How useful is an entrepreneurial approach to building online communities?

This is the question I asked other community managers on the yahoo e-mint forum today – ‘How useful is an entrepreneurial approach to building online communities?’ And the reason why is because I’ve been working on a start-up idea since leaving a community management position at eBay, so it seemed a good opportunity to put together a presentation on how lean start-up methods can help build community, based on the methodology put forward by Eric Ries.

I’ve already had a couple of responses so I thought I’d share them more widely here too, starting with the reply from Benjamin Southworth:

This seems to be a slightly tautological question.

If you were building a community in other way than iterating on results you’d not be listening so your community would fail.

Eric Ries ideas regarding Lean, MVPs, testing, iterations and pivoting are solutions to the idea of silicon valley excess of funding runways, burn rates and throwing money as a solution to viral traction.

Ergo, all successful communities follow a listen, test, adapt, build, rinse, repeat model and always have.

And indeed Benjamin is right, building online community seems to follow very similar lines to the start-up building model – and that’s why I wanted to reflect on the subject. Eric Ries does aim with his method to cover corporate entrepreneurs, not just the Silicon Valley kind. Again why I thought it could be useful for online communities within organisations, not just for start-ups.

Fortunately I’ve signed up for a long weekend of lean start-up workshop this weekend, where I’ll get a good chance to reflect on this with my colleagues for 3 days. Should be fun from reading the introduction!

Lean Startup Machine is a competitive weekend workshop where you will apply Lean Startup techniques in the real world. Join a team and launch a startup–not by writing code– but by validating and iterating your key hypotheses quickly. Learn to identify the key risks in your business model through hands-on mentorship and our unique framework of tools.

Over the course of the weekend you will do the following:

  • Ideate a startup or work on the one you have now
  • Practice Customer Discovery
  • Research your Target Market
  • Practice Customer Development
  • Test your Assumptions in Iterations
  • Understand your Business Model
  • Iterate and Pivot (when necessary)
  • Build something you can Launch
  • Present your Validated Learnings

I promise I’ll post the fruits of my labour after my short talk on this subject at Cass Business School, ‘Applying lean start-up principles and practice to building corporate communities’ on 13 February.


2 thoughts on “How useful is an entrepreneurial approach to building online communities?

  1. Pingback: Lean Eric | @stuartgh

  2. Pingback: Explaining the power of the Facebook social graph using containers and social networks | @stuartgh

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