BookLikes is the web version of those helpful hand-written signs you see in book stores that tell you what members of the bookstore staff thought about each book.
Founded in Poland by David Piaskowski, BookLikes is a growing global blogging platform for book lovers that enables users to create personal webpages with a blog, virtual bookshelf and reading timeline. For BookLikes members who are authors can even giveaway their books during contests. We assume this is also true for bookstores that are using BookLikes as a kind of shop window on the web.
Basically, it’s a mix of a Tumblr-like blog platform, book cataloguing site and social network.
BookLikes is available in three languages and gives insight into 12 book databases from 30 international booksellers. They just added a partnership with Indigo books in Canada.
BookLikes beta tests lasted eight months during and is running on Windows Azure. "We decided to build on Azure because it gives possibility of managing huge amount of data in secure environment thanks to efficient storage and virtual machines. We could also configure services to our needs and reduce costs of managing and development of infrastructure what was huge help in global product development," says Piaskowski.
We sat down with Piaskowski and asked him a few questions about his attempt to target the same market currently dominated by companies like GoodReads.
What questions do you and your technical co-founder / engineering team feel are the most important to solve about the business aspects of your company?
The most important thing to solve is the problem of creating great product ready to be explored and evaluated by its users with limited startup budget. Especially with a global product. We had to implement cost savings but never at the expense of quality of our product which is the most important for me and my team. Bizspark Plus helped us a lot in this respect as it offers great services without extra costs.
Where do you include technical members of your team during the building of your business plan?
Telling the truth, at every turn. All members of our team take part in planning service’s development. First we have built MVP and now releasing new features every end of the week. Our ongoing works and future development depend on our users’ requests and suggestions. We’re building BookLikes with them - thanks to this partner-like relationship we’re able to give them exactly what they want and need.
How much of what you are building is based on leaving a legacy and how much of it is based on technical challenges, or the ability to make something just for fun? In other words, where do you fall on the seriousness scale? For fun, for profit, for life?
Business building has it all: legacy, fun, profit. I’m serial entrepreneur and I love setting up new things, including businesses. It’s always great to be able to bring some novelty into tech and biz branch as well as gain new experiences and meet people who inspires you even more. So far I’ve managed to develop my projects on Polish (with Okazjum.pl) and on global (with BookLikes.com) scale. Creating new stuff is always fun, exciting and never boring. It simply represents my way of life. Never enough and always on the highest level.
When did you decide that you were “startup material”?
You can say that I'm a serial entrepreneur. I worked as a business analyst for Allegro Group - the biggest e-commerce company in Central-Eastern Europe but I decided to change corporation for my own projects, startups building and development. My first project was Okazjum.pl which is now a leading Polish site for local search and local promotion search. In the meantime, the idea of creating new kind of service for book lovers arose. That’s how BookLikes appeared.
What impact or legacy do you hope to make in the market and in the business world?
I love creating new stuff and disruptive business models. I wanted to set up a new kind of blog platform for book lovers that would bring new quality into book-social networking. It’s always great satisfaction to see how your product gain appreciation and popularity.
What characteristics do you possess that make you an entrepreneur? What makes your startup a startup?
I’m ambitious and persistent. I always believe in my projects and bringing them on the highest level. Thanks to my teammates who feel the same now I can focus on business development. What makes us a startup? We are really fast - releasing new features every Thursday.
Can you describe the relationship that you have had with Microsoft in building your startup?
We’re happy with our relationship with Microsoft. One of the biggest advantage is possibility of working with high quality technology that let us grow and develop product without extra costs. We have also gained a lot from training sessions, phone advices and Microsofts Team experience. Now I can’t imagine starting next startup without Microsoft.
Why would an entrepreneur turn to Microsoft for help in building scale, a team, or using software?
We have chosen to turn to Microsoft because it gives great tools, technology and experience. Microsoft supports startup development, lets you take advantage of its reach and equipes you in necessary tools to create and develop your business. You can always count on supportive team of people dedicated to help startups grow big.
Tell us about your Azure based solution.
BookLikes is hosted on Azure and we use many of the features that it offers, such as virtual machines to operate MySQL databases and webserver. All machines are placed in virtual network. We also use storage for data collection. The solution is very efficient and provide data protection.
How is Azure implemented in your solution?
We use PHP, Apache Webserver, MySQL databases on several virtual machines to build our solution. We use Azure PHP SDK to take advantage of other Azure services as well.
How did you get excited about Azure?
Azure is very efficient and reliable cloud system. It has simple, though elegant and easy to navigate GUI. We could configure its services to our needs and we could always count on supportive team and help form Microsoft community.
What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?
It is a technical necessity in business of tomorrow. At the beginning you have to implement new technologies which may require a little effort but it’s definitely worth it! Building in the cloud offers efficiency and cost savings. Thanks to innovative solution you can reach wider markets and that brings further development and future benefits.
As a member of BookLikes I wanted to leave a comment that I am very pleased with the "new features" that seem to be coming very quickly and one that I specifically requested. I appreciate that Mr. Piaskowski "hears" us. I am confident that because of this that this fabulous website will become even more popular.