Karma — A Data Driven Community

Otniel Ben Amara
Published in
4 min readDec 13, 2015


This post was written in light of Aleph.bet- How to Data Drive Your Startup workshop that took place in December 13, 2015.

Karma is a community we created and developed at Aleph to help entrepreneurs help each other by sharing their knowledge, experience and connections. Karma is not a typical product. We are neither focused on growth nor revenues. Despite that, we run products at Aleph as if we are a startup and the techniques of data-driven product development still apply. As the Engineer in Residence at Aleph, I see many teams struggling with extracting insights about their products. When analyzing Karma, we periodically break down our product’s high-level goals, top-down, and then define the metrics that measure progress. Here’s a glimpse at Karma’s Pirate Metrics (A.A.R.R.R — Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenues)

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Qualitative User Acquisition

User acquisition on Karma is tricky. Karma is a closed community of about one thousand members and a few thousand people on the waiting list. Our high-level goal is to host experts in several domains, that actively engage with the community. To better understand our community’s domain distribution, we model a graph of our users’ activities by groups (see below). In this graph, generated by Gephi, we see the clustering of groups by activities of similar users. For example, the clustering of the UX, Design and Product groups suggests that the same users are active in those groups. The larger the node, the more active the group is.

karma graph

By examining the graph, we see that the investors and founders groups are highly active, but the fintech-payments cluster (blue nodes) are lagging behind. It’s possible that those groups could use a boost of users that specialize in those fields. If a deeper inspection of those groups validates this assumption, our next step would be to try to onboard users from those fields, by looking for them in our network or simply going over the waitlist.

From Activation to Retention — the A-Ha! Moment

We invest significant resources in our user “acquisition” process to make sure we reach our goal of building a sustainable, awesome community. To keep it awesome over time, we need to keep our community members retained and engaged. Although our 4th-week visitors retention rate, over 40%, is higher than the industry standards, passively monitoring retention rates is not enough. To understand why community members stay, we had to find Karma’s A-Ha! moment. The A-ha moment occurs when our users get real value from our product and are ‘hooked’ from that point forward. In Karma, the core experience enables a user to post a request and other community members can reply. Then, the user who posted the request can appreciate answers that he or she feels helped them. Getting help from the community is what Karma is all about. When the user appreciates an answer, it means that he/she turned to the community for help, shared his/hers challenge and got an answer that actually helped him/her in his/her entrepreneurial journey. That user now truly appreciates the power of Karma and is likely to pay it forward by helping other members. This is Karma’s A-Ha! moment.

We clearly see in the Mixpanel retention chart that once a member appreciates an answer, they are extremely retained (almost 80% 4th-week retention!). That’s the most powerful indication that we have found our A-Ha! moment.

karma retnetion

Revenues and the Karma Economy

Although K

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arma is not about generating revenues, it does have a monetary system. In Karma, users are granted Karma points for their activities. Posting a request, answering, referring and appreciating answers grants users Karma points. Users can use their points to tip other users for their answers or they can exchange points for benefits like office hours, design reviews, meeting rooms in TLV, NY and SF, and of course, a Karma T-Shirts. In our role as the central bank of Karma points, we constantly monitor the amount of points in the ‘market’ and the monthly generation of points to avoid inflation. We adjust pricing for benefits and other perks. We want to ensure a healthy and active Karma economy.

People > Numbers

Breaking down our goals into metrics helps focus our product planning process. However, digging into our data and monitoring metrics only goes so far. What really helps us understand our data is understanding the people who generate it. Many of the hypotheses that drive our data research come from simply talking to our users. Thanks to our community members commitment and our team’s devotion, finding valuable insights has never been easier. Karmites — keep spreading that good Karma!

If you are an Israeli entrepreneur and you are not part of the Karma community yet, download the app and email and contact me to join the community.