With the exponential growth of the web3 industry in 2021, the war for attention has truly kicked off. However, this battle is fought on many fronts. For one, teams find it increasingly difficult to attract top talent, with salaries for experienced developers skyrocketing. When you, as a founder, find the people you were looking for and start building out your vision, the next challenge arises:
‘We believe that our idea is truly needed in the industry, but how do we convey our mission to the outside world.’
Too often, very promising projects fail due to lack of traction, exposure, and excitement in an industry that moves at breakneck speeds. This is why we as Maven 11 try to emphasize projects to start thinking from day one not to only think about who their ideal user is, but rather who their ideal champion is. A champion can be a user as well, but more than just using the product, she or he will go out to spread the word about your project with the same passion you have for your product. How do you find, attract and engage those champions? We’ll try to do a deep dive on the best-practices we’ve seen out there to date and what to avoid when trying to build a community.
Having a large community shouldn’t be the goal, having the right one is
Picture this: Your team has been stealth building the next great infrastructure for L1’s and L2’s and while it is quite technical, you believe that people will love it once they understand it properly. After all, you had a great 3rd round of investments even before your product. Now, the only thing you need is a large community that is going to use your product. So what do you do? You host an NFT giveaway in your discord server to attract as many users as possible, and you hope they’ll stick around and read your documentation.
See what is wrong with this approach? First, this will bring in a lot of mercenary people into your Discord/Telegram with only 1 question in mind: How can I win this NFT. In the off-chance someone is actually interested in your product, their questions will likely get lost in the off-topic conversations or gm’s of people who will likely leave your server after the giveaway.
Rather, especially if you are building something that needs some explanation, focus on attracting the right crowd. An easy way is to do a collaboration with other projects that might have a lot of synergies with yours. Reach out to those project’s communities by doing an AMA on Twitter Spaces or a Discord Stage. Ask people to post their questions with regards to your project on your Twitter or Discord and answer those as passionate as you are as a builder for your own project.
This approach will ultimately be much more beneficial in the long term. You’ll end up with a community of people that are genuinely interested in your project and often have taken the time to ask questions. On top of that, because you recorded the AMA, you can direct people to it when they want to learn more about the project without having to read your entire documentation. Your community will also feel much more connected to you as a founder or founders because they’ve heard your voice and passion for your project.
If you only convert 1 listener into a believer or champion as we called them in the introduction, this 1 hour of your time was more than worth it. We’ve seen time and time again that those are the people that will be key to the success of your project. Often they’ll reach out to help newcomers into your server, help correct documentation, or think about new ideas you might have missed as a team. Having a large community shouldn’t be the goal, having the right one is.
Fireworks or a bonfire, why keeping your community engaged is key
So now you have your initial community, thanks to the community calls or a funding announcement. Maybe some threads by those champions went viral, causing people to bring attention toyour project. What do you do now? As certain as death and taxes, you can be sure that the spotlight of attention will change drastically over the next months. From bull to bear market, from Defi to infrastructure or from airdrops to farming. It is therefore key to keep your audience engaged, even in periods when there might not be too much to talk about.
One way to achieve this is by keeping certain products/features hidden from the public. If you still have to deliver those features, it’s better to under promise and over deliver, especially if you are confident in your team’s ability to execute on those ideas. That’s why you have to aim for a bonfire, slowly adding blocks of wood to your fire to keep your community engaged and interested. By showing you seemingly build on top of your original vision every single week or month, it will increase the community’s confidence in your project’s long-term vision and success. Now compare this to the fireworks approach, where you release your grand vision with all possible features at once, only to realize months after that it will take literal years to deliver on that promise. This would require your community to stick around and believe for what in crypto is an eternity, a luxury not many projects have.
There can be no light without the dark
Undoubtedly, your project will go through some hard times. Maybe your long awaited product launch has to be delayed, the price action of your token might be very volatile or even worse, there might be an exploit of your code causing a loss of users' funds. Either way, it’s in these moments you have to be very open and honest with your community and yourself. If you have taken care of recruiting the right type of community members, you’ll often be surprised by the uplifting spirit that they’ll show when you show your face in tough times.
