Making Community Your Competitive Advantage

Joining me as someone who I had an awkward conversation with about a decade ago. I think he would say the same about that day. He was in his early twenties and didn’t have much to say.

Well, 10 years later, he’s written a book and has a successful business. I want to find out how he made such a transformation.

David Spinks is the co-founder of CMX Hub and author of The Business of Belonging.

David Spinks

David Spinks


David Spinks is the co-founder of CMX Hub and author of The Business of Belonging.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me as someone who about a decade ago when I was still doing my interviews from Argentina and doing them live was kind of on Mixergy.

I remember David wasn’t there a guest who was supposed to come on here and didn’t.

David: yeah, it was an accident. You had someone who didn’t show up and you just posted who wants to come on the show right now? And I, I just, I like the show a lot. I always respected you. And I was, yeah, it was a decade ago. So I was 22, 23 and I was just like, screw it. I’m in. And you’re like, cool. And I just didn’t think about it.

And I didn’t actually have anything to add to any conversation, but just kind of threw myself out there and you invited me on and we had an awkward conversation for about 10 minutes, and then you realize, I didn’t really have much to say. And you’re like, all right, who else wants to join?

Andrew: I, I do remember liking you, but I also remember being comfortable enough with you to say, I’m dumping out of this conversation. It’s not going anywhere. And I have the sense that it weighed on you or hurt your feelings or made you second. Guess it, to me, that was fine. That was exactly what I was looking for.

Just interaction with the audience to get to know who’s out there. And I love that you are out there. Here’s why David, whose voice you just heard is David Spanx. I’ve watched this fricking guy become big man on campus here in San Francisco. Here’s what happened. The guy was, um, this guy, I thought that you were kind of a quiet kid with a big inside.

And I didn’t realize until I read your book, that you are a guy who was picked on, who had this need to be connected and social, but also more introverted. Anyway, he ended up creating this community or, uh, a video game that he liked. I don’t know what it is. Tony Hawk, something or other, I’m not a video game guy, but this guy loved it.

What was it? He created a community for the fricking video game. For me as a kid, I would’ve thought that’s such a waste of time. Who cares? Is there someone who’s paying? No, he doesn’t care. He likes it. He creates a community for it in the process. He discovers the power of online communities and a passion for it.

He ended up creating this thing called CMX. It’s the community for community professionals. As the world of tech as the world is Lacan Valley. As the world in general appreciated the value of communities. He became a guy who was teaching businesses, teaching organizations, how they could add community, or actually not just add it, how they could even start with community.

He was teaching them. He was creating these events. He was the guy who was leading this community of community leaders, which is a phenomenal place to be David, because now you have reach that goes beyond your direct audience, to an audience that has an even bigger audience and you’re teaching them how to grow it even more.


David: Exactly. Yeah. It’s always exciting part about working with community builders is that reach is exponential because if I can teach a hundred community builders, how to build communities that has impact on potentially millions of people, because each of those communities will have hundreds or thousands or even millions sometimes of members.

Andrew: Remember, bumping into him at an event. And you were just kind of walking out as a guy on a bike, you know, nobody paying attention to you. And then I remember fast forwarding a few years later, I’m walking down the street with you and people are stopping and saying hi to you because of this. All right.

Anyway, David ended up taking this community of community professionals, selling the business to a company called bevy. Here’s his one sentence description. He says, bevy is an end-to-end community driven events platform. Basically it helps community organizers organize their in-person communities, right.

So that they could then allow those communities to flourish beyond that single event. Am I right? That’s what the software does.

David: Yeah. Basically, anything that you want to do when it comes to events, uh, we have a full virtual events platform, virtual conference platform. We run bigger virtual conferences for Google and, uh, lots of amazing companies. And, um, and so you can run all of your own events, but the real magic of bevy that’s different from any virtual platform or any other virtual event platform, is that you can empower your community to self organize their own chapters and their own events.

Because Debbie came out of startup grind. I know you probably know startup grind, Andrew.

Andrew: know what? Let’s, let’s get into it in a little bit. I just want to do finish the introduction by saying you also have just come out with a book called the business of belonging. It’s. Basically the how to manual that nobody’s ever written before on how to create online communities, full of practical information, stuff that you could take to your boss, stuff that you could take.

If you’re running a company on your own and want to start your own community stuff that you could take to justify a community or to understand why make anyway really well written books. So it must’ve taken you forever to write it. I feel like this is going to be the book that will be the classic textbook.

That feels fun to read for a frankly. I think even in school, people can read it. Let me say this interview is sponsored by HostGator and rippling. We’ll talk about those later first. David, I’m gonna ask you the most awkward question. How much did you sell CMX for? I want to get a sense of what you sold for

David: We don’t share the number. Um, I’ll just say, I mean, it was, it was mostly equity. It was mostly, you know, really buying into bevies vision and felt like we can grow both of them much bigger together.

Andrew: how much driving did you end up with at the end of CMX when you were running it on your own.

David: No CMX was a bootstrap company. Um, frankly like the business side of it failed. Like we didn’t ever figure out how to really scale the business side of CMX. We built an incredible community, you know, we got it to three to four employees, um, and, and had a great thing going in terms of impact, but from a sustainable revenue standpoint, I, I, you know, I don’t look at it as a success from that standpoint and I certainly didn’t make money.

I got paid a lot less building CMX than I would have if I just took a job at a tech company.

Andrew: All right. Um, that’s, that’s disappointing. Why do you think.

David: I mean monetizing the community is hard. Uh, w what’s so exciting about this space right now is there’s a lot more tools. There’s thousands of people trying it and experimenting with it and figuring out different ways to, um, to that they can different things at work that they can share with others. But look, when I started CMX the community industry, wasn’t a thing.

Like we were one of the first people, maybe the first to actually use the term, the community industry. So we’re trying to get people to sponsor, to be bought into, uh, to take training in an industry that was still very nascent and no one really understood. Um, but that’s also what put us in a position where now that somehow every business is interested in community now we’ve become a really trusted resource because we did it before.

There was honestly a great business opportunity for doing this kind of work.

Andrew: Here’s my goal for this interview. I want to find out about CMX the launch, the growth, the sale, and then come back and learn from you how to create a strong community. So the idea for CMX came from where it started with an idea for an event, right.

David: Yeah. So, um, so I had started, my, my first job out of college was a community manager. Um, that was actually an intern for, uh, uh, what ended up becoming SeatGeek if you’re familiar seeking. So I was there.

Andrew: Ticketing company.

