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Meet Alek Matthiessen of Booknotes in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alek Matthiessen.

Alek, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always loved to read – fiction, non-fiction, magazines, scribble – anything. When I graduated college, however, I found it harder to make the time to read. The time that I would usually spend on reading was replaced with late nights working. Spending two months on a Tolstoy seemed unrealistic in an age of instant likes and immediate gratification, so I had to start thinking about ways to get the big ideas from books without spending the time reading them.

That’s when I started looking for shortcuts on how I could read faster. One of the first things I remembered was that when you buy a book on Amazon Kindle, you’re shown the most popular highlighted passages in the story. I figured out that if I just read the most frequently highlighted parts of the stories, I could probably get most of the big ideas without having to read the whole book.

I started doing this for a few weeks, and I loved it. I was able to get these incredible insights from new, best-selling books without spending months reading them. At the same time, I was just finishing up an online course on Swift and how to build mobile iOS applications. I realized what I wanted was these quotes and big ideas in my pocket, on my phone, accessible at any moment.

That’s when I built the first version of Booknotes, where you could read the big ideas from books in just 15 minutes.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We hit road bumps every single day. When I first started Booknotes, I barely knew how to code. There have been hundreds of bugs, followed by thousands of hours of debugging on Stack Overflow to make the product our users love.

The most challenging part of starting a business is knowing when to listen to the market and when to listen to your instinct. If you’re a solo founder, your sense needs to be even more in tune.

Booknotes – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Booknotes is a mobile application that summarizes the big ideas of best-selling books into snippets you can listen or read in 15 minutes. What’s really cool is – as of last week – we don’t just summarize books, we’ll summarize current news, historical news and even documentaries.

So, if all your friends are talking about “Inside Bill’s Brain” on Netflix, but you haven’t seen it, you can listen to a summary on Booknotes for the big ideas.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
One of the hardest questions you’ll have to answer for yourself is “What should I work on?”, especially if you’re capable and ambitious. The world has millions of severe challenges that need dedicated minds to try and solve them. What’s always helped me stay grounded, and how I like to measure success, is by asking myself the question “Would this work be getting done if I wasn’t here?”

I like to think that if I’m working on something – that wouldn’t be happening without me working on it – I’ll be able to sleep well at night.


  • – $89.99 / year for a membership

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 6783671060
  • Email:
  • Instagram: readbooknotes
  • Facebook: booknotes
  • Twitter: readbooknotes

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