We at FML Studios are excited to announce our inaugural event series, the Business of Community, in collaboration with Brigitte Legaul
This series is dedicated to putting a spotlight on community builders that are driving real business results. As part of this event series, we are sharing community case studies with subscribers of the FML studios newsletter.
Our first event was with Anthony Nagendraraj and Marissa Huggins from Spontivly, a community based software that brings real time analytics to community engagement, growth and impact across any platform.
The Origins of Spontivly
Lesson #1: Do work that is meaningful to you.
Spontivly started from one simple question: “Dad, why do you go to work?” When Anthony’s son asked him that question, Anthony didn’t have a good answer. So he quit his job, pivoting in search of a place where he could make a real impact in the world.
Lesson #2: Fall in love with the problem
Anthony began with research. He interviewed over 300 people in downtown Edmonton, focusing on what problems and challenges were most pressing. After talking to hundreds of people, Anthony saw a theme emerge. Many new Canadians were having a hard time integrating themselves, and as an immigrant himself, this problem resonated with Anthony.
Lesson #3: Follow your curiosity and intuition
He then reached out to ecosystem partners at the MacEwan University in Edmonton to help solve this problem. Trusting his intuition, he went to the North Forge Technology Exchange to learn more about this problem and figure out ways to help people feel more connected. It was there that Anthony met his cofounder Marissa. Marissa was the Marketing Coordinator for the Exchange, and as a grassroots community builder, Anthony knew she would be valuable to the team.
The two of them combined their passion for community to build Spontivly.
Lesson #4: Do Discovery to Validate Your Assumptions
Through their collective discovery on how to build great communities, they realized that community builders had a lack of data from the tools they were using, all building spreadsheets.
Then they got on the phone and asked different companies if they see the same problem In particular, they found “The problem is not a tool problem, it is an analytical problem”.
Lesson #5: Increase Serendipity
At the Collision Conference in Toronto, Anthony met an advisor from Tampa Bay that wanted to help him succeed. He was invited to an accelerator in the southern US, and while both Anthony and Marissa were there, they realized that community was a more recognizable concept in the States than it currently was in Canada.
The Community Opportunity
Lesson #6: Communities Take Time, But Compound Strongly
Community is inherently everywhere. Accelerators build founders’ communities. Tech companies are building customer communities for marketing and customer success. People are building community movements such as Wall Street bets. With Web3, community is at the center, from Salesforce building customer communities to Lululemon building community programs around activewear.
While the benefits of community are boundless, they can be tough to see value in at their inception. The true value of community is in the people, and seeing this value at the beginning requires long term thinking. Communities are not built overnight, but once established, they provide a foundation for sales, marketing, product innovation, and most importantly, support.
Lesson #7: Community is the glue between amplifying your brand in marketing & sales, reducing support burden and increasing expansion revenue in customer success, and accelerating innovation in product.
Let’s look at Airbnb. At its founding, there were two possible avenues of community to move towards: travellers or side-hustlers. Airbnb chose to pursue the side-hustle community, who are now the hosting community. This support community has now reduced costs by 75%.
In addition to support costs, community provides benefits to their business through marketing, growth and churn, and product innovation. Through a connected community, organizations are able to receive realtime consumer insights and tap into user generated content for both advertising and product & service improvement.
Lesson #8: Stay small and focused
Spontivly, serves tech companies that are looking to build thriving communities. They also are expanding into new verticals and non-profit. “As we know, tech is first to adopt and build, but others are following quickly.”
Spontivly’s competitors include Orbit, Commsor, and Common Room. Spontivly is focused at community on a grassroots level, while their competitors focus on enterprise clients.
“Community is inclusive not exclusive,” says Anthony, “We are building Zoom for community, they are building Cisco Webex.”
Cisco partnered with larger clients which made the product clunky. Zoom focused on simplicity, emphasizing that their product be downloadable and usable. Spontivly is like Zoom, its software is simple, usable, and accessible for all community builders.
Lesson #9: Community is for Positive Sum Thinkers.
Success for community looks different than just the ROI and financials. Focusing on one single tool or metric is challenging with community, because the benefits cross-polinate across departments, culture, and both client and employee retention.
Currently, many people are undereducated about the value of community and what exactly it means. Spontivly is on a mission to change that, helping demonstrate that our businesses and industry communities are positive-sum. Instead of fighting over the last piece of pie, we need to make it bigger. Everybody eats.
Who are great community though leaders to follow?
A summary of our open discussion post breakout rooms:
- Community is inclusive; members need to feel like they are a part of it.
- There needs to be an equal amount of giving as receiving.
- Start small and double down where there is engagement.
- If Canada is behind the United States, there is a great opportunity for Canada to catch up.