David: Yeah, that was an intern for a summer. Um, and then both. So when I started there wasn’t any sort of resource to, um, or none that really resonated with me and solved, you know, for startups, how to build community and how to be a great community manager.

And so over the course of my career just started writing about what I was learning, connecting with other people who are doing similar work, ended up co-founding the community with Jen PD and Brett Peter cell, which was just a, uh, it was like a side project for all of us to write about what we’re learning, start organizing people in that community.

We would host events and we always wanted to do a conference, but. Never ended up happening. It was, uh, frankly just really intimidating to launch a conference. I didn’t know how to do that. And it ended up being my friend max Altschuler, who’s a founder of another great community called sales hacker. Um, and he’s been a good friend of mine for a long time.

I had told him the idea about, uh, the, about running a conference for the community industry. And then he ended up launching sales hacker as a conference that went really well. And he came to me and said, Hey, do you want to, do you still want to run that conference? Let me help you I’ll run all the logistics, you just handle marketing and speakers.

And, uh, I was running a different startup at the time, but it was, it was already starting to wind down and I was like, sure, why not? I kind of needed money. I was like, maybe this is a good way to bring in some income. Um, let’s just give it a shot. And we put that entire events together in six weeks, the first conference, literally from shaking hands, me and max to the conference happening with six, 200 attendees from like other countries like people, um, really just hit my own personal network from those, you know, five or so years that I spent writing about this stuff, building the community manager.

Andrew: one-on-one sending email. You didn’t have an email newsletter. One-on-one.

David: the We had, you know, a S a small audience there. So we wrote about it there. Um, I just emailed. I think we had nine speakers at that first event and I just emailed them and said, you know, it was people that already had a relationship with for the most part.

Actually I cold emailed a couple really big people that ended up saying yes, but I was just like, Hey, here’s a, I literally had a one pager. It was just a Google doc, one pager. And I was like, here’s what I’m trying to do. Here’s why I’m building this. Will you speak and help me build this. And they said, yes.

And so before we even sold a ticket, we didn’t even have a venue. Yet. We just put up the website and started selling tickets and asked all the speakers to promote it. And then I just, yeah, I just literally went through and emailed every single community manager and every single community professional. I messaged them on LinkedIn and just one-on-one I was just like, Hey, we’re going to be hosting this conference.

Uh, I mean, before I kind of validated it. First with about a hundred people. I emailed them like, will you sign up if we do this? And they said, yeah. And then once we launch it, yeah, just straight up, just hit as many people as I could. One-on-one said, you know, will you help us build it? And, and also tried to make it feel like it’s something that they’re building with us.

It’s not just like, come buy a ticket. It’s like be a part of we’re trying to build this industry together.

Andrew: I see. And so what, so wasn’t it, did they also have more input into the creation of it into what went on in the event? No, it was just going to keep it basic. You’re helping us by participating. You’re helping, you’re helping legitimize this job title.

David: Yeah. So up, um, we, I mean, we had a lot of volunteer opportunities, so a lot of people came and volunteered as well. We needed to reach sponsors, which I think we got two sponsors for that first event. It was very hard to sell

Andrew: Who sponsored?

David: I remember correctly. It was, uh, I think gets satisfaction. Sponsored us and

Andrew: for getting feedback and suggestions from your audience.

David: and I think they ended up getting bought by sprinkler a year later. Um, I think they did. And Salesforce community cloud did, maybe they did a few years later. We’d done. I mean, this was seven years ago. Uh, we’ve got some.

Andrew: what I was getting a sense of is who was willing to spend money in the space. You talked about max, he’s the founder of sales hacker. The beauty about his community is that they’re salespeople. There are a lot of people trying to, trying to reach salespeople and salespeople are valuable to reach, and they were an established audience.

Stablish customer base. I could see how it was easier for him to get sponsors and more challenging for you. What’s in it for max. He had a business around why is he doing stuff like this?

David: He had just started sales hacker at the same time. Pretty much. He just did that event. And then, so he was still in the kind of exploring what to do next phase. Um, I believe it was after he had run sales. I knew to me, um, I think it was after that stints. So you, you was just exploring different projects and wanting to work with good people.

And so we started CMX, we worked on it together for three, four for one year. We ran three conferences together and sales hacker was just also growing so fast and doing so well that that’s when we decided to, uh, for him to part ways with CMX. And I took over as the sole co-founder missile founder at that point. Well, he owned and, uh, you know, we had vesting for both of us. He invested his first year, so he was still an owner in the business and, and then I just kind of continued to run it from there, but he’s. To this day, an incredible friend and advisor, and we talked to each other multiple times a month. So he’s always been involved.

Andrew: phenomenal. He was one of my best guests for my personal enjoyment. I just love talking to the guy. And he was around the time he was starting. He was at the center of this little group of entrepreneurs who I think almost all of them went on to do amazing things. Right.

David: What group is that?

Andrew: I forget the names of the specific people who were in his group, but he got together with a bunch of entrepreneurs who are really just getting started.

Hadn’t established themselves in any way at the time, but just through their conversation, through their ambition, through their vision, they ended up each doing well for themselves. You’re one of those people who ended up doing he’s another one. And I forget the names, but I remember that I constantly will think about that little community that he would put together.

I think he would even get together with them on a regular basis and like this sort of mastermind thing.

David: Hmm. I don’t know if I was part of that, but it’s amazing how you can see kind of these pockets that start in the early stages of someone’s career. And, you know, you could look back 10 years later and realize that all of them are doing incredible work later. And there’s something about that, right? Like the ability of good people to find each other in an early stage, and then go on to in very different ways, still be very successful.

Andrew: Bizarrely kind of has that Darlie was this marketplace for anything that happens offline. I feel like the com the company didn’t go anywhere, but the people who worked at it, like you ended up doing really well. Whoa, why I know why the company didn’t do well. They were focused on way too many things.

Shane Mac, uh, has written about it. He used to work there. He said, uh, I think Meg Whitman was on the board. And she said, every time at eBay, they launched a new product category, revenue grew. And so Zali copied that and said, all right, we’ll have dog walkers. And why just dog walkers. Why don’t we also have house sitters?

Why just that? Why don’t we also have cleaning people and they were doing everything for them. It was just spreading too thin. And the whole business basically petered out. What was it about the community there that you think worked well about? The people there.

David: I mean, it was a recruiting machine we had, and that was one of the most talented teams I’ve ever worked with. Um, a ton of respect for the other people on that team. I mean, it was a hot startup. Like people want to work at hot startups. Um, we raised a lot of money. We were on every tech publication possible for the, for the first couple years.

