Talking Tom Cat app on phone

Book review: ‘7 Unicorn Drive’ by Dani Polajnar

Image credit: Seemanta Dutta/Dreamstime

The adventure of Iza and Samo Login, taking a talking cat app from startup to a billion-dollar sale in seven years.

The modern tech fairy tale is of course these days redefined as that of start-up to philanthropist. Though not quite rags-to-riches in the conventional sense, author Dani Polajnar’s account of his friends’ – the appropriately named Mr and Mrs Login – seven-year journey to a billion bucks on the back of a kid’s anthropomorphic cat app, is certainly a tale of what you can achieve in business if you have sufficient ambition, energy and luck.

Starting with a vision to become rich enough to change the world through good deeds, the Slovenian husband-and-wife duo Iza and Samo Login invested their savings, a quarter of a million US dollars pieced together from their careers as IT specialists, in their enterprise and created Slovenia’s first genuine unicorn, which is corporate-speak for a billion-dollar start-up company. Within seven years, Outfit7 and Talking Tom Cat had been sold to a consortium of Chinese investors, and the Logins became the richest couple in Slovenia.

No-one could ever dispute the success of Talking Tom Cat, which went on to become the number one app in more than a hundred countries, today has 580 million monthly subscribers, and whose YouTube channel has garnered more than two billion views. But where ‘7 Unicorn Drive: From Startup to a Billion Dollar Sale in 7 Years’ (Aphrodite, £15, ISBN 9789925773121) seems to be less convincing is in the author’s wide-eyed insistence that this success was preordained, written in the stars from the word go, and that the Logins’ gentle and holistic approach to business (apparently, they use both meditation and ‘manifestation’ as leadership tools) has a causal relationship to their success.

Which may be the case; it’s just that the relentlessly expositional narrative with its continual post-event rationalisation creates mild doubt where probably none need exist. It’s a great story, so it’s a shame that it’s been written in the schmaltzy idiom of a Hollywood movie script.

To be fair to Polajnar, this isn’t a dealbreaker. His story rattles along at a pace that shows just how fast things can move when your app takes off. It’s also a parable of our times, in which you can’t help feeling their meteoric rise is richly deserved because the Logins are people with strong personal ethics, a sense of global responsibility and who are prepared to give their time to the future benefit of others. The fact that they are investing their unimaginable wealth into the development of sustainable food initiatives, while exploring ways of addressing climate change, points to a seriousness of purpose that you just have to admire.

In keeping with the fairy tale theme, parallel to the Cinderella motif we have the frog-turns-into-prince story, or more accurately, cat-turns-into-philanthropist. Which is a good thing, because no matter how much we admire the Logins, their original product – the wisecracking, adventure-seeking virtual Talking Tom Cat – was so mind-bogglingly trivial that if they’d just created personal wealth, it would be hard to like them as much as we do.

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