Come for the Value Prop, Stay for the Community

Tags
product
Publishing Date
Dec 13, 2020

♥️ Community is my love language

Everywhere I go, I always have to find specific types of communities. When I can't find one, I create it myself.

Some examples of my love language at play:

  • At LinkedIn, I started the Filip[in]os @ LinkedIn affinity group, recruited our core four & grew to ~20 members.
  • For more formal communities, like Women in Product at LinkedIn or Filipinos @ Wesleyan, I end up in leadership roles because I love the mission, the people and the chance to scale my community efforts.
  • Ask my group of friends who's kept our friend group of 15 in tact for the past 9 years, I'm confident they'll point fingers straight at me.

🎡 Community as a strategic flywheel

As a self-proclaimed community connoisseur, I get excited when organizations or prominent creators prioritized community as a business strategy, signaling there is monetary value in a superpower I gravitate towards.

  • Creators like Lenny (fmr Airbnb product turned full-time newsletter writer on all things concerning work), Traf (designer building Super.so, the platform powering this blog!) & Anne (founder of Ness Labs; writes about wellness, creativity & neuroscience) built communities on top of their newsletter & product offerings
  • OnDeck's main offering is the community. They even recently started a fellowship solely for community builders, signaling the demand in community building as a core skill
  • Products like Figma, Airbnb, & more have a whole team dedicated to building in-house community products, as it creates better outcomes for the business

Community doubles as a retention strategy (keeping users more invested) and acquisition strategy (via strong word of mouth). The flywheel builds a competitive moat that makes an offering better, for building products and building an audience for creators.

The community flywheel builds better products.

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The community flywheel builds a stickier audience.

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I experienced this firsthand at Kumu, a livestreaming app where I was <10th employee and first PM. Members of our "kumu-nities" were significant shapers of our product, and we co-created alongside their feedback. Because of its success and because we found such strong advocators of our product through adhoc groups, "Kumunities" evolved into one of the core features of our product.

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Because of the voice of our kumu-nity, we figured out the "AHA" moment to focus on livestreaming. It's where we hear the voices of our users and continue to use it to drive flywheels of innovation.

"Come for the value prop, stay for the community"

⚖️ Can community scale?

One argument against community is that creating several communities as a business doesn't scale, insofar that the community is the value prop for the business. Quality, love and resources poured into each new community created comes at the cost of quantity.

Well, what do we need to believe for community at scale to be a billion dollar opportunity?

Here's a very simplistic formula: $1,000,000,000 = A members per group x B $ per member x C num of groups per yr

A is an easy problem that the company controls. If a community has proven product-market fit, the company can charge high premiums for B. C is the factor that determines scale and will be the onus of the organization to manufacture.

While C is a determining factor for scale, my simplistic model assumes the company charges high enough for B. Quick examples: OnDeck is ~$1500-2000 per cohort, The Wing is $250/month. With scale comes exclusivity.

Stay for the Community

In the onset of COVID, community is as important as ever, and I'm glad more companies are prioritizing ways we can feel genuinely connected. Community presents strong promise as a strategy, with interested challenges for scale. I'm excited for the future of Community.

Companies building community products:

  • Cognity Labs - starting a community for Southeast Asian founders; more soon!
  • Together.casa - community model built around maker houses (I'm an eager & early adopter!)
  • Circle.so - community-as-a-service for several use cases! (+ beautiful design)
  • OnlyFams.co - new (& punny!) community platform; 1k+ votes on Product Hunt

Other resources:

Special thanks to Sherry Yuan + 'writers' group + Nick Cruz for feedback.

Mika, the community power user, works in product at LinkedIn, is an advisor at Kumu has built & started communities for Southeast Asian founders, Filipinos & Women in Tech. Follow her adventures in this blog or her weekly newsletter.