Um, both Fishback who is a CEO is one of the most charismatic leaders I’ve ever worked with and met in my life. I mean, he could sell anything and, you know, he, he sold me on leaving the company that I was running before that to join and be the director of community there. Um, and I mean, you, you can, he was really good at making people feel really good about themselves.

I mean, it always stood out to me about him. Mike, you can spend 10 minutes with him and you’ll walk out just like glowing, like, wow. I feel great about myself. You just have it.

Andrew: Do you remember what it was that made you made you feel that way?

David: he would. He would make you the center of attention, even though he’s the center of attention, because he is also used like six, four, six, six something. He was like very tall,

Andrew: Bald head? From what I remember, like shaved it.

David: um, like really. Deep wonderful voice. Like he just was a physical presence and he was extremely smart and well-spoken so just like him being in the room draws attention and he would just direct all that attention to the person that he was interacting with and be fully focused on that person.

Um, even if it was in a big room with other important people, he just like made you really feel like he was looking at you and listening to you and understanding you and then, and you just complimented it, you know, you would, he would tell you what he liked about you pretty directly. And you would do it in this elegant way.

Andrew: So you’ve got that in your background, did community for Siki, which I think was less community. I think it’s  it was more of a community driven position, right. Where you were actually working with the people on the platform.

David: Siki was, I was only there. I also, I only worked on Siki technically for a month cause we started with a company called  and we were in a dream it program in Philly and then halfway through we pivoted and started Siki and I was only there for the remainder of the, uh, incubator program for the accelerator.

And then the, the person that we sold scrim Nia to brought me on as a general manager and I was running that whole company. So I left the seat, which like the very quick, funny story there is that we were very early stage team. And so we weren’t. Doing things all the right way. And then as an intern, they gave me 1% of the company.

Um, and then they, um, when, when, when I went on to the other company, they’re like, Hey, we want to bring all the equity back in for SeatGeek. Um, you know, can we buy the 1% off you? Um, and they offered me $5,000 and I was right out of college. I had no money. I was broke as shit. And I was still just like, all right.

Yeah. I first I was like, no, no, no. Like I believe in this, I’m going to hold onto the 1%. And they’re like, all right, you know, appreciate your, your

Andrew: Wow.

David: How’s $6,000. I think I sold 1% of CKD for $6,000, which would have been worth multi-millions now.

Andrew: Yeah. They’re one of the big successes look at this. They did. Oh, this is 2015. Is the latest I could see did a C round, uh, raised $62 million. So they they’re they’re unicorn, aren’t they? A billion dollar plus business. Uh, wow. Does that ever weigh on you? Do you ever look back on, on decisions like that?

David: It has in my past it doesn’t now, um, I wonder what would have been different about my life? If I became independently wealthy at a, at a much earlier age, would I have worked as hard on the things that I worked hard on? What I’ve changed? My priorities, like so many things could have changed. So yeah, certainly there are points that would have been cool, but I’m really grateful for where I’m at today and, and I’m really proud of the work that I’m doing and I get a lot of inspiration from it and I’m still genuinely curious about it.

So, um, but yeah,

Andrew: Sorry, I keep interrupting, but I there’s so much, I want to cover and I wanna make sure that we do it fast. So within the time that we have, so you organize a handful of events the first year are those profitable.

David: Yeah, so the events were profitable. Uh, that first event was profitable. Um, we were very lean, very scrappy, kept costs really low. And I believe what we did is max and I took 50% of the revenue for ourselves because we weren’t taking any salaries. So that week that’s just how we paid ourselves. And we put 50% back in to the company.

Well, actually the second event we did was a New York event and we overestimated how many tickets we could sell because we were like, Oh, we sold 300 in San Francisco. Let’s go 400 in New York. And it turned out, it was just a much harder market to sell a conference in for community. And so we almost lost $50,000 and that would have been the end of it right there.

Uh, we ended up switching our conference venue two weeks before the event. Um, and we’re able to find one that was much more affordable. And even with all the fees we had to pay to cancel the contract with the other one, uh, we ended up breaking even on that event and live, uh, live to, you know, continue on.

Andrew: Why did you continue with events for so long instead of going to online courses online? Anything?

David: We did online pretty quickly. I mean, we started doing online courses, we’ve experimented with paid memberships. Uh, we’ve done recruiting services. Like we, we experimented with a lot of different monetization.

Andrew: how’d that go for you?

David: You know, everything went fine, but nothing was big enough that like we can really grow and scale.

It like was enough to get by is kind of the point we would keep getting too.

Andrew: I wonder why is it just because people didn’t value community at the time?

David: Yeah, really hard to get budget. You know, if you think about where budget comes from to go to a conference, to pay for training, to do recruiting, you know, it’s always a company that’s paying for it. And at that time, the community manager was just still seen as you can just hire an intern to do this and pay them little to nothing.

So we’re not going to spend $700 for a training or a conference ticket for this person that we’re, we’re barely paying in the first place. So it just wasn’t bought companies weren’t that bought into community yet. And so anything that we were selling related to community was also going to be a hard sell.

Andrew: You know what that makes total sense. I think of community now, as I go back to the days of bodybuilding calm, which was sold for, I forget the amount, but it was sold for considerable amount, even though all it was was an online forum, just like a vBulletin form. I think about most re more recently, the hustle’s sold to HubSpot for, um, undisclosed, uh, uh, millions of dollars.

And that was basically a community, a community driven product, right? Yes. They had the email newsletter and I don’t want to underestimate that, but advertising in the email newsletter is not nearly growing as fast as revenue from the, from the community that they were charging for access to and the Facebook group.

Right. Um, are there other examples like that, that I’m missing?

David: Yeah, there’s a lot. I mean, uh, product hunt was bought by angel list. So that was a community, um, indie hackers by Stripe. Um, uh, who’s uh, uh, no code community that was just bought by Zapier. Um,

Andrew: a Makerspace. I forget what it is. Okay. But you know what? There’s not even that

David: there, there are lots of good examples.

Andrew: pad. That’s what it is. Make her pad.

David: Thank you. Thank you. Um, and then sales, hacker was bought by outreach, so like, yeah, lots of good examples of communities being acquired by tech companies in recent history.

Andrew: As far as well, maybe now we’re going to get into the, into the book because I think of communities now as the product that people are willing to pay for the thing that I’ve been hearing a lot of is people come for the content, they stay for the community. Right? And I think a great example of that is the hustle people paid for trends, which is their content where you pay an annual fee.

