Where it's based: New York City
When it was founded: 2007
Why it's Fierce: With a full-time staff of just three people, ComiXology's ultimate goal initially appears completely unreachable: dragging the entire comic book industry into the mobile, digital age--while simultaneously preserving the medium's proud print heritage. But upon inspecting the company's progress to date, ComiXology's ambitions seem much less farfetched than, say, zombies destroying civilization (see "The Walking Dead" #1, free in ComiXology's iPhone app).
ComiXology initially launched as a website geared toward connecting comic fans with the shops they patronize. "Pull lists" in fanboy jargon, ComiXology allows comic readers to browse and reserve upcoming books from the comfort of their computers. But it's the company's digital--primarily mobile--efforts that are taking off. With a staff of around a dozen (most are part time) and a seed round of angel financing through New York Angels and Rose Tech Ventures, ComiXology offers two popular iPhone applications: one that allows comic consumers to manage their pull lists and another that offers 1,600 digital comics for download. Perhaps more importantly, ComiXology works on a white-label basis to bring comic publishers into the mobile game with their own, self-branded comic-downloading applications. The company's claim to fame? Working with comic juggernaut Marvel (publisher of Spider-Man, X-Men and the like) to bring Marvel-branded comic apps to the iPhone and iPad.
ComiXology has so far racked up more than 1 million app downloads. What's especially notable about ComiXology is the firm's "locally connected commerce" model, which is clearly driven by its founder's oft-stated love of all things comic book. While most print-to-digital efforts in the publishing space bludgeon the original, printed medium as archaic and outmoded, ComiXology actively works to engage new comic readers with digital products and then push them to nearby, brick-and-mortar comic shops to satisfy piqued interests with the printed page. Though offered separately so as not to overwhelm casual readers, ComiXology's iPhone apps allow users to browse through 150 free comics, purchase digital comics for between $1 and $2 each, and then find local comic shops and reserve printed comics for subsequent pickup. ComiXology is to comics what iTunes is for music, though ComiXology's approach is to nurture the form rather than burn it down.
Proof? ComiXology has commissioned a handful of creators to design comics that take advantage of the digital realm (think action panels that stretch perfectly across an iPhone screen), which are now getting snapped up by traditional, brick-and-mortar comic publishers.
What's next: ComiXology intends to dramatically broaden the scope of its efforts with new iPhone apps like the forthcoming Comics4Kids that is aimed at... wait for it... kids. The company also plans to expand to platforms beyond iPhone and iPad.