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From humble beginnings to a Google favorite: SwiftRead's 2022 success and future aspirations

Defiance, by Troy Shu and Midjourney

I'm proud to announce that SwiftRead has been selected by Google as one of their favorite Chrome extensions of 2022!1 Every year, Google picks its favorite Chrome extensions based on criteria such as extension quality, user delight, and innovation. This recognition caps off a year of hard work towards SwiftRead's mission to improve lives by helping people read better.

In case we haven’t met yet, I’m Troy Shu, the founder of SwiftRead. Earlier this year, I decided to go full-time on this venture and I haven’t looked back. More than 75K people installed SwiftRead in 2022. Now, more than 300K users from 100+ different countries use it to read faster.

I came up with the idea for SwiftRead because I personally struggled with reading. As a student, I found it difficult to keep up with the mountains of reading material that my professors assigned. But I still liked to read instead of listening to lectures or watching videos. The idea for SwiftRead came to me when I wondered, "What if we could speed up reading text, similar to how we might speed up listening to audio or watching a video?" I prototyped my idea as a browser extension and launched it on the Chrome Web Store, not expecting much. I could never have imagined hundreds of thousands of people using SwiftRead, let alone having the pleasure to serve my users as my job, every single day.

One time, I received the following message from a SwiftRead user:

"I had surgeries and weekly visual training appointments my whole life, due to an extremely lazy eye. Every ophthalmologist said that I couldn't do anything about my slower reading speed.

And I believed it. But just last year, I read a research study that suggested rapid serial visual presentation (a reading technique used by SwiftRead) may help. I found SwiftRead, tried it, and I was shocked. I was able to immediately triple my reading speed comfortably. SwiftRead has made such a difference in my life, and I only wish I had known about it earlier."

When I got this message, I had just decided to leave my cushy corporate job to take the risk of working full-time on SwiftRead. I almost cried after I read the note. Why? Because it represented the exact type of message that I want to convey through SwiftRead: that knowledge is the greatest form of power. Because with knowledge, we can empower ourselves to achieve our dreams, no matter what others might label as "limitations". And as the SwiftRead user demonstrated in her message, a lot of that knowledge comes from reading. There's a reason why the tyrants of history always tried to burn books.

In our information-abundant and attention-scarce world, a countless number of ambitious students, professionals, and life-long learners want to absorb information more efficiently. Additionally, over 1 billion people in the world have dyslexia, ADHD, autism, or another condition that makes it difficult to read text as it’s usually presented. Many of these people have already found SwiftRead to be transformative for them. Everyone reads: it’s a critical skill that helps us better understand the world and each other.

Even though SwiftRead has come a long way from when I first created it, it’s still just 'Day One' in terms of what SwiftRead can become. I have some exciting new product experiences planned for 2023--more news coming soon. I'm looking forward to what the future holds. Who knows, maybe in ten years, artificial intelligence will do all of our work for us, and we can sit at home and read (with SwiftRead) all day 😜

If SwiftRead's mission sounds interesting to you, connect with me on LinkedIn or over email.