Written by Andrew Seale
Galo Vargas is well-versed in the storyteller’s struggle. As a budding writer, he grappled not only with getting his stories out but also connecting with readers in the fragmented literary landscape.
“I’ve been an author for eight or nine years (writing) fantasy stories,” says the UX designer/engineer, originally from Ecuador. “But when I wanted to publish them for the first time I really found it difficult to do – it seemed publishers were a little bit reluctant to invest in new writers.”
But Vargas, wasn’t going to let that stunt his growth. He knew he had the skill set – a decade plus as a computer engineer tackling a myriad of development and design projects – and the drive to build his own publishing and storytelling community platform. So he did, launching Inkspired, a self-publishing and social community platform, three years ago in Australia where he was living and working at the time.
Obviously, the first book on Inkspired was Vargas’ but he branched outwards to his social circle.
“I started with my friends in Australia… pretty much all of them were writing and publishing in English,” he says. Without advertising it spread to Russia, his native Latin America and Canada.
“The platform is still new but we have 70,000 users,” he says.
In addition to publishing, Inkspired, lets readers know when new chapters are available or updated, allows storytellers to interact with readers in real-time and get feedback and monetize their stories through monthly or one-time contributions from readers. It also allows photoessays and graphic storytelling.
“I’m targeting emerging writers; people who have the same problem I had, or people who don't have any idea of what they want to write about but they can just get started today, right now,” says Vargas. “The first step of something is just getting started.”
He says he’s watched storytellers “kickstart their career” though the platform.
“They start one chapter and all of a sudden they’ve got traction, a hundred followers or a thousand views… it's quite good to see that.”
The latest milestone for Vargas is relocating to Toronto to join the LatAm startup hub. In the past, he’d participated in an 8-month Start-Up Chile program and spent some time in San Francisco but incorporating in Toronto has been a focus of his since he launched.
“Toronto is really amazing city – the startup ecosystem is very open, the culture is also the most diverse in the world and you have many opportunities,” he says. The multicultural aspect was also a draw, especially for finding talent. “You're going to have different views and tackle the same problem with different perspectives – the city is quite special.”
He admits that although there is a bit of a culture disconnect between the way businesses are run in Latin America and here in North America, his time in Australia, San Francisco and the past month and a half in Toronto has prepared him. And there’s been no shortage of guidance along the way.
“People are really supportive as well… even the government you can see there are a lot of plan’s and support you can receive from them,” says Vargas. “The entrepreneurs I’ve met (are) open to helping you, they're nice and humble – and that’s what makes an ecosystem.