Recently I was meeting with an entrepreneur that’s early in the search for product/market fit. With a few paying customers, he was looking for scalable ways to find people that would both be potential customers as well as provide feedback on the product. Instead of just looking for potential customers immediately, I suggested a different approach: build a community of like-minded people that care about the problems and opportunities he cares about for his startup.
But how? Create a local meetup.
Find five people that care about the idea or topic. Don’t worry if they are potential customers or potential competitors. If they care about the common idea, get them together. Invite a guest speaker or develop some conversation starters for the group.
Meetups like this promote idea sharing, help everyone develop personal relationships, and make great content for future blogs, tweets, and videos. The human connection shouldn’t be underestimated. Even with all the digital interactions, people want to be around other people, live and in person.
Then, how do you scale this? Go to another city.
Find a like-minded person or customer in a different location. Setup a dinner at a central restaurant or ask another company to use their board room. Build more relationships, share more ideas, and create more community.
Community starts with one other person. Then another. And another.
Like any overnight success many years in the making, community takes time. The best time to start is now.
What else? What are some more thoughts on starting a startup with community?