Otis Chandler – Founder and CEO of Goodreads

[quote style=”boxed”]By testing them. We embrace MVP, rapid prototyping, A/B testing, and good old fashioned person to person usability testing.[/quote]

Otis Chandler built Goodreads in 2006 because he believed in social networking and wanted to see what his friends were reading. The site has since grown to nearly 5 million members who have added over 150 million books, completely by word of mouth. Goodreads raised a Series A round of funding from True Ventures in the summer of 2009.

Along with a passion for building websites, Otis is also a voracious reader. He started Goodreads as part of a personal goal to read more books, and has found a large core group of people that love reading, and have helped drive the direction of Goodreads. He is an engineer at heart, and loves tinkering and listening to customers in order to make the best product possible.

What are you working on right now?

We spent the last 4 years building tools for readers to find new books, build their virtual libraries, and connect with friends and other readers. I think we have a pretty compelling product today, but in terms of offering a good answer to the question “What should I read next?” I think we are only at the tip of the iceberg. Our mission is to get people excited about reading, and I think the way that generally happens is through social recommendations – so we are working on ways to do book discovery that leverages the wisdom of the masses yet keeps the human element.

3 trends that excite you?

The way we read is going digital. There is no more powerful thing in the world than an idea, and long-form books are the best conveyors of ideas. Yes we are all nostalgic for the feel of print books, but I think we will come around when we see that ideas can be better conveyed through digital, interactive ebooks.

Mobile. In Silicon Valley we take it for granted that everyone has a smart phone now, but it’s not true nationally or globally yet. The exciting thing is how fast that is changing. The possibilities for innovation when we all have location-aware smart-phones in our pockets are endless.

Information. The internet has completely changed the way we find and consume information in just 15 years, and I believe it’s just getting started.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By testing them. We embrace MVP, rapid prototyping, A/B testing, and good old fashioned person to person usability testing. Hiring great people who can do all the above is crucial.

What inspires you?

See change in people’s lives that use our product. People often tell us they love Goodreads because they found so many great books to read, they read more now because of it, and they connected to really interesting readers. I feel fortunate to be the steward of such a thing, and the people who use it are what truly inspires us.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

When I started Goodreads, I bootstrapped it and for a year built it on the side while working half-time at my former job. When I finally launched, a well-funded competitor launched the same week. I wish I would have had the guts to go at it 100% from the start. Next time I won’t worry about how I will pay the the rent – a good idea needs focus and 100% of your execution.

What do you read every day, and why?

I read every night before going to bed. I alternate between fiction books and non-fiction. Sometimes I read Techcrunch, but my favorite Techcrunch article is about how people should read more Science Fiction. I agree!

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Related to the above, I think Dune is excellent, and relevant. For something more modern, The Big Short is a book anyone who lived through the economic depression in 2008 should read.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

We use Lighthouse for a ticketing system and would be lost without it. Dropbox is also amazing and becoming essential, especially as we are located in multiple places.