And then you get this email newsletter with trends as the, of what’s coming where the money is, but really you could get that other places. It’s interesting, but I don’t think it’s nearly as valuable as that Facebook group where they’re all egging each other on and pushing each other to start businesses.

And they have that whole Sam Parr, Sean, uh, attitude. Right.

David: I mean, community’s sticky. So, you know, if you look at just content or a product, if someone else creates the same content or product, then maybe you’re reasonably easy to steal away. But if you’ve actually formed relationships and you feel like you’re a part of this group that that’s connected, it’s going to be much harder for you to leave because you’re leaving a group of people now, a place where you’ve already developed a reputation and a connection.

Andrew: I think a product hunt is less a community, even though there’s obviously a community there as just crowdsourcing, it’s more like the Yelp for software, then a, then a community. Right.

David: So, this is where it gets tricky to try to label a group, a community or not a community, because the reality is communities actually look like these concentric circles. And so all groups will have this distribution of engagement. So, uh, for, for product hunt, yeah. Most of the people wouldn’t say they’re part of a community.

They’re just using it for the utility of discovering products. It’s a platform, but there’s definitely power users at the middle. There were definitely founding members. Like I was one of the founding members of product hunt. I felt a strong sense of community. There’s the creators on the platform. Right?

So you talk about Yelp. Yeah. Like I’m just using it for finding a restaurant locally, but I’m in an outer ring of what you would call like the Yelp ecosystem. As you move into these more central rings, you have the Yelp elite who are their most engaged reviewers and they do a ton to engage the Yelp lead and run event.

Andrew: talking to each other. They’re submitting, right? They are. The Yelp elite are and then product hunt. Do you think that they’re talking to each other or is it the community

David: Well, they do it in certain formats. Yeah. They have, um, they have events that they run for the community where people are interacting with each other. I’m not currently familiar with, if they’re doing an online space for people to have discussions, not on the platform. As far as I know, outside of the comments that are happening on their product.

Andrew: let’s close out CMX and then I want to come back and talk about the business of belonging. I think the book is really well done. I could feel like it must’ve just been agony to write because it is so it’s so methodical. It breaks down community in a clean, easy to understand way. And it’s actual it’s so fricking dense.

I don’t remember the last time that I had this many fricking highlights in a book that I’ve, I’ve done an interview about. Um, and then you’re using. All right. So why did you decide to sell CMX?

David: A number of reasons. Um, like I said, it was not a runaway success when it came to, you know, building a business that we can scale. And I always had, I always knew that there was a massive opportunity and. Yeah. I mean, not always set it consistently, but deep down, like I believe that community and business was going this way that all businesses would end up being community-driven.

And so it was this kind of disconnect between where I thought things could go and the impact we can have, like I could see in my brain. How things should be, but we are just always resource strapped in terms of people and money. And I was running a business as well, so I couldn’t even focus on all the things I wanted to.

And so, um, it, it kind of developed organically the conversation with Derek. Who’s the founder of bevy. We had been meeting regularly just to give each other feedback and advice and support each other. And I would talk to him. I’m like, man, I’m still trying to figure out how to monetize and how to build a business.

And he had similar struggles with startup grind. It’s the largest startup community in the world. And he had struggled to turn it into like the big business that he wanted to. And there was a point where he was just like, Hey man, like bevy, we need to be building our own community. And, um, we were already using bevy for our events cause we had a partnership with them and he’s like, you’re already doing like the community that we want to build and we can give you the resources and the things that you need to be able to grow it.

And so I just kind of like. Looked at the situation looked at like, well, I can keep banging my head against the wall and struggling to figure out the business model around this thing and not be able to have the full impact that we want to have, or we can team up and, and see if we can really accelerate things and do all the things that we wanted to do.

I talked to my team, uh, we had a lot of conversations with the CMX community to make sure that the community felt okay about it.

Andrew: You asked them, can we sell to beBee? I didn’t realize that.

David: Oh yeah. Hey, we’re looking at this acquisition. Uh, let’s have an open conversation about it. We had a group calls about it. We talked about it in our community spaces on Facebook Slack and just left it open. And 100% of the people in the community were like, yeah, we get it. Like, it’s, it’s hard from a business perspective.

And this seems like a really good idea. Uh, you know, I think it’s a good idea.

Andrew: All right. So let me analyze then I think if we’re looking at, at CMX versus say sales hacker, or, uh, and even side-by-side with startup grind, startup grind, um, a series of events across the world, I think anyone can host it in their town. Right? With, with collaboration, with startup grind, they brought in startup entrepreneurs and people in that ecosystem to speak.

And then an audience would come and listen. That was that model that Derek had. It seems like what you and Derek had. Um, that was different from what, uh, max had with sales. Hacker was you had a, a passionate community that mattered, but didn’t have money and didn’t have enough respect yet. Right? I think his dad would start up grind more because there were businesses willing to put money up to reach startups, hoping that one day they could afford them.

Right. Max, on the other hand had sales professionals who had money had budget, had direct impact, had decision-making power. And so his group of people could be more profitable. Am I right in that assessment?

David: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s funny to see, you know, CMX and sales hacker started at the same time and we would always talk about like, wow, like why does this feel so much harder with CMX and it’s for sales hacker and yeah, I think it’s the industry and the buy-in and the budget.

Andrew: Okay. Like if you would’ve created CMX as a community for online marketers, they have money. They have the ability to experiment they’re valued, right. That could have taken off. So that’s, that’s the big lesson that I’ve got from this. What you wouldn’t have had is this, um, sense of substance and longevity?

I feel like though that space comes and goes what you’re doing with community. If you do it in as authentically as you have an, almost to the point of sacrifice and you are not almost right, the payoffs are phenomenal. Let me talk about my, I think I’m just going to do one out here today. We’re going to give up some revenue because I want to continue with this conversation.

Um, I’m blowing through this cause there’s a lot I want to cover with you. The sponsor I’m going to go with is rippling. Before I, I started this interview, I said, you okay with me talking about rippling? You said we’re a customer. I said, great. Do you feel talking about, feel comfortable talking about, and you said kind of right.

Is your experience with rippling is white.

David: It’s like, I think it’s a great product. I just buy my, how I use it is I approved my employees vacation time and just like do the basic HR tasks. So, uh, it definitely makes my life easier in that regard, but I’m sure our HR team will be able to speak much more in depth of the product. I’m just an end user.

