How Two Best Friends Started a Side Hustle Recommending Books –

How Two Best Friends Started a Side Hustle Recommending Books –

Hey! Who are you and what company did you start?

Hey! My name is Richard Reis and I am the founder of Most Recommended Books (MRB for short).

We help you discover books recommended by the world’s most influential people.

So if you’ve ever looked at someone you admire and wondered β€œWhat books does he/she recommend?”, with 500+ experts and 6,000+ books, chances are we have the answer.

Some of our most popular lists are: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Marine Ravikant.

Feel free to check out any of them! Or find someone you admire here.

What is your background and how did you come up with the idea?

The story of MRB goes all the way back to 2018.

I wrote a message that became one of Medium’s top 10 of all time. That’s when I first realized that I might have a knack for making things that people like (be it a blog post or an app, some projects even went viral).

That day my best friend, Anurag, and I decided to work together.

Our skills are very complementary, so it made sense to join forces.


But what to build? And how can we avoid becoming another Silicon Valley failure?

The answer came to me while reading this scene The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick, describing Mark Zuckerberg’s time at Harvard:

β€œ[Mark Zuckerberg] also worked on projects of others.

After the Facemash episode, he repaired fences with the Association of Harvard Black Women by helping them set up their own website. And for a while he teamed up with three seniors who wanted to build a dating and socialization site they called Harvard Connection.

“I had the hobby of just building these small projects,” Zuckerberg says now. ‘I was like twelve projects that year.’

Most of them, he says, were about ‘seeing how people were connected through mutual references.’”

Zuck built a lot of projects for Facebook!

Fun fact, even after building Facebook he was working on another project (wire boar) which he believed had more potential because “Ironically, Zuckerberg wasn’t a heavy user of Thefacebook.”

Isn’t this mind-blowing? It surprised me.

After all, Facebook’s market cap is a trillion dollars and Wirehog’s is about zero.

That learning and watching this Derek Sivers video, gave me the answer I was looking for.

Anurag and I decided we’d build something, and if it didn’t take hold after 1-3 months, we’d switch to something else. No attachments!

So we tried one project. It wasn’t going anywhere.

We tried a second project. It wasn’t going anywhere.

And then we tried MRB. A week later we were profitable. A month later, Business Insider mentioned us.

We don’t really know why MRB worked and the others failed. It can be one of many factors (timing, product, competitors, etc.).

This is why we decided to try a lot of them until one got a grip, that’s the only factor we had total control over.

Describe the process of building the product and launching the company.

I am a huge fan of The Tim Ferriss Show.

At the end of each episode, he asks his guest for their book recommendations.

That’s how I got the idea for MRB. I wanted to put all those recommendations in one place (and see which books kept popping up!)

So I went through each episode (manually!!) and added the books to a spreadsheet. All we needed after that was a simple design, and we were in business.

Sure, we made a lot of mistakes, but we solved them all with the same two principles: speed and iteration.

If you move fast and iterate constantly, it will be very difficult to make a fatal mistake.

This has saved us countless times.

However, both Anurag and I are programmers, not business people. So the best thing we did was join in Stripe Atlas. They’ve helped make the business running process a breeze, and their forum is great (I found many, many answers here).

How are things going today and what does the future look like?

As long as we’re profitable, we don’t spend time thinking about revenue.

What we focus on is traffic. We currently get about 70,000 monthly visitors and our goal is to reach 100,000.

Why? Because after 100,000 monthly visitors, we can start looking at other ways to earn money (such as advertisements).

So that’s our current goal. On to 100,000!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Since we started MRB, we’ve spawned an army of copycats (seriously, I find a new copycat almost every week).

This used to bother me.

One day I spoke to a very successful founder and shared my concerns.

He advised me to listen to the make oprah podcasting.

All I can say is: wow!

I won’t spoil anything (go listen to it!) but if you’re a founder, it’s a must.

As for other founder podcasts, I have two.

  1. My favorite is (of course) The Tim Ferriss Show.
  2. A hidden gem I’ve discovered (and more people are getting into) is David Senra’s podcast founders. Every week he reads and summarizes a biography of a great founder. If you want a place to start, I recommend David read Larry Ellison’s biography Software and he liked it so much that he turned it into a podcast episode (which I’ve listened to countless times and you can find.) here).

I am also reading two books now:

Fair warning, these books are terrible to read before bed (in fact I’m probably going to make blog posts about them. This way you don’t have to deal with the dryness and boredom I tolerate)

Finally, if you’re looking for books, I built a whole website only for you! (and if you want my recommendations, I’ve listed them all) here).

Are you currently looking for people for certain positions?

Nothing specific, but we are always looking for ways to improve!

Will you help us improve our design? Our SEO? Something else?

If yes, please reach out! (we are more than happy to pay for great help).

Where can we go to learn more?

Of course I called our website, but we also just launched a Twitter account!

Neither Anurag nor I are good at social media, so any feedback on how we can improve is welcome.

Do you want to start your own business?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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