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This Startup Turns Office Book Club Into An Employee Challenge

by Muriel Vega

Back in 2006, after amassing a library of business books, Arnie Malham brought them into his 30-person advertising firm to share with colleagues. After only a few folks grabbed the books, Malham, who was president of the firm, decided to add in incentives through monetary rewards and point values.

“I got frustrated, because I knew how much great knowledge was in the books, so I started adding amounts of money from $25-$100 to encourage the young staff with cash incentives,” says Malham. 

“It helped build the team, which helped build my company and its culture. We developed an in-house program of who read what, how much they got paid and their earned points,” says Malham. “In conversations with other people outside the office, they would want to do it in their company too.”

That’s how BetterBookClub came together — a customizable web application where employees can earn rewards for reading the company’s book list, keep track of their reading history and recommend books to co-workers.

The startup bills itself as an employer benefit — a lack of opportunities for development and training can lead to high turnover and low motivation. A recent Gallup survey found that 87 percent of millennials see professional development and career growth as very important.

The platform gamifies that job development and training by providing a company-approved list of recommended titles that align with its values and goals, as well as encourage skill set growth. After the employee finishes their selected book, they submit a short “book report” to earn the points.

Members can see where they stand in the company, how many points they have, and leave ratings for others to see internally — channeling the feeling of community and team building of regular book clubs.

The platform is free for small organizations, up to 12 individuals. For larger enterprises, the subscription consists of $1/per user per month.

In the last 12 months, Malham has sold both of his other businesses to jump head first into leading BetterBookClub full-time. The startup now boasts clients in 26 countries across Europe, Australia and North America with more than 3,000 books added to reading queues.

“We do not have a marketing problem. We have an implementation problem because our platform is not yet what it needs to be and we need to fund that improvement,” says Malham.

“The history data that we will collect across all of these companies will be the ultimate win because we will understand favorite books and authors, by region, by team member type — data that no one else has. Amazon knows what you buy, but not what you actually read.”

Next up, the Nashville-based founder is looking to raise a seed round to focus on that product development — he’s developing the next iteration of the platform with better UX/UI and more customizable features to offer clients.

“Following this, we will be undergoing three big rounds of software development to make the platform mobile, more intuitive and more gamified,” says Malham.

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