Andrew: And as an end-user user, you shouldn’t have a passion one way or the other shouldn’t go. This is amazing. Or this stinks your life. Isn’t in there. It just needs to allow you to do your job well, and here’s what rippling is. It’s an all-in-one HR platform. It allows companies like mine, like Mixergy, like yours to say no matter where people are in the country and people are moving all the time, right?

We’re going to be able to pay them and be in compliance. We’re going to be able to handle payment to them properly. Now, if they’re 10 99 people, we’re going to be able to handle them properly too. If they shift from one to the other, meaning to go from being contract to full-time employee absolutely handled.

If they’re international, you could pay them. It makes it super simple. You just go in, I click, click, click. The whole thing is fricking done. People get paid. Here’s the extra little bit that I didn’t realize until I became a customer of theirs. You know, when you hire somebody David, one of the first things you do is you give them an email address, right?

You guys use Slack at beBee

David: we do.

Andrew: all. Alright. You give, you give them access to certain rooms, right? And you give max a Slack. You guys, Google drive users.

David: Less and less. So

Andrew: What do you guys use now?

David: confluence.

Andrew: Confluence. I don’t know if they work with confluence, but, um, I, I, I know that they work with a broad collection of software. What you want to do is give people access to your confluence or to your, whatever it is that you’re using.

What rippling does is it says, okay, when you hire someone, why don’t you just check off a few boxes and then give them access to the software they need and to the parts of the software that they want. So they may not just because they’re a new employee, get access to all of your Slack rooms, but you can give maxes to the Slack rooms that relate to them.

And then it kind of is painful to say, but if you need to let them go, it’s easy to then revoke all that access from the same place where you say we’ve terminated the person and we’re not paying them anymore. Anyway, I could go on forever about this. Here’s the thing that I recommend for anyone who’s starting a business.

Anyone who’s paying people, especially in this new world where people are moving around and you want to make sure to be in compliance and pay them and give them that ho-hum experience at David as an end is having here’s the, here’s the catch phrase. Ho-hum all your people should feel. It’s his pain is taken care,

When you do, they’ll give you a demo. They’ll walk you through this. They’ll show you how it applies to your business. If it makes sense, switch, even if it doesn’t keep it in the back of your heads, the next time you hate doing something like 10 99, and the way that I did at the end of the year, or have trouble onboarding people, or you let go of someone you go, wow, did I not know to give them to cut them access to it?

Then you’ll know you’ve got a better solution in mind. Just go to And they’ll give you this special treatment where they’ll walk you through their process. All right. It’s actually no special treatment. Let’s be honest. It’s just, they’re going to walk you through it because that’s what they do for customers, but it’s really a valuable demo.

All right, let’s start with the book.

I think one of the problems that we have with communities is, and maybe you had this at CMX is there’s so many different types of communities, right? That I wonder if you would have focused on one, if CMX would have, then been more appreciated. For example, when I, you took a look at super this, uh, software that turns notion pages into websites, they have a community using circle software that I know that you, like. I think of that as like customer support community, right. Just help people help each other so that it doesn’t go to tech support. What other types of communities are there?

David: Yeah. So this is, this is one of the biggest questions in the community industry. Cause people would use the same term to talk about all these different kinds of programs. So we actually developed a framework that I talked about in the book called the spaces model. And so it breaks down the different objectives or the different ways the community drives value for a business.

So support is number one. And that’s your traditional support forum, customers answering questions for each other, uh, P is for product. So it’s, you’re building a community space. So you’re collecting feedback and insights that you’re able to bring into your product and innovate more efficiently.

Andrew: Well, you want to know what features do people want? I think you say in the book, Salesforce did that in the early days. They couldn’t justify a community for other reasons. Am I right about that?

David: They, they want to do well. That actually started in marketing and then they wanted to prioritize product. So Erica cool. Who started that program? Um, she was able to get budget and buying in the marketing department, but always believed that community could drive a ton of value for product and help the product team figure out what to bid.

And so she worked on kind of moving it over in that direction over time.

Andrew: Okay. So what’s, what’s, uh, an example of someone who uses community to build a better product.

David: So Salesforce does this X-Box does this Fitbit does this? Um, so th an idea exchange is one way to do it. So you build a platform where your customers can post ideas to the platform. They can vote on each other’s ideas comment. So for the company, they get to see what ideas bubble up to the top and what are the most popular.

Um, but it could also be through things like, uh, committees or councils. So you can create a customer council or a customer community council, where you have a small group of customers who are representative of the larger community, bring them into any product decision, any company decision, you bring that voice into the room.

Andrew: You know what? I’ve been hearing a lot more about that in enterprise, where they’ll bring in 10, they don’t necessarily even all have to talk to each other, but do they, if it’s a community, if it’s a community, do they have to talk to each of these?

David: A lot of them are, they have different formats. A lot of them just do like a call once a month with their community council and they’ll have an agenda. They run a bunch of things by the council, get their feedback, and then they communicate asynchronously out outside of that.

Andrew: Okay. Support is one. You got problems. You want people to be able to help each other solve those problems. The second one is for product what’s next.

David: Acquisition. So it’s just, uh, anything that’s driving growth marketing. It could be events, chapter based programs where anyone who comes to an event, that’s a touch point in the sales and marketing journey that you can tie back to ROI. It could also be a community that’s just focused on your target market.

So what HubSpot did with inbound in their early days, for example, having a community. So all inbound marketers would rely on their community to get help and support. And through that, they would end up learning about HubSpot and becoming a customer. Um, and finally it could also be like ambassador programs.

So like the Skinbassador program, the skim is the largest newsletter in the world. And about 20% of their list is driven by ambassadors who are rewarded and, and in order to get more people subscribed to the newsletter.

Andrew: Okay. All right. I, I see these different types, right? These are the different types of communities we could have. What’s what’s the C space as P a S P S.

David: So if you didn’t have any platform, business, things like Airbnb, anything that’s open source, Wikipedia, uh, Twitch. These are platforms where the businesses in creating the content or the product, or creating a platform for people to contribute the, are the product you, to me, another great example. And so they build community programs in order to make those contributors as successful at POS as possible, contributing to the platform.

Andrew: All right. And one of the things that I took away from your book was from the very beginning, people want to justify their community to themselves. They want to justify it to, to their, their bosses. And then they also want to get as many people in their community as possible. So they say, we’re going to do all these things.

If we put up a forum, we’re going to be able to get new customers. That’s the acquisition, right. We’ll be able to get ambassadors and so on. And you say, no, it’s better to just focus on one of, all of them. If we had to pick one as say, entrepreneurs who are trying to create an emotional connection with our audience, what’s the one that you think we should focus on.

