This is our third post as part of the Merchant Spotlight series, where we interview our merchants to glean insight into how they run their businesses. We hope this series will be a great resource to entrepreneurs who are just getting started!
This week, we're catching up with Otis Chandler, founder and CEO at Goodreads. Goodreads is on a mission to get people excited about reading. They have over 5 million members who have added over 150 million books to their shelves making them the largest social network for readers in the world. Members can make and review book recommendations, form book clubs and much more.
How did the company get started and how did you gain momentum in the early days?
Goodreads was founded in 2006 as a way to share book recommendations among friends. We hit a cord with the book blogger crowd who were using blogs to share book recommendations and reviews in an ad-hoc way, and it has been growing and growing ever since. Today we are the worlds largest social network for book lovers, with over 5 million registered users who have shelved over 150 million books.
What were some of the turning points in the company that led to big growth?
A big turning point for Goodreads was the birth of Author Program. Initially we started seeing famous authors signing up as regular members, and we realized we needed a way to make them stand out, so we let them claim their author profile and interact with fans as the author. Today we have a myriad of tools for authors to promote their work, including advance copy giveaways, sponsored books targeted to the right readers, detailed stats on their books, Q&A groups, ebook previews, a facebook tab, and more.
There are tons of business books out there. If you had to choose just one to recommend to someone, what would it be? How did you apply the advice in it to your company?
I've read a fair number of business books, but I generally try to avoid them as I find that you often learn more about business - and life - from fiction books or biographies. if I had to pick one however, I'd go with Positioning by Jack Trout, as it's a must-read for anyone creating a new business.
What is the biggest mistake you've made with the company? How did you overcome it?
Not being aggressive enough. Initially we took a year to launch as we kept part-time jobs to cover the rent, and then when we finally launched a well-funded competitor launched the same week. We overcame that through hard work and listening to our customers.
Are there any principles that your company lives and dies by?
Build something useful.
And a Braintree-related question: What problem did Braintree help you solve, that other payment providers couldn't?
We chose Braintree because or their extensive API and responsive team. In previous companies we had to build a massive entire payment infrastructure that took months of developer time, and Braintree offers all that and more with a quick and easy integration.
What is Otis reading?