Canadian Startup Marmalades Wants To Take the A.D.D. Out of Reading

Five guys and their giant brown bear mascot Gary are about to change e-reading as we know it.

Marmalades is an app for all ebook formats. Using contextual search results from places like YouTube, Google Earth, Instagram, Twitter and others, the app fetches the most relevant content for words or concepts that a reader desires more information about. It uses a Natural Language Processing algorithm developed by Avant-Garde Solutions, a Montreal-based technology agency that makes up four of the team’s five members.

Chief marketing officer Jeff Lizotte said the idea came about last summer when he met Avant-Garde founder Mathieu O’Connor.

Lizotte was reading “Un Roman Français” by Frédéric Beigbeder at the time. He thought, “wouldn’t it be amazing to see the places and the names he mentions in the book?” O’Connor said when faced with the same situation he would end up on Wikipedia for hours. Sometimes he wouldn’t even return to reading the book. Surely others could relate to the problem.

“I saw people reading books and reading tablets on the metro and there’s no real difference between the two except that you can save trees and you can stack them on your tablet,” Lizotte told Techvibes. “What’s the big difference?”

In no time the team brought along Gary. The story goes that he was an “unemployed mascot who lost his way in alcohol after his ex dumped him for a Nickelback roadie.” The team offered him the chance to represent Marmalades on the promise he would drop the bottle and 50 pounds. By all accounts the organic marketing push has worked out in the team’s favour thus far.

Marmalades is focusing on a marketing and content plan with a twist, feeling that traditional advertising is full of too much noise. They’re doing this through an impressively designed website, a lively blog and even a recent one-minute video showing how the product is used with the literary classic, The Great Gatsby. Meanwhile Gary occasionally forays into downtown Montreal, spreading the word and engaging with kids and passersby’s.



For Marmalades, it beats entering keywords in Google Adsense and “hoping for the best.”

“What we want to build is a loyal fan base, a group of people who care about what we do but especially about reading books in a new way,” said O’Connor. “I think that you can only engage people when they’re truly interested in what you do, not when you send them newsletter after newsletter to tell them to sign up.”

For the 26-year-old Lizotte, the man who produced tv shows at the age of 16 and “didn’t know anything about it,” the project deserves to blow up. The public beta launch is expected to come in about six weeks.

In the mean time they are pursuing funding, but Lizotte was adamant that it is not a major concern.

“We don’t care about the money, we want to change the way people read books, we have a cool idea and we have a kick-ass team,” he noted. “It’s like a responsibility now because we have the technology and we have the team so we just have to make it happen.”

O’Connor agrees, saying that they could have already launched their “love project” and gained instant gratification. “The goal is to change the way people actually enjoy things,” affirmed the 25-year-old. “For us it’s an investment in learning and it’s an exercise in creativity and problem solving.”

Marmalades is rounded out with art director Guillaume Avarguez, chief technology officer Mathieu Rene, and web developer Seraphin Hochart.