May 25, 2022

The first rule of BookClub? No boring book clubs. – TechCrunch

Book clubs can be magical. Get a group of friends together, tear up a book and all of a sudden the words have a second life, without paper.

But what if the author could join in the joke? Imagine riffing with Roxane Gay, chatting with Ta-Nehisi Coates and listening to Jhumpa Lahiri. The experience would be like an epilogue, but reserved exclusively for your group of friends.

For those who are intrigued, a new startup from Salt Lake City wants to talk. BookClub was launched today to provide readers with author-run book clubs. The platform will allow authors to join personal book groups, share exclusive video-based interviews, and answer any questions you may have (including cliffhanger complaints).

The startup is founded by familiar names: Degreed co-founders David Blake and Eric Sharp, as well as Degreed’s first product manager, Emily Campbell.

“When you think of Instagram Stories and TikTok, the mainstream social media movement is mostly video-based,” said Blake. “But the world of books has not yet caught up. If you think of Goodreads, it’s kind of like the Internet, around 2010. ”BookClub, he hopes, will lead to more modern experiences with authors who are, at the same time, easily scalable.

To better imagine the experience, see how BookClub produced a video based on the novel “The Suspect” by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen.

Image credits: David blake

Readers can also ask an author to join their club.

Image credits: Reading Club

BookClub takes a MasterClass approach to education and entertainment. MasterClass, which raised $ 100 million in May, sells celebrity-taught classes with a focus on production. For a subscription fee, MasterClass users can learn to cook with Gordon Ramsay or play tennis with Serena Williams.

Blake wants to offer a similar experience, but with authors.

“MasterClass already has authors on their platform, but they all 100% teach the skills to be a good writer,” said Blake. “Our platform is built from the ground up, exclusively for this use case – and will be rich in features that can help tag, explore, chat by characters, themes, questions.”

He hasn’t shared any big author names that BookClub has secured yet, although these partnerships are critical to BookClub’s success.

Blake declined to share specific pricing details, but said it will be a consumer subscription business with shared economic benefits for authors and moderators.

Although the product is pre-launch, Blake is clear on what BookClub is not.

“Rather than doing what’s easier or more accessible, we try to take a step back and say ‘what will it take to unleash the power of a ledger? “” He said. “We give [the book] the justice it deserves, rather than being Zoom for the authors.

One of the great things about Zoom is that it’s already a household name and millions of people have downloaded the client. BookClub will live as a multimedia platform, and not as a downloaded client, and will primarily be mobile. The decision to go mobile over desktop was driven by the fact that most people don’t want to have laptops during their book clubs. Instead, BookClub wants to recreate a FaceTime-like experience with an author.

It has been a loaded pandemic for the co-founders of Degreed, which raised more than $ 32 million in June. In April, the duo founded Learn In, a company that connects to corporate HR software to help decision makers manage their employees’ sabbaticals. The startup raised $ 3.5 million from Album, GSV and Firework Ventures. BookClub will be their third company in the edtech space and their second startup launched in five months.

When asked how he deals with juggling all the startups, Blake simply replied that he “sees 200 days a year and has recovered all that time.” He added that he is now only Degreed in an operational capacity, and will therefore also be splitting his time between Learn In and BookClub. Still, running two startups at the same time is a challenge, as most people can’t even manage one.

BookClub tells TechCrunch that it was successful in securing funding. The startup raised $ 6 million in a funding round led by Maveron. Other investors include Signal Peak Ventures, Pelion Venture Partners, Mike Levinthal, and GSV (a firm that has invested in Blake’s three businesses).

The money will be used for video production costs.

“Unless the author was in the Oprah Book Club, this will be the highest video processing an author has ever received,” he said. “We’re trying to make Hollywood movie levels.”

Join the waiting list here.