The Story of getAbstract

The Idea

getAbstract officially began in 1999, when Thomas Bergen (CEO), Patrick Brigger (Chairman) and Rolf Dobelli 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, they noticed that many other executives faced the same dilemma that had challenged their schoolmates: an ever-increasing amount of books and limited time to absorb them.

getAbstract’s Values

getAbstract was founded upon five values, which reflect the goals of the founders and the spirit of the company:

  1. "Purpose – we contribute to better decision making."
  2. "Professionalism – in everything we do."
  3. "Fairness – among ourselves, and with our employees, clients and partners."
  4. "Profit – we strive for higher than average returns on invested capital."
  5. "Fun – we have an average of only 28,000 days on this planet. We better make it fun."

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 disappointing surprise when, at the end of the day, sales were exactly zero. They realized that to provide an outstanding product, you need to offer exceptional customer service and impeccable quality. As getAbstract became better known, its customer base started to grow steadily and has continued to grow 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 650 publishing partners and employs 120 writers.

Soon after its launch, getAbstract received requests from the media for book reviews, because "no other company reviews as many books as getAbstract". getAbstract now provides reviews for many prestigious publications, such as The Economist EIU, Shanghai Daily, Revista Lideres, 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 classic books of world literature.
  • From 2006 to 2011, getAbstract increased the number of languages to seven by adding Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
  • In 2012, an important milestone was reached when the 10,000th summary was completed and posted online.
  • In 2013 getAbstract announced the availability of TED Talk summaries and introduced Compressed Economics that offers the most relevant financial reports from the most respected institutions and think tanks.
  • In 2014, the scope of "compressed knowledge" substantially widened: in addition to books, the company also starts to summarize reports, articles, many video sources and blogs from the web.
  • In 2015, with new partners in South America and Australia, the sales reach keeps expanding.
  • New tools, such as the well used "Flyer" tool and the recently introduced "Learning configurator", increase the usability and efficiency for learning in organisations.

getAbstract Goes Global

getAbstract has rapidly expanded its reach into Africa, Australia, China, Latin America and Russia. To serve our global audience even better, getAbstract summaries are available in Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Throughout its growth, getAbstract has remained devoted to its original mission of providing clients with essential information from the best business books.

New Faces, New Places

In keeping with its five core values, getAbstract put together a team of highly dedicated, bright individuals with complementary skills in order to create a robust company capable of delivering best-of-class products.

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 opened offices in New York, Miami and Luzern. getAbstract’s U.S. headquarters are now in Aventura, Florida, and the Swiss headquarters in Luzern.