🌊 Private Communities
Unbundling Linkedin, Jeff Bezos on financial crises, and 70M in Spanish deals.
This week’s startup food includes:
🔐 Private Communities: chief.com’s $90M ARR in <3 years.
🍬 Startup Candy: Bezo’s tip, a16z’s idea maze, Billion dollar decks.
💵 Deals & Jobs: 15 startup deals in Spain (>€70M) and 12 quality growth jobs.
🔐 Private Communities
Communities are groups of people that keep coming together over what they care about. The most vibrant ones offer members a chance to act on their passions with each other.
- B.Richardson at Substack
When I worked at Facebook, I helped build out the Spark AR Creator Community. It was one of the most fun and impactful projects I was lucky enough to be involved in.
This is a good example of a community for a product, which have since attracted a lot of attention for obvious reasons (i.e. community-led growth, product validation, feedback, distribution etc).
But that’s not the focus today.
Today I want to dissect community as a product - IMO a pretty underrated trend, with a (potentially) attractive underpinning business model.
People confuse audience with community. As my good friend Alex @StartupPirate says “To create an audience, you help people directly. A one-to-many relationship. To create a community, you help humans help each other”
People have spent the better part of the past 10 years being “harvested”, being passive consumers of information, endlessly scrolling.
People are yearning for a feeling of community - of deeper meaningful connections.
Private communities: free, paid, and/or freemium. You can think about these sort of like an unbundling of Linkedin.
🏛️ Private Communities: What makes them tick?
[Great] Communities are sacred. They imply a level of connection, advocacy and energy on the part of the people who are showing up.
- B.Richardson at Substack
This is what successful private communities tend to have in common:
Once you achieve the status of Minimum Viable Community - typically involving hitting close to 150 members for it to take a life of its own + high engagement (either online of in person) - the sky is the limit in terms of the layered value you can add.
We’ll go through some examples.
🚀 3 Cool Examples + Bonus
Chief.com is a community for female executives.
In <3 years, they have reached >$90M in annual recurring revenue. Let that sink in.
They currently have 15K members paying around $6K/year.
You might say “wow hold on there chief, that’s incredibly expensive” - maybe. But if you compare $6K vs the $30K+ that an executive coach usually costs their target companies, it starts to make a lot of sense.
Instead, Chief.com offers members to enter a 10-woman cohort - which will have access to their online community (with the rest of the 15K members), online resources, and share 1 executive coach among them. These coaching sessions run monthly, where members of each cohort play a key role in supporting & challenging one another. They meet online but also in-person. So far? It works, 90M ARR.
The company just raised $100M at a $1B+ valuation.
Here are my main take-aways from their story:
Heavily curate who you are letting in.
Obsess over understanding your members and providing value.
Willingness to pay is key - they charge the businesses who employ these leaders, who have a much higher ceiling.
Showcase your members, not yourself / organization.
Having a physical presence from the start was fundamental.
Trends.co is a community for entrepreneurs. They are aiming to become the “Netflix for entrepreneurs.” It was created by Sam Parr as a side-product to their well known The Hustle newsletter publication - which has >1M subscribers, and was acquired by Hubspot for >$25M (let that sink in for those who criticise Newsletters 😉).
But back to Trends.co - the subscription to access this private community costs $299 per year. Last time I checked, with over 7K subscribers - the platform brings Sam >$2 million per year.
Bosco Soler, the founder of Sin Oficina was kind enough to answer a few of my slightly intrusive business questions. Awesome guy, and even better community.
They have successfully bootstrapped a super engaged community to over €120K in ARR - built specifically to serve entrepreneurs and freelancers who do not have an office (a mixture of nomads and like-minded people).
This private community was born in 2018, has over >500 members who are happy to pay around 250 euros/year to access the network, resources and awesome training provided by members & contributors. They have already ran >200 training sessions amongst them, and have a mix of online and physical meetups.
All of this, translating into an impressive 97% retention rate.
Some of my takeaways:
Charging members is key for them to value the community
Charging members acts as a filtering mechanism itself - where non-engaged members fall-off.
