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Hi, I'm Jess, bootstrapping a book discovery service from Costa Rica


#1

Hi all,

I have been working on Author Alcove, a service to help you discover which books to read next, for the last year and a half. My immediate focus is on digging into the machine learning and algorithms side in order to improve the book recommendations. It’s not profitable at the moment, but active users are on the upswing and it looks like the numbers can be made to work.

I also run a small consultancy specializing in Python / Django at http://grokcode.com in order to keep the lights on while I work on Author Alcove.

Costa Rica is a nice place to live while keeping costs down (although not nearly as good as it was when I moved here from the US 9 years ago). There are plenty of beautiful beaches.

Glad to be here, and happy to answer any questions about Costa Rica, Django, my bootstrapped projects or anything else.

Jess


#2

Sounds neat, but don’t you worry that it’s a business that has a lot of positive network externalities - aka network effects?

I made a few things like that and eventually wound up a firm believer in something simpler where people pay you directly for something you sell.

But it’s definitely a cool idea and I wish you luck with it!

Costa Rica sounds interesting too - what are some rough ‘costs of living’ like food and housing?


#3

Fortunately, I was able to get around the network effects problem by using some existing datasets which have ratings and other data about books. So I’m not in a position where the site is only useful when it already has a bunch of users. The biggest problem on the income side is that it all comes from amazon.com affiliate income. This will change as the site grows and it starts to make sense to pursue advertising relationships with publishers and other affiliate opportunities.

But yeah, I thought a lot about doing a SaaS, but in the end thought it made more sense to work on something that I am interested in enough to stick with it for a few years. We’ll see how it works out!

Costa Rica is pretty cheap for the basics like housing and healthcare, and food as well if you eat mostly typical dishes (lots of rice and beans!). Electronics, cars, furniture and other “luxury goods” are more expensive than the US. Actual numbers vary a lot based on where in Costa Rica you are.