David: As entrepreneurs, the thing when you’re building something new is community, isn’t actually something that will. Give you a return very quickly. It takes time to build up that network and those relationships. So in some ways I would say don’t even focus on anything in that space as model in the very early days of building your startup and your community, just focus on engaging people, just focus on building a sense of connection and then see how they want to contribute.

Are they organically giving you product feedback? Great. Now, how do you double down on that and create more specific pathways for them to do that? Or are they showing that they want to be ambassadors for your product? Great. Start building that. And, um, but just want to call out that for most people, listen, who listen to your podcasts are very early stage.

I wouldn’t start right now trying to drive growth with your community. I would just focus on like building a sense of community for your people. As you start to grow. I would say that, um, that acquisition one is actually the most critical and in our research, that’s the one that leadership cares most about in business.

They want to see new customers and then engagement is the E they want to see retained customers. And so that’s going to be the most direct line to ROI and revenue. And that’s going to get you the most buy-in and help you invest in community in a bigger way.

Andrew: All right. I like that. You’re being open and saying, look from the beginning. You’ve probably don’t want to community. What you’re saying though, is look to see, it seems like where are you getting the most interaction from your audience, from your customers, and then turn that into a community. So if it’s a lot of customer service requests, first of all, maybe fix your product.

And secondly, maybe you create a community where people can talk it through. Um, I get that, but you, right. I mentioned that in that early days, when it’s them just coming into you that it’s, you still call that a community? Is it a community? If it’s a bunch of, maybe I’m just being too, too anal about the definition here, but if they’re just all messaging me and saying, Andrew, I want to contribute a new guest.

Is that a community?

David: No, probably not. If they’re not interacting with each other, then it would be hard to call that group of community. Look at the end of the day, community is something that people experience. That’s why it’s called the sense of community. It’s something that’s in the eye of the beholder. So someone might just listen to Mixergy episodes and never interact with another listener.

But just by listening to you and all the guests, they feel a sense of community as a member of the Mixergy community. Like who’s to tell them it’s not a community, then that’s something they’re experiencing. Now from a practical standpoint, if you actually want to move people to contribute to what you’re doing by bringing in you customers with you by.

By giving you product feedback, then that’s where you need to actually start facilitating spaces and programs that will drive that growth. And it’s not enough just to call it a community. It’s actually about connecting people to each other.

Andrew: That’s where we get to the place where Sam Parr says, if you, you know, you have a community when you can walk away and the thing continues to grow, if you walk away and it disappears, it means it’s you doing it. You go through the different stages of communities in your book. That first stage is what that nascent period.

David: The seed stage. Yeah. So I like to describe the community life cycle as can be the life cycle has been around for a long time as a concept. I like to describe it like a tree. So you think about how a tree grows. It starts off as a seed and you have to like give it a, it needs a lot of attention. It’s very fragile.

It’s like the very early days. And then once, you know, you find community market fit, then it hits the growth stage. And that’s where things are stopping, starting to happen more organically. Your members are contributing more organically without you having to nudge them every time. Um, rules start to form a more official kind of leadership position start to form.

And eventually it becomes a mature tree or mature community. You know, you think about all the branches of a tree dice, fully grown. You have really well established norms. Your community members are creating, you know, 90 to 99% of the continent of the community and, and things just feel a lot more established and structured.

And then eventually. That’s where, you know, trees will drop the seeds and it’ll start to plant new communities. Same, uh, new, new trees. Same thing happens for community, right? Uh, you’ll start to see subgroups start to form, or people spin out communities from the main one that speak more specifically to the needs and the identity that they have within that larger identity.

Andrew: You know what I would have loved even what’s going on in the background over there at your place.

David: We got a six month old wanting to get involved in this podcast.

Andrew: that’s great. How’s how’s being a dad been for you.

David: Uh, is it an amazing it’s the best? Yeah. And our carrier has done things to you.

Andrew: I sent that carrier. I, um, I love that carrier. I used to walk around the mission with my kid when he was a baby attached to me and a diaper in the back in one back pocket and then a few wet wipes in a Ziploc bag and another, and I just walked through and if there’s an accident, I could change it. And if there’s another one, I walk into a store and buy another one, but I would like to just be light walk around and the more you walk, the more, the happier they are.

And the more you feel like you’re still engaged in the world.

David: Paul’s and just have him strapped to me and we’ll just walk around golden gate park. It’s really nice.

Andrew: Yeah. Um, I, you know, what I could, I would have liked more of is more of more case studies like to see specific communities that I admire to understand how they did it. Like one of, one of the communities that I really love, maybe my favorite online community is indie hackers. It has a clear sense of identity, right?

You could tell almost from the name, what they’re about, there’s a clear point of contribution. You contribute what you’ve done along the way. Here’s, here’s how you got your next batch of customers hit the next financial milestone and you get. To have people help you out. I wonder, like, do you have a community that you can give me a case study on?

Who’s done that? Well, a community as a, as like a replacement for content marketing, instead of, instead of indie hackers, like in the early days where he just created content, he had the community create content, which then becomes richer more self-sustaining do you have a case study or an example of someone who’s done that?

David: Um, so what you’re asking is like, uh, started as a community and then B and then became a product after that.

Andrew: Um, more like a community as content, community as the place to go, who created a community as, as a destination online and how do they do that? How do some places, how does some places create that atmosphere?

David: I know you specifically at the very earliest stage of the company.

Andrew: Yeah. If we can understand how they did it from the beginning. That’s great. I think one of the examples you gave in the book is duo lingo. You compared it to what’s, uh, what’s the big company, Berlitz

David: Is that a stone?

Andrew: Rosetta stone, right? I didn’t realize that Rosetta stone, you said was worth $700 million. Um, meanwhile, duo lingo is over a billion dollars.

Rosetta stone has way more employees. I forget the exact number. I feel bad that I can’t remember. It’s it’s over a thousand at Rosetta stone. And then how many at Duolingo

David: I think it was a few hundred.

Andrew: and meanwhile, both of these are teaching people, multiple languages and Rosetta stone is creating their own content. Do a lingo, has their community create more of the content. Right? And that to me was, was one of the big eyeopening examples in the book.

David: Yeah. So, so Duolingo is a good example of the scale of community, right? Because Rosetta stone took the approach of we’re going to build all of our courses and do a lingo said, well, what if we created a platform for people to create courses and contribute their own skills? Um, and they, they empower the community to self-organize events.

