0 to 100 Events in 14 months - The Product Folks

Uncommunity Podcast is live and we’ve published the first episode where I chat with Suhas to learn how did they grow their community and hosted 100+ events in 14 months. Suhas and his team have done tremendous job in building a thriving community and I love it. 🔥 If you don’t have enough time to listen you can read the interview below which will take 5 minutes of your time. Let’s go.

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About The Product Folks: is a community started about a year ago. The idea was to get interesting product enthusiasts in the same room and help them grow together. Early-stage people meeting senior folks and learning from each other. Started off with one small event in Bangalore just about 14 months ago. We’ve done about 100 plus events across seven cities, primarily offline pre-COVID. In the last three months now that everyone's been at home, we've also been in the transition of doing a lot more online events. These are webinars, product events, online workshops, case studies that we're doing. One of them is called Learnpmwithme, which is essentially a curated set of resources for people looking to break into product management. So it's a roadmap of sorts with the best articles that we found online from the best product thinkers across the globe.

Rafy: Is Learnpmwithme the core part of the community? Or is it a collaboration with someone outside the community?
Suhas: It’s within the community. When there are new ideas, projects there are two-three people within the community, who pick up as projects and try growing them within the community. So far, it's been within the community, but we're always open to any kind of partnerships and anything that helps ecosystem we just want to be involved right in the middle of it.

Rafy: What are some of the other communities around the world which you get inspired by? You started this from scratch 14 months ago. Tell us about your strategy?
Suhas: There was no on paper strategy. I think it's just about keep going, figuring out things.
Two communities for inspiration:
1. Mind the product.
2. Startup Grind.
The reason we are more biased towards is, they have the offline-first approach. Component to an online community is super important. Once people connect offline, you can always form smaller groups.

When it's online first, what we realized is the issue of contributors to lurkers is very, very high. So a lot of people just want to be there. And over time that reduces. I think for a lot of people it's easy to start community online, but harder to actually sustain those.

Spartans 300

We call it the Spartans 300. So for us is not about the number 10-25K. What we want is 300 engaged people, 90% of this audience should be engaged that is the metric we want to achieve. Can we get to a stage where there are 300 active people at any point of time? If you can sustain that for a bit, then I'm 100% Sure. And if we grow, we grow slow. For us it's not about that number… that is something that everyone internally knows, and agree. First goal is 300 active people for six months. Can these people actually help each other grow? For people who just want to be a part of there are a lot of other ways they can do this. There are tons of other communities which they can join, we don't want to go that route. And from there also how we grow is very small. Once you have those 300, there's a minute we want to grow. We are each one to invite one or two. So now that you've been a part, you feel a part of it. You will invite people who you think can add value, you know what the community is. Once you grow too fast what happens is, it is just number which you can always add. We have 15K - 16K people on subscriber list, send out an email to them, you know, you can get 2000 people in a day.

Rafy: How do you measure the health of a community?
Suhas: For us, it's been volunteer-driven. It's something where everyone is giving back to the community. So for us, the numbers don't matter. Yes, the number does help. I'll give you an example. When I say I have so many engaged users, it does help me in the future in case I want to raise some sponsorship, everyone needs some backing to grow. For us, the number of people who could benefit from the community. We haven't quantified it. But if you ask me, the health of the community should be measured in that sense. The idea is if you can solve a problem for your niche, then you can replicate it and grow. So if it's not working for 300 you can’t expect it to work for 1000 or 10,000. You need to make it work. Figure out a number. 300 is the number maybe which we're comfortable with, maybe, 50 for a different niche, it can be, 2000 for another niche.

First time that I started online community, the first 200 members, I knew them on a personal basis. I actually had an Excel sheet whenever someone comes in, just spent 5-10 minutes not too long, but at least five minutes to understand hey what do you want from the community? Is there anything I can already do to connect you to someone? Keep things very natural between people. Over time it will grow and grow slow.

Rafy: How do you delegate your tasks between the community leads?
Suhas: So 7 chapters were offline. Each of them picking up different things. We've broken it down based on the series. One of them is called breaking into PM, which is for early-stage folks. This is essentially folks from Mumbai chapter. Our Chennai chapter folks are now running something called the founder stories. They want to do like 10 series with SAAS founders, understand how product building works from their perspective. Two, three chapters coming together, who runs something called the product conversation, which is our version of a podcast, understanding journeys of a product with very senior product managers. And then online sessions called Product Weekends.

How we broken it down is two- three people handling it at max. I don't think more hands is a solution to anything. Two people can solve it. More people coming to it doesn't really solve the problem. It becomes harder to manage. Although its counter intuitive. Many people think more people means things should move faster, it doesn't happen. Things actually move faster when you're in smaller teams.

Rafy: Do you look at your community as a product?
Suhas: Absolutely. I look at it in that sense. Each of these initiatives are new experiments, so what do you see on front are probably the ones that are going.
Learnpmwithme is static which is fairly easy. Dynamic are ones where it’s an experiment where we try out new things. If it works, we give it a timeframe from zero to x in this much time. And if it works, we continue with that. Something that is fun to work on and benefit a lot of people.

The idea is not novel A lot of people would have had that idea, but it is execution and consistency.

Rafy: How were you able to get Lenny, Shreyas and the likes of them on the Product Weekends? Any tips to crack such kind of great speakers for other people?
Suhas: I think the idea there was lots to learn from these folks. And especially in the Indian product ecosystem. A lot of people follow them. We're getting a chance to hear from them directly learn something, we get to interact with them. So that has been the best one. The process, yes. I think for these three it's been cold email.

Suhas: Advice for community builders or any creator:

Start with one niche. So if you're starting off, if someone's starting off, baseline is execute. We know we will get there. It all builds up. Start with something that's in the reach or in the circle. A lot of people are very open to cold emails. I think it's just a matter of consistency and getting started so you know that just figure out the next order of magnitude. Think of it as when you need one speaker think about only one then try and add another zero okay, let's let's reach the 10 mark and 100 mark and keep leveling up each. If you're passionate about something you will be consistent, so figured out that, it's fine not to continue something, you might start something else that is something that you will go about.

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