Why the Next Wave of Startups Will Be Community-Led

Entrepreneurs, creators, and businesses are finding that having a community first is the fastest way to launch and sell their content and products.

Ritika Mehta
The Startup
Published in
5 min readJul 7, 2021


How to build a community first for your product
Image source: Oksana Kurmaz

Communities are the next big thing in the startup world. With an existing audience, entrepreneurs and businesses are finding that having a community first is the fastest way to launch and sell their product(s).

Move over marketing; if your product has a community first you’ll find word-of-mouth is all you need.

Companies like Clubhouse, TikTok, Stack Overflow — where every day tens of thousands of developers find solutions to problems and help others grow (and more) — are great examples of how building a community first is the key to success. And it doesn’t just apply to big companies, small startups & creators are also leveraging communities.

For entrepreneurs, communities are not only a great way to sell products but also a valuable resource when it comes to answering questions like what features to build first, is the product helping you as the buyer/user, what do you think of the name, integrations, etc.

It’s a way to connect with your audience and your audience to connect with each other in form of a community and ultimately the community helping you build your future product.

But building an audience and community are both different things. When you build an audience your focus is on a single individual, while building a community your focus shifts from a single individual to a group where members collaborate, contribute and participate over something.

The concept behind building a community

Your product is at immense risk of failure if the users don’t come back, engage or increase the growth rate. When you have a group of people who actively talk about the same thing and share what they are missing in your MVP (Minimum Value Product) or product, it gets much easier to understand what to build next, how to avoid high churn rate, and get validation of your product idea.

It allows future members the opportunity to shape the outcome of your product before it is ready to launch.

Take Clubhouse, and how it was built through community and network. The founders took the leverage of their network and community, targeted to the specific niche went beta launching — Founders and VCs — which helped them become the immediate talking point of the tech world.

If your product is community-centric, then there are even VCs and investors who are willing to invest in your product such as Greg Isenberg and Lolita Taub.

Now, you need to look at what is the best and fastest way to build a community and how you’ll build your audience. Divide and start it with some goals:

  • What people are you targeting?
  • On which platform will you build your community — social media, newsletter, Slack, Discord, Telegram, etc.?
  • Take advantage of top community members who engage a lot by making them community ambassadors.
  • Create content that will attract, engage and retain members.

As simple as you can go with providing users to only share content or specific niche-based community for members’ needs to more in a gamification form such as rewarding them with badges, or something bigger like Product Hunt. It should all lead to what your end goals are.

The quality of community content highly matters.

If you don’t monitor the quality of your community, it’s likely going to fail. Look around for problems such as:

  • Poor quality of content in your community
  • Negativity and spam
  • Too complicated to onboard and contribute
  • No way to give feedback
  • Poor community maintenance.
  • The topic is too diversified than niche-specific.

Make sure you govern with rules and make documentation on how to use the community. Whether you build a community on Facebook/Slack or a separate place within your website, the quality of the community really matters.

To ensure you are attracting the right community you can create a community based on invite-only, such as people who would love to use your product in the future and referrals. Give access to limited members, ask them to invite more people, curate quality content and let this cycle continue.

Here’s a quote from Jacob Peters:

Building a successful community requires two things:

1. A reason for people to gather

2. A reason for people to reengage

Many fail at #2. Members must know why they should keep coming back for more.

It’s the content that will get you an audience & the audience will help you build the community. What you offer as content for them to engage and gather together, is a very important aspect.

Building the community requires content that will get you an audience and the audience will help you build a community.

  • It can be through educational content or videos.
  • A community to hang around & discuss topics.
  • To solve the problem or give support.

Gen Z Vcs, founded by Meagan Loyst, has a global collective of more than 8000 young investors, founders, startup enthusiasts, aspiring VCs and creators that runs on a Slack group.

Marie, founder of Women Make, created an open community for women to find support in the maker space. The best thing is that you’ll find amazing women supporting each other and building a strong women culture.

Charlie Ward, the founder of Weekend club, built a weekly co-working community for bootstrappers. It has flourished into a strong community over the past year, and it’s been growing ever since.

For my previous product, which didn’t succeed, I built something which had no users to validate the idea & I never focused on building a community. Currently, I’m building a new product along with a community through my newsletter, where I share the process of building a startup as a non-tech founder & all the non-disclosed things behind running a startup.

Communities create a place for you to work with other people not only to build your product but also help build them. The most important thing is building a culture of like-minded people.

It takes time and dedication to keep showing up for your members with content to re-engage and flourish the growth.

Connect with me on Twitter 🐦

👋 PS: Ritika is a founder, product marketer and advisor for early stage startups, find more here or connect with her here. If you’re a first time founder looking for curated resources, download here. If you enjoyed this post, read the past issues here.



Ritika Mehta
The Startup

Fractional CMO & Product Marketer | ritikamehta.com