Uh, so they had 2,600 events that they’re running per month with a team of three people. And they’re only able to do that because they empower the community to self organize those events. And so, uh, it was just a really good example of the scalability of community and how taking a community driven approach allows you to accelerate.

All the other parts of your business, whether it’s your product or engagement. Um, I mean, you could look at any startup and it’s going to start with community in some way, because if you don’t have a product yet that founder is out there knocking on doors and building relationships. One-on-one. If you look at any large platform today, it’s always starting really small focus.

So next door is a really good example. I talked about in the book where. Um, literally like Sarah Leary is a co-founder. I just spoke with her the other day. She’s like we focused on one neighborhood and we were knocking on doors. We were going door to door, asking people to join this platform. Um, Reddit started as one page that was just developers on the platform before it turned any separate it’s outer became a larger platform.

Facebook started in one school. So all these like really large communities are really large companies always starts really focused on a group that they make feel really special and exclusive, and they hone in on the problems that they have and then they build from there.

Andrew: So Stripe, I think instead of creating their own community said, we’re going to buy indie hackers. And if you need to pause and go take care of the baby, I completely understand.

David: let me know if the background noise is my wife’s helping out, but, uh, if the background noise is too much, then I can.

Andrew: get it. If, if Stripe we’re going to start from scratch or profit, well ProfitWell is a great product, I think, bad, bad design. Um, but they’re what they do is, uh, profit. Well we’ll help companies like mine with subscription revenue, understand what their churn is, understanding what their month to month revenue is.

And more importantly, if someone churns, they help recover that churn by reaching out to them and getting the person to come back and sign up. And they only collect money when, um, when they get somebody to come back as a customer, I feel like the founder of ProfitWell is trying very hard to generate buzz for his, for his site.

And he’s doing a great job of it, right? He’s tweeting, he’s talking. He created baseball cards of entrepreneurs, but it’s still very much him. I almost forgot his name. His name was Patrick. Patrick. It’s still very much him being exuberant, putting an effort in. If he said, look, I see what’s going on for Stripe.

I want to start from scratch to create my own community of people who are doing SAS products with recurring revenue, because eventually some of them will become customers of mine the way for indie hackers, some of these indie hackers, many of them end up becoming Stripe customers. What would you recommend that he do to start from scratch and to build this thing up so that it actually helps create more customers for him?

David: I mean like why, why couldn’t he have started Saster right. Like Saster is a community for people working in SAS. Imagine if they built that, imagine if they acquired that that’s incredible brand awareness and trust in the industry. Um, so there’s, there’s the reason, you know, Stripe could have built indie hacker, bevy could have built CMX.

Um, these are examples of companies seeing an opportunity to buy versus build, which you can apply to community just so

Andrew: So one thing he could do is say, look, who’s out there. Who’s building this community of SAS entrepreneurs. Doesn’t really see a profit in it. I’ll just acquire them and we’ll do it. Okay. But if you want us to start from scratch, what’s the thing that a company like his could do.

David: So, and that’s the thing with community for the most part, it’s best to start small. And there’s a temptation to go really big, especially if you already have established a customer base or a big audience, and you just want to like immediately convert into a community, but small is an opportunity. And so if I were him, what I would do is literally like identify the 10 best people possible to be in a.

Founding group of people in SAS and just start having conversations with them. It could be as simple as a zoom call. It can be a dinner when you can be in person. Again, just very simple. Just start to get the right people connected. That’s in the space that he wants to build this community and identity around and start connecting them.

Because when it’s small, you can be very exclusive. It’s very intimate, it feels personalized and you build a foundation of community and that group can grow to 20 people. Right? You can even ask those first 10 people like who’s one person that you think should be here in this room. That’s really high quality person in SAS.

And then it goes from 20 to 40 to 80 to one 60 and community can grow exponentially that way. But the way to do it is to start really small, really focused on the identity and get the right people in the room in the first place.

Andrew: Thing I would imagine he would need is it’s like a purpose, so really small. So it has to be, and you talk about this a lot in your book, be as niche-y as possible. Start with as few people as, as not as possible, but start with fewer people is better than starting with more people. I don’t know if you talk about the purpose of the group, like should, should he also say our purpose is to reduce churn?

Make people love us so much that we reduce churn. We’re going to get together once a month on our zoom call and talk about what we’ve done to reduce turn. Maybe one person will say that he sent out a chocolate to all of his customers and other person will say that he installed software to tell him when his customers weren’t using it, they’re sharing ideas or how do you get more subscribers or what software works, but they should pick a purpose.

Don’t you? I don’t remember seeing that in the book. Am I missing it?

David: Yeah, it’s in the book. So we go through the seven PS of community design in there, and it starts with people on purpose. So those are the first two things you want to figure out is who you’re gathering and why you’re gathering them. And yeah, that, that shared purpose is what’s going to give them the language, the kind of rallying call to come together.

And so we’re trying to reduce churn. That’s maybe exciting, but you know, maybe what they could say is like, we are the most obsessed people in the world with the question of how do you reduce churn for SAS? And we just spend an inhuman amount of time, like studying this and talking about it. And if you want to, if you are like a geek like us, that just loves this topic so much and really wants to hone in on it.

This is a community for you. That, that feels compelling to me. If, if that speaks to me now, I’m like, Oh shit, this is a group for me. I want to join this group because it feels very different from all the other SAS and Mark.

Andrew: of the identity. What, what makes it so different?

David: Because it’s speaking very specifically to it’s like, we’re, we’re not just here to talk about like SAS retention. Like we are, we go so deep, like what for, and this is just hypothetical for them. Their difference, their unique value prop as a community can be that we go deeper than anyone else into this one question.

There’s lots of communities that talk about a lot of things for marketing and SAS, but we are all about this one question of how do you reduce churn? That’s one approach that they could take to make it so specific that the people who identify with that are going to be like, wow, like finally, a place that just focuses on the conversation that I’m looking for.

Andrew: Right. Right. And maybe it’s like churn busters is what they are. It’s just 10 people. And then they start to focus on some aspect, got one, one more thing. So I do see that by the way here, whatever you organize, always start with people in purpose. You said that I highlighted the word purpose and I, for some reason, missed it in, in, in my understanding.

David: of highlights. It’s easy to get

Andrew: Fricking day. There’s a ton of highlights in here.

David: Sorry.

