weekly book show on Bloomberg TV Germany. The show won the Frankfurt Book Fair media award in 2008.
- From 2003 to 2007, getAbstract summarized speeches for the ISC symposium at the University of St. Gallen and the World Business Forum.
- Since 2005, getAbstract has been producing audio recordings of summaries in German and English.
- In 2005, the company began creating German summaries of Western classic books.
getAbstract Goes Global
getAbstract is rapidly expanding its reach into Australia, Africa, Latin America, Russia and China. To serve our global audience even better, getAbstract summaries are also available in Spanish, Russian, Chinese, French and Portuguese.
Throughout growth and change, getAbstract has remained devoted to its original mission of providing clients with essential information from the best business books. The company remains privately held by the three founders.
New Faces, New Places
In 2000, the management team welcomed Arnhild Walz-Rasilier as the vice president of rights. And in 2007, Marlis Bieri joined the management team as Chief Financial Officer.
In keeping with its five core values, getAbstract put together a team of highly dedicated, bright individuals with interesting personalities who were also fun to be around – in short, the "best of the best."
When getAbstract was first founded, it had offices in the United States and in Switzerland – located in the living rooms of the founders’ homes. Since then, it has occupied office spaces in Miami, Manhattan and Luzern. Currently, the American headquarters are in Aventura, Florida, and the Swiss headquarters are in Luzern.