These moments can be used as an opportunity to set the record straight, highlight how you will turn the tide, and show that there is still a very talented team that is working on the execution of your vision. Sure, you will likely lose some momentum, but if you are in it for the right reasons, you know that in the long term you will survive. Instil this belief in your community, and they’ll be champions in good and bad times.
When things start to look positive again, give credit where credit is due and thank your community for their belief, support, and understanding and create the ‘we are in this together’ spirit. Because, after all, there can be no light without the dark.
A DAO is the worst form of organization except all others
Recently, a lot of projects have either started or converted into a DAO-like structure. Whether this is due to regulatory or ideological reasons is often unclear. Yet, it can be a compelling organizational form to build a community and reward people for helping to build your project. One very appealing aspect is that anyone can step up to participate and build out the project. Regardless of their education, experience, race, gender or, even looks. This eliminates a lot of friction traditional organizational models have and increases diversity, ownership, and inclusivity.
What is certain is that the concept of working in a DAO structure is still very new. There is not a go-to template structure out there that has proven to work long-term or has shown that it can scale to accommodate 100+ contributors. Next to this, most DAOs are not very decentralized. Typically, a tight-knit group of core contributors decide most of the important decisions, where the DAO structure only serves for minor tasks and governance.
Next to this, we see a serious lack of infrastructure in the market that make operating a DAO difficult. Take for example the topic of salary payments. How do you do this in an anon-world? How are taxes paid? What about insurance and benefits? How do you hold people accountable without signing a contract? What about hierarchy? A lot of smart people are trying to solve these questions and there will be major improvements over the next year. But for now, a DAO is the worst form of organization except all others.
VC community involvement should be like great movie music, you shouldn’t realize it’s there
If you throw a rock in a random street in an upper-class neighborhood, chances are you hit someone who’s just started a VC focussed on web3. While the exponential growth of our industry has brought in record amounts of funding, VC’s and their practices are often scrutinized by the community. After all, they get access to private seed rounds, are perceived to have a short term mindset and are perceived as using strong communities as exit liquidity.
With this perception out there, how can a VC help its portfolio companies in a meaningful way? Well one way is by pushing for a more inclusive tokenomics design, where there is sufficient access for participants outside the normal rigmarole of VC’s, angels and advisors. In doing so, it will align the incentives of all investors without creating an attack vector for those who would like to highlight the skewed distribution towards early investors. An interesting article from placeholder goes more in depth on this topic. One last point worth highlighting is that different projects require different tokenomics ie. incentivizing an L1 is different from incentivizing a defi project.
Our message to VC’s is: support, don’t lead. VC community involvement should be like great movie music, you shouldn’t realize it’s there while it’s playing. This means you have to be that same champion community member as we described earlier. Help out with governance, organizing events, make threads on Twitter and give feedback on documentation. Don’t become this ever present force that is overshadowing other champions, but aid the community where needed.
Community, the hardest code to crack for web3 teams to decrypt
Community in crypto is still a mystery to many builders out there, but it should be an important aspect during the entire lifecycle of your project. While it might be tempting to go for a big bang approach, teams should focus on building a lasting, sustainable community which is aligned with the values of the project. Focus on creating champions within your community and reward those that do so. It’s essential to be visible, open and honest as a team towards your community at all times, good or bad. By doing so, you will build up trust and respect with the people who are following you.
Be conscious of the challenges new organizational structures bring in web3 but do not be fearful since they solve a lot of issues of the traditional world many flee from. If you are an investor, be active within the communities you invest in as an equal partner to other community members. This will be seen as a more positive approach and might even change the perception of the industry towards those investors.
While the war for attention won’t die anytime soon, the best teams out there know that a community is not something on top of the product they are building. It is a vital part of it.
For the others, community will always be the hardest code to crack.