Booktagger - Sunday Surprise-II

Continuing in our coverage of bringing more surprise entries, today’s surprise entry is Booktagger

Co-Founded by Jeremy and Rebecca LeBard, Booktagger is a niche web 2 social community for book lovers. Each Booktagger profile is a graphical representation of your physical bookshelf on the internet. The bookshelf can then be shared with friends, family and others searching for the next good read. is the first offering, trading under the entity name Amity Agency, which specializes in the creation of niche web communities.
Jeremy describes:
We hope you'll congregate into book clubs and share reading experiences. Or maybe you'll catalogue all your books and track to whom they've been lent. We are a stand-alone site with a Myspace application due for release shortly.
Jeremy gives us more insights about their startup:
• How it started?
Booktagger started off like any good journey, with a woman. Rebecca, an avid reader and fellow internet addict, could not find a free and appealing service on the internet where she could store
memories of books and share them easily with family and friends.

Jeremy took it as a personal challenge to implement what she was looking for. With Rebecca's continued creative input Jeremy designed a unique way of sharing books that functions more like an application and less like the traditional internet experience. An idea turned into a business entity, Amity Agency. Like any good saga the Booktagger story is just getting started.

Rebecca is an academic at UNSW in the field of molecular biology where she has been working since completing her PhD at Sydney University. Jeremy is an IT professional who has consulted for Microsoft, Avanade and a number of other large Australian institutions.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
18 Months of planning, fundraising and coding

• What stage of your start-up is, stealth mode, beta mode or fully functional?

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
Provide a niche social network for book lovers that leverages into established social communities.

• What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
Booktagger is a free book cataloguing and recommendation application available online.

• What is unique about your venture?
We are the first Australian based Web 2 niche community for book lovers. Booktagger bookshelves are interactive and allow for the easy movement and propagation of books throughout the community.

• What market segment verticals you are targeting for?
Niche social networks for book readers and social book widgets/applications for mature social networks.

What type of customers you are targeting?
We are targeting internet savvy bibliophiles and casual book readers.

• What age group of people will be benefited most?
All ages of literate internet users.

• How many users are using your services?
We currently have 1,200 registered members and 9,000 catalogued books.

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
We have grown our community base with no media spend. All growth has been viral.

How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are their any special mechanisms/tools are in place to monitor the progress?
We measure Booktagger's success based on population interaction and uptake.

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
This is a labor of love. ;)

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
There are none based in the Australian market. However overseas there are several large players that have their own reading communities such as Shelfari, LibraryThing, GoodReads and the Facebook specific Visual Bookshelf. We fill a gap as Australian authored books are often not found in their communities.

• What are the main technologies used behind this start-up?
Php and Mysql.

What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
We haven't used an out of the box technology our community is custom built. However our blog is hosted by WordPress.

• Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
We couldn't have made it as far as we have without open source tool sets.

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
We are using a Linux based platform and Mysql for the database.

• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up. Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
On occasion I run into others starting niche social networks at entrepreneur meetups like Open Coffee in Sydney.

• How much money is needed upfront to start a venture?
How long is a piece of string?

• What are the main barriers in general for people start their venture in Australia?
I believe the main barrier for new ventures is finding early stage investors.

• What are your thoughts on the future trends of your service and market segment you are in?
AC Nielsen released a report in February 2008 outlining online shopping trends. The most sought after items on the internet were books. They also indicated that online product recommendations were the highest growth area for influencing buying decisions. We believe we've captured the right product, books, and mechanism, a social network, for promoting it. Online shopping growth world wide is a high growth sector.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Be passionate, listen carefully and evolve.

Thanks Jeremy for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hear from you in future on the progress of Booktagger. All the best for Booktagger.