One of tech’s most powerful women wants to modernize your book club

January 15, 2021, 1:56 PM UTC
Inside The Beijing International Automotive Exhibition
Padmasree Warrior, the former CEO of NIO U.S. who's pictured here in 2018, launched a new startup called Fable on Thursday.
Giulia Marchi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Padmasree Warrior launches a social media platform for book lovers, Julia Letlow runs for the House seat her late husband didn’t get to be sworn into, and a former CTO takes on the book club. The Broadsheet will be off on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S.—we’ll see you here on Tuesday. Have a restful weekend.

– Modernizing the book club. Of all the weeks to launch a social platform, this was a tough one, with critics arguing that the likes of Facebook and Twitter aren’t doing enough—or are doing too much—to stem hateful discourse. That wasn’t lost on Padmasree Warrior, the former CTO of Motorola and Cisco, who unveiled her new startup called Fable, a social media app for book lovers, on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of fatigue around noisy social platforms,” she told my colleague Maria Aspan. As you might’ve guessed, Warrior is determined to cut through the racket.

Fable, which has raised $7.25 million in funding, is a subscription-based book recommendation engine and private social network. It offers users access to books in the public domain, the option to buy additional books, and book recommendations from authors and other experts. The social aspect comes from digital book clubs, which paying users can start and non-paying customers can join.

Warrior says her two goals are to help people find books they want to read and to modernize the book club for the “digital world.”

The paid component of Fable—an annual subscription is $69.99—may “help keep out some of the worst behavior that troubles free social media platforms,” Maria writes. But Warrior isn’t assuming that Fable will be immune from such challenges; it has established community guidelines around hate speech and book clubs will have moderators.

The startup is certainly a new career stage for Warrior, who’s long been considered one of the most powerful women in tech. In addition to tenures at Motorola and Cisco, Warrior was most recently U.S. CEO of Chinese electric car firm Nio, and she sits on the board of Spotify and Microsoft. Back in 2015, she was reportedly under consideration for Twitter’s CEO gig.

Warrior says this isn’t the first career move that’s raised eyebrows. When she left Cisco for the auto industry, “people thought I was crazy,” she said. “My career has always been nontraditional that way,” she said.

You can read Maria’s full story here.

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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