Content curated with a human touch: Bookshlf
If you are an avid reader, you have probably run into the problem of having too much to read and not enough time to read, especially if you are carrying out your work and family responsibilities. So it makes sense that in the age of conservation something will come about selecting the best items for your interest.
Mike Abend, CEO of Library. His company approaches curation differently than you would see with technology platforms, choosing instead to use humans to make choices rather than algorithms. It’s an interesting approach if you’re skeptical of the quality of the content you’re seeing, and Mike and his co-founders seem to have found an okay audience.
Marie Juetten: When did you start?
Mike Abend: My co-founders and I first logged in at an SXSW happy hour – Andrew and Justin had previously worked together at an arts agency, and Justin and I were in the process of creating the influencer marketing division for the multi-channel network where we worked. We were all optimistic about the digital creator space, but also frustrated with the types of content that are most “successful” on digital platforms. After the conference, we agreed to use the nights / weekends to further explore the concept, and for over a year we exchanged emails and phone calls, and thought about how to create a better content platform, eventually unanimously agreeing that curation was the answer to the problem. In early 2019, we had an MVP and started lifting a pre-boot round, leading up to our public beta launch (web and iOS) in March 2020.
Juetten: What problem are you solving?
A bend: Our media ecosystem is flawed. We have access to more information, content and creativity than at any point in history, but the most popular platforms only focus on a tiny fraction of that content depending on what fits. to their algorithms: titles, discord, negativity and personal promotion. We founded Bookshlf on the fundamental belief that when it comes to sharing content with knowledge, tastes and expertise, human curation is better than algorithms. Bookshlf users organize their favorite content (articles, videos, podcasts, books, music, tweets, and more) in separate shelves, and your Bookshlf is made up of all the shelves you organize and all the shelves you follow.
Bookshlf curators can generally be classified into one of three categories: Experts (NASA engineers, academics, scientists); Digital creators (podcasters, journalists, Medium editors, Substack editors); or Enthusiasts (amateurs, fans, passionate content consumers).
Curators have a simple, beautiful, and easy-to-use platform to share all the amazing content they are already consuming, and as Bookshlf begins to grow its user base, Curators have been able to create an audience that appreciates. their unique curation. Most recently, we introduced curator monetization to allow Bookshlf users to tip their favorite curators and show support with their wallet. Tipping seems like a popular option right now for the creator economy, but we see it as the first business model we are integrating for our curators as part of the passion economy.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
A bend: Our clients can be divided into two overlapping categories: Preservatives and Consumers.
Either the Conservatives find us or we do direct outreach to keep adding new members to the community. We’re usually looking for people who are already active on a digital platform but aren’t a good match for the type of content that works best on that platform. For example, we were able to build an amazing community of STEM curators because it’s actually really hard to create science / tech / engineering / math content on Instagram and Twitter. There was a whole community of #STEMINISTS and science communicators who were eager to work with Bookshlf as it provided a better tool to express their unique value proposition.
Consumers would likely be part of the audience that 20 years ago subscribed to magazines or trade publications. One word tends to appear often in their biography: “constant learners”. I think the main users of Bookshlf are people who want to see quality content on a variety of topics, from multiple perspectives and from verified sources. They seem to understand that you probably won’t see the content curated on Bookshlf anywhere else. To reach new customers, our audience acquisition strategy is focused on organic growth via integrated acquisition loops, supplemented by SEO and partnerships.
Juetten: How have past projects and / or experience helped this new project?
A bend: We all have significant experience in the digital creator space – we’ve worked with the biggest influencers in the industry, made deals with each of the major social media platforms, and assisted / led the growth of an entire industry that didn’t exist. not 10 years ago. But instead of being frustrated with the limitations of the status quo, we saw an opportunity to use our background and expertise to create a better content experience.
We knew what was important to digital creators and what motivated them because we had worked with them for years. We understood the existing loopholes in social media platforms because we had already been forced to build business models around them. And we knew there was a huge community of creators that weren’t served by traditional content platforms and were looking for a different way to express themselves.
Juetten: Who is in your team?
A bend: There are three co-founders, and while we each have some direct responsibilities, I want to stress that we are very collaborative and operate by consensus. I have legal training and am CEO and responsible for technical / product management. Co-Founder Justin Cadelago leads Audience and Growth and is also the Community Manager for our Curators, and Co-Founder Andrew Boggs is Editor-in-Chief and Community Manager for Consumers.
Juetten: Did you raise any money?
A bend: We raised $ 500,000 in pre-seed funding from friends / family / angels / micro VCs. Some of our investors also act as advisors to the company, such as David A. Steinberg, Founder and CEO of Zeta Global (a leading data / marketing company).
Now that we have validated our basic hypothesis, we are starting to consider a Seed increase to scale the platform and incorporate additional monetization strategies.
Juetten: How do you measure success and what is your favorite success story?
A bend: We see success as a real added value for our users and an experience that leaves them better than when they started using our product. The emphasis is on “time spent on the platform” or “engagement” as measures of success, but these are often trough or lead to negative results. My favorite success story is probably Wikipedia – built on the belief that the best source of knowledge comes from the crowd, verified by our peers, coordinated via a “wiki”. The amount of information and knowledge I gained from their library is unquantifiable, I can’t even imagine what it would cost if it were offered in an academic setting. Anyone in the world now has access to great information and context on almost anything, as long as you’re curious and willing to seek it out. Free.
Juetten: Any tips for startup founders or CEOs in growth mode?
A bend: Don’t get addicted to paid acquisition. It’s easy to feel good about the top user growth you pay for, but that’s not how you scale a platform and, in the end, it’s not sustainable. You need to make sure your users are excited about your product, activated and retained, and attract additional users to start the elusive ‘growth flywheel’. This doesn’t happen by simply paying for new users. People have to love what you are building.
Juetten: And of course, IP challenges or horror stories to share? They can be anonymous.
A bend: We featured a well-known VC on our pre-screening round, which included a partner as well as a summer intern. The pitch went well and they liked our product, but in the end they let the opportunity pass because we were too early for them. A few weeks later, I got a Twitter message that alerted me to a beta website named something like “Shlf.com,” which allowed users to keep their favorite content on separate “shelves”. It wasn’t the first time someone pulled out our idea, but when I delved into the project I realized that the person behind was the summer intern we proposed! I called the partner and let him know what was going on, and he was very helpful and apologized for the situation. The site was closed shortly after and we never heard from them again.
Juetten: What is the long term vision for your business?
A bend: Just like when you used to walk into someone’s house and see what was in their actual library – the books, records, movies, and things that were important to them – we want to create the same experience for the digital world.
Ultimately, we are the platform for curating and sharing important, relevant, and quality content based on unique perspectives – where digital creators build audiences and monetize their unique curation around topics they are passionate about. In the process, we are building the best technology for curators and consumers, and building the Internet’s largest library of organized and contextualized content.
As an avid reader and constant consumer of knowledge, I love it! And for those of us who look askance at what’s being promoted at the top of our feeds, it’s the hope for a better and hopefully smarter experience. #From.