Culture and values are everything.
A really cool channel to have is “Looking for X / Offering Y” for people to feel free to shill projects and ask about anything freely.
Having a “sensei” or directly responsible individual per channel works really well for them.
Charging members annually, offering them a 15 day window to bail, works great.
Keep the tech stack simple: they used wordpress + slack, then migrated to Discord.
A community builder > community manager for this - but they are hard to find!
We met at Facebook, where we witnessed this problem first hand - there were lots of support networks and training programs for technical profiles, but little attention being paid to sales as a discipline.
Moreover, both moving to Spain during covid - we saw that problem was not only present but even worse in the Spanish-speaking world. Most importantly, the way Sales as a career is perceived is pretty underwhelming and misunderstood.
Some of the smartest, most strategic thinkers I’ve met in my career are sales people. When I worked at Bloomreach, I saw these people in action - and what they do and how they work couldn’t be further from what people typically imagine when it comes to sales (i.e. a sleazy used-car salesman trying to make you overpay).
So we decided to create Revenue Squared - helping uplift Sales as a career path for top talent by bringing together the best sales leaders, and arming them with:
A few weeks after launch - we have 60 members, mostly spanish-speaking sales leaders from unicorns and high-growth startups including Facebook, Deliveroo, Uber, Salesforce, TikTok, Cobee, Ritmo, Dudyfit, Reveni, Personio, Job&Talent and many others.
Time will tell (this is an experiment!), but so far the group seems highly engaged - with 2 oversubscribed dinners and our first online roundtable coming up.
We’re growing the network through referrals, and interview everyone. If you know someone who could be a great fit - please share this with them.
P.s. looking for a community builder - DM me, tell us why and what you’d do to help.
👌 Actionable Insights
Here are some great insights from people I trust building private communities:
Hiring a community builder is key, and very different from a community manager - one is much hard to find than the other.
Charging members from day 1 can be a great way to filter members, and to “ensure” the right type of engagement.
Sharing and continuously emphasising community values is key.
If you are planning changes, consider sharing them with your community to ensure everyone feels like an owner of what you are building together.
Tech stack: start simple, it could be as easy as a Carrd website + Slack.
Build where they are: i.e. if you target gamers, use Discord. If you target sales people, use Slack.
Data is key, make sure to capture and organize it accordingly from the start.
In-person events are a great source of fuel for any community - do not underestimate these.
Make them feel owners of the community
Reward your best champions with acknowledgment
Be human. Listen with empathy, respond honestly and be genuine in your intentions. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Give knowledge freely without expectation of returns.
🐇 Follow the White Rabbit 🕳️
A few reading recommendations by Xavier Creus
And a couple others that might be useful:
🍬 Startup Candy
1. Jeff Bezos on past market fluctuations
There’s lots of noise in the market right now - keep calm and carry on.
2. Marc’s idea maze
One of the strongest markers used by a16z to make an investment decision:
Inspiration for those building pitch decks in fintech
💵 Startup Deals & Jobs
You love startups and want to enjoy a Spanish lifestyle? Come join the Spanish startup ecosystem. Here’s a list of recently funded startups:
Dudyfit (Wellness SaaS) raised 2.5M
Housfy (proptech) raised 30M
Freeverse (nft) raised 10M
Durcal (ehealth) raised 8M
GetLife (insuretech) raised 6M
CubiqFoods (food) raised 5M
Insulclock (ehealth) raised 4M
BarbaraIoT (iot) raised 2.5M
Sheetgo (saas) raised 1.8M
Smowltech (saas, edtech) raised 1.6M
Bechester (flexible renting) raised 1.5M
Commonsense (defi) raised 500K
Profe.com (edtech) raised 450K
Micole (edtech) raised 400K
Erasmus Play (proptech) raised 200K
Here’s my job board. I hand pick Growth Jobs (Product & Sales - focused on Growth) from our portfolio companies and other great startups I think would be fun, high-upside places to work. Check it out and hit me up!