Backing crowd.dev, the community-led growth platform for developer-first companies
By Lightbird’s Thomas Meier and Thuy-Linh Uong
At Lightbird, we have long been strong believers in the power of communities as a fundament and multiplier for growth. Like other observers, we too are convinced that community engagement will become the lifeblood and core of many companies. When done right, a community-led approach can rapidly transform a community to become one of the company’s most valuable asset, as asserted by hundreds of companies including the likes of Notion, Hopin, Deel, or Lattice.
The strategic and commercial role of communities become particularly evident for developer-first companies, such as those following an open-source approach. It is for instance estimated that developers typically constitute >30% of any community participants, and developers are also well-known as particularly collaborative, supportive and vocal members. As such, developer communities have represented critical resources for co-creation and innovation, product feedback, retention and customer acquisition. Open source projects, in particular, are a major tailwind for community building, because they are truly collaborative environments where members can steer a project and thereby accelerate its development, popularity and commercialisation. React (one of Facebook / Meta’s first open source projects) for instance, with its community of millions of developers, has already released its version 18, while a competing framework, Vue, with a smaller community, is now only on major version 3.
There is hence true power behind a developer community. Yet, building, growing and maintaining a thriving community isn’t an easy task. For one, online community members are typically spread across many different channels and tools: Discord or Slack for chatting with each other, Airmeet or Luma for community events, LinkedIn or Twitter for new connections. For the company and its community managers, it becomes rapidly challenging to keep an overview of what’s going on in their community and to know who the members are. Not only that, the very fragmented community tech stack makes it almost impossible to truly understand, engage and monitor the community via key metrics (e.g., level of engagement, topics of interest, number of new members) and to ultimately optimize community-building efforts into input for growth.
But where there is fragmentation, there is also the opportunity for a platform solution that would allow communities to tie all their point solutions together. And so, here comes crowd.dev, the single control center for all community activities in developer-first companies.
At its core, crowd.dev aggregates data across relevant community tools, automates repetitive tasks (e.g., new member onboarding, newsletter send out), and provides required analytics and insights for developer-first companies to more systematically harness the power of their community members. To further support their community-led growth approach, users can make use of additional premium features to, for instance, easily find potential new community members, discover across relevant channels the right content to engage with or automatically generate support content discoverable by search engines.
While a few others have also adopted a community infrastructure play (see the likes of Orbit (US, 2019, $21M), Commsor (US, 2019, $66M), Common Room (US, 2020, $53M)), we are convinced that crowd.dev’s approach and value proposition are truly unique and will make them stand out. Here’s a few reasons why:
🎯 The case for a verticalized solution: Crowd.dev is one of the few solutions built specifically for one specific community type, and the very first to be dedicated to the developer community. By striving to offer a curated experience to developer-first companies, crowd.dev ensures it is prioritizing the product features and integrations that really matter to their communities (e.g., GitHub, Discord) and that other more horizontal players would not focus on. As a matter of fact, many OSS founders we spoke to confirmed that generalist community platforms have a developer use case, but don’t cater enough to their specific needs. And so, there is a case for a verticalized solution like crowd.dev. Indeed: today, already 300+ companies have signed up to crowd.dev’s closed beta.
💫 At the crossroads of two massive and mutually reinforcing global trends (CLG x Open Source = a compelling “why now”): We talked about our conviction in community-led growth for the future. Not only is crowd.dev enabling this global trend, but thanks to its focus on developer-first companies, the product surfs as well on the rise of open source software for which communities are at the very heart of success. Only a few years ago, open source was met with great skepticism from investors, fearing the viability of these business models. Fast forward to today, the relevance of open source software is undeniable. To name a few examples: open source Linux powered 75% of all public cloud workload in 2020, 85% of world’s smartphones are run on Android and some of the most popular software development stack (MEAN: MongoDB, Express.js, AngularJS, Node.js) are all open source. If at first rather in the ranks of the sceptics, Microsoft is today one of the most famous advocates of OSS, and sealed its commitment when acquiring GitHub for $7.5bn in 2018. All of this has also led to a significant increase in open source venture funding and deals, cumulating to around $4B in 2021 alone. Other estimates show that companies with open source roots have accumulated over $200B of market cap to date.
For crowd.dev to be specifically targeting open source and developer-first companies to power their community-led growth strategy means tapping into the market potential of two nascent but massive and rapidly growing global trends.
🤩 Backing a team of strong believers: Having built developer communities from scratch at his previous roles, Jonathan experienced first hand the challenges as well as the power of community-led growth. In Joan, he not only found a co-founder with a complementary skillset, but also a friend who shares the same dedication, hungriness to learn, and a common vision and advocacy for developer communities. So much so that crowd.dev literally embraces what it preaches: the platform is the only developer community tool currently available as open source! Additionally, in the spirit of “giving back to their community”, the team has been extremely active in producing high-quality content and relevant resources, e.g., their directory of open source alternatives to proprietary SaaS tools or their data base of open source VC investors.
We are proud to finally announce the EUR 2.2M investment in crowd.dev, that we co-led alongside Seedcamp, and with the participation of Possible Ventures, Angel Invest, NevrSeen as well as notable angels, including Russ Heddleston (Co-Founder of DocSend), Cedric Sellin, Christian Stiebner and Matthäus Krzykowski. We cannot be more excited to partner with Jonathan, Joan and the rest of the crowd.dev crew in their mission to help developer-first companies transform the power of their communities for growth. Let the journey begin!