TheReadingRoom, an independent social platform that allows users to share their favourite books and access reviews, has raised $US2.75 million from shareholders to improve the platform and invest in marketing to grow its community of users.
Launched in Australia in 2009 by founder and chief executive Kim Anderson, the platform currently has 700,000 members, with 75% of those in North America, 15% in the United Kingdom and the rest in Australia.
Anderson told StartupSmart the business had focused on developing a global audience, with much of the growth in membership coming from word-of-mouth.
She says she sees the demise of the physical bookstore in the future, “which is why it’s important to take that independence online”.
“There aren’t actually that many truly independent sites out there about reading and the love of books.”
The website also allows users to connect with other readers, share their reading experiences, recommend books to each other, join online reading groups and track favourite authors.
Anderson, who’s had a career in publishing in Australia and the US and is a non-executive director of online car classifieds website carsales.com.au, says TheReadingRoom has grown from its difficult early days.
“I always say when we launched our alpha we got it 90% wrong and our beta was 70% wrong,” she says. “We made poor decisions on the technology platform originally.”
She says the problems forced the company to “face our demons” early on and help them make better decisions.
A lesson she’s learnt is the need to have good technical people on board and people who understand the markets you are seeking to enter.
Anderson also warns other start-ups to not focus on money in their early days.
“If you focus on the money you won’t achieve what you want to achieve,” she says.
“You’ve got to focus on being successful and having a first class product, the rest will happen.”
TheReadingRoom has also announced it will move its sales and marketing team, including Anderson, to its office in New York.