Thoughts on Online Community Building

Jesse Rodgers and I have been working on a project on the side that’s trying to address the needs of the startup community in Waterloo Region and Area (or at least the tech-oriented startups). During this process we’ve been chatting with a number of people from all walks of life/experience/interest and we’ve found a couple of interesting things. Although not ground-breaking, it’s an interesting slice-of-life in the new Silicon Valley North. Here are a couple of interesting highlights/tidbits:

  1. People seem to be a little tired with online tools that will solve real-world human problems. Everyone we talk to keeps emphasizing that they want their online tools to simply enhance their real-world interactions. So although there *may* be a need for an entrepreneurial version of Plenty of Fish, it seems like people may not really want it as much as we may think.
  2. Low engagement is really important. This brings to mind the post @elatable discussing the usage patterns of Yahoo! Groups. Many of the people we spoke to didn’t place any value on the concepts of forums or comments – rather they just wanted links to the relevant information on other sites.
  3. The Usual Suspects is a Boring Movie. Ok, although that’s a blatant lie, it is a fair description for people’s thoughts. The success stories we hear in the media are often the same-old-same-old: “RIM did this” or “UW did that”. Rather, people wanted to know about the dirty secretive hermit slaving away in a garage making something cool. The big success stories were just too big, they could no longer identify with them (which is, of course, necessary).

Again, nothing ground breaking, but it is still interesting to be going through the primary research and talking to people, as opposed to just trawling blogs to make our conclusions. Hopefully our conversations will set the foundation for some real-world-garage-innovation that anyone can identify with.


VP HCM Products at NetSuite and Founder of TribeHR and Lewis Media. Waterloo Region Enthusiast and active volunteer.

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