The Startup Blog

Adam FortunaAvatar for Adam Fortuna

By Adam Fortuna

3 min read

I’ve always loved reading blogs and other stories that document a companies founding. We’re going to be doing just chat – sharing what we learn and our progress along the way.

For years – decades even – I’ve read stories about people building startups. That included popular articles on Digg, founder stories on Hacker News, growth stories on IndieHackers, episodes of Shark Tank, Gimlets StartUp Podcast, and the occasional post that makes the rounds on Twitter or Reddit.

I read them all. (’s blog was one of my favorites during their early days).

There’s something that resonates so well about blogs during this scrappy state. I could put myself in their shoes and live vicariously. “Yeah, that’s a good decision”. “No! Why are you focusing on that? There’s so much more potential with that other problem!”

It allowed me to have some of the feel of being in that phase of a project with none of the risk.

During most of that time, I was working at a startup myself – Code School. I joined as an early employee back in 2012 a few months after the first lines of code were written. Over the next 3 years (until we were acquired) I got my first real taste of being an early startup employee.

What I loved most was how much you could learn! Every new avenue or problem for the company meant a new problem to solve. The technical problems are obvious ones. How do we run code in the browser in the time before Docker? How do we secure it and prevent server crashes? How do we check people’s code?

Besides those niche-specific topics, everything else was new too. How do you organize teams around innovation? How do you develop a company culture of growth and collaboration? How do you ensure you’re working on the right thing.

Do we use a Mom Test approach, or do we use a Sprint? Do we issue blocks of equity to founders, or do we use a dynamic equity split with the Slicing Pie model?

We’re tackling those questions one at a time as a team. This blog will be the place to share those updates and keep you (who I can only assume is interested in startups at this stage) up to date.

Where We’re Focusing Right Now

After about ~20 interviews with people to understand how they used Goodreads, we’ve started to see a handful of themes stand out. As vast as Goodreads is, there are only a few features that just about everything uses:

  • Research books that are mentioned elsewhere (Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, NY Times, etc).
  • Track what books readers want to read (To Read Shelf)
  • Track when they started or finished a book.
  • Rate and possibly review the book when they’re done.
  • See what books their friends are reading – and if they enjoyed them.

That’s pretty much it. Goodreads has about 7,465 other features, but the vast majority of people are using some subset of these features.

That doesn’t mean Hardcover will be just this. There are other problems readers face that Goodreads doesn’t solve – book discovery, finding your next book to read, and social validation of books just to name a few.

Armed with both those problems and the most commonly used features, we’ve created a prototype and begun showing it to users. As much as I want to share it here, we want to see peoples reactions when we show it to them for the first time. If someone sees something and has time to think about it, their reaction is going to be completely different from a first impression. Part of good product research is nailing that first impression.

Once we’ve iterated on our prototype and have a clear direction in mind, we’ll definitely share some screens here.

If you’re interested in seeing it before that, the best way is to sign up for our email list! We’re always looking for new people to talk to, and it’s your feedback is what will help us build a better product.

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