In a fascinating chat with Alex Angel and Kirsti Buick, he discusses how he thinks about the difference between networks and communities, why founders need community, and how to get community buy-in from them.
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M13 believes that community and having a network are core to helping grow successful companies.
“Our firm is certainly all-encompassing, our mantra is ‘Brighter Together’”, says Michael. “And, really, for us, it means to build community amongst our portfolio companies. We have a number of portfolio companies signed with us and we introduce them to each other through things like Slack groups where we put them in smaller groups based on their shared affinities.”
For M13 community isn't just about transactionality, it’s about introducing members to people who can also add value to their work and lives, that could be from introducing them to someone who could help their company get to Series B or founders to each other for support, Michael says.
“I think humans desperately need community, especially in like an atomized world where we've ostensibly all sat quarantined at home for at least six months — some of us longer.
“Founders certainly need it, because it's a lonely job, right? Yes, you're, you're a superstar but if you don't have the support of your peers, then you're just kind of like, pushing a rock up a hill. And ideally, you get it to the top of the hill and you're not Sisyphus, but I imagine that they sometimes feel like Sisyphus as well,” he says.
How do you sell the concept of community to investors, executives and VCs? Michael says it all depends on what stage you’re currently in.
“A Series B company is going to have a very different pitch as to what community means to them,” he says. “For an early-stage company, for example, one of the most important places you can start a community is around your go-to-market. You activate people, and then you get them in. And then you think about non-monetary ways to have them become your ambassadors, rather than the forever paid spend.”
Michael also advises that your community should be made up of your customers so that they can lead the decisions you make about your company or product.
“It is basically human-centered design, but you're doing it for your customers in a very structured way rather than a random email about features. It should be meetings, it should be structured to be thoughtful,” he says.
“Thinking about that as part of your pitch demonstrates that you are serious about solving real pain points for your company and its customers.”
As we touch on in the show, we've got a whole host of things available on our Community-Led site. There, you'll find the Community-Led Growth Model, The 2022 Community-Led Report, and the Community-Led Assessment.