Andrew: Um,

David: I think I read a tweet a while back from Nevada that was like most books could have just been a tweet and that like stuck in my head. I’m like this book will be at least 10 tweets,

Andrew: this book is not a tweet. It’s, you know what it is. It’s like, it’s not a tweet. It’s not even a tweet storm. A chapter is not even a tweetstorm. If you take down one of these acronyms like spaces, it’s not going to, it’s not going to, um,

David: 13 years pressed into a

Andrew: What was your process for writing it?

David: Process was, uh, right. Uh, an entire book draft and then dump it out and then write an entire additional

Andrew: that really what you did?

David: Yeah. Yeah. I wrote multiple manuscripts before ever getting a book deal. And then finally, like in the last year I was, uh, I made a commitment and I was like, all right, I’m going to get this out the door, pitched publishers and ended up getting the deal and getting it through the door.

But it was literally a third time I’ve written this book and it was extremely hard to write

Andrew: Before you had somebody say you got a deal, which is a big driver for getting it done. What did you do to, what was your process for sitting down and actually writing?

David: before the deal.

Andrew: Yeah. What should the previous versions where you didn’t have a deal where you’re just sitting down and writing?

David: The problem was there. Wasn’t a lot of process. I was just kind of get inspired and I’d write a lot. And I just like, get it all out of my head and I get to like 70 pages and then it would get hard. It would get so big that you had to start being methodical in structuring how you do everything. And I would just kind of like fade because I wasn’t taking it seriously enough that I would push through that discomfort.

Um, but I did in the last year, once I like really committed to it and. Um, a couple of things. One was, uh, time like setting a consistent time every day that I would write on the book. So, uh, basically I did the two hours before the Workday every day. And then I would do about four hours every weekend morning, um, to write the book, I would go to a coffee shop and I would just write, um, and this was before the manuscript and the baby were due the same week.

So I have a hard deadline. I’m going to get this book out by then. Um, and then I, I found tools that help. So I ended up using Ulysses, which just helps structure all the sections in a way that made it a lot easier to see visually and set. Yeah. Ulysses, um, And a Scrivener was another one I use, but Scrivener, it felt like overkill.

It was like all the bells and whistles you could possibly need to like completely self publish a book. Ulysses is like very simple. So I ended up using that that really helps. Um, and then, you know, I just kept like that, that helped me tweak the structure and the organization of the book. And then I just got as good of a copy as I could done and got it to my developmental editor who then like hacked it apart and restructured everything again.

And then it just, it was just time. It’s just taking the time to comb through it. I’d probably come through this book like 20 times now we’re beginning to end to like go through it once, go through it again, go through it a third

Andrew: Well, you’re sitting down and saying today it’s just four hours or today it’s gotta be four hours and I need to finish this one chapter. This one section.

David: Those are usually time-based. I would say like, I’m going to work as much as I can on this for four hours. Um,

Andrew: Did anyone sit and help you anyone check in with you once a week? No coach,

David: I, I have a coach that I check in with every two weeks.

Andrew: a writing coach or business coach?

David: there’s more of a business personal,

Andrew: Um, like what about purpose? Did purpose help, uh, sorry. Purpose for, uh, for community. Does per do you need to have, excuse me, not purpose. Sorry. There’s so much. I want to ask you about, that’s why it’s jumbling. That’s why I’m giving up revenue for this. This is you need to have a unified methodology of, or is it just enough to have a purpose as a community?

Do you need to.

David: A book writing now or community.

Andrew: back to a community. Do you need to, yeah. Sorry. Do you need to have a unified process, a unified belief system? Like if I think about a HubSpot, they had inbound, it was inbound marketing, but it was a certain type of inbound marketing that they were all working with and they created to highlight the articles that shared that vision.

Do you think you need to have a similar, a similar experience?

David: Yeah. Whether or not you articulated a, community’s always going to have a shared identity and purpose. And so, I mean, you don’t have to, you don’t have to start. With that you don’t have to actually design too much. Like community can be as simple as I’m genuinely curious about this topic and these questions.

And I want to have conversations with other people who are genuinely curious about these questions and things and the purpose and the product and the, the values will come out of it organically. And then you can start to design it intentionally as you’re building it. Like product hunt is a great example of going to case study like product hunt was just a bunch of brunches at first, right?

Ryan Hoover. Was organizing brunches for people who are passionate about products and exactly the way you described those HubSpot. It was like a certain vibe and tone. Like he was all about positivity in a world with hacker news, where someone would launch a product. And the cool thing to do is to shit on the product and the founder and say how bad it was.

Ryan was all about like, no, this is awesome. It’s someone creating something. I don’t care if it’s a silly app that has no real business purpose and people enjoy it, then that’s amazing. And so he just started organizing brunches. It was like every month and that community formed out of that. And it wasn’t like a clearly articulated mission and set of values is just a group of people who shared kind of a tone and a voice and an interest in product.

And then he pitched the idea for product on to that group. And that was the founding group that became the product on platform, which was as simple as an email newsletter in those very early days. So it’s just like. What are you really curious about? And what are the people that you care about really curious about and how do you just start creating spaces for people to have conversations around that?

And there are a lot of, it will start to form organically around that.

Andrew: I could, I could keep asking you questions. Here’s here’s why I feel like you’re a guy with incredible dedication to this. Usually you’ll see somebody, especially here in Sanford. Francisco get really good at something really care about something. And then they moved on to something else you’ve been freaking obsessed with.

This we’ll have lunches. And instead of you going, I’m tired of talking about this, or obviously I’ve done this or Andrew, we’re just hanging out. You will still talk to me about community. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, but there’s still this, this passion and the consistency, the passion, the depth of your, of your time of your attention shows in this fricking book, you’ve got to be proud of the book.

Don’t you feel like if you die tomorrow, it’s not. I would feel professionally if your career died tomorrow, don’t you feel like this would be a good thing to have left behind? That’s a, that’s a good representation of the work that you’ve done.

David: Yeah. Yeah. It feels like a massive milestone for me. If there’s something about a book, just like the tangible artifact that it is, that just like it sums up things and it, it forces you like the process of writing a book is really valuable in itself because it forces you to take all these disparate ideas and concepts and put it into a cohesive narrative.

So, yeah, I mean, if, if someone wants to download my brain and like get like 80% of the things that I’ve learned from an in community from the last 13 years, it’s in the book.

Andrew: It is an obsession. Do you feel like you’re done with this? Do you feel like, all right, I’m done caring about communities.

David: No, not even close. I’m still as curious about it. I’m maybe more curious about it than when I started. And that was probably at least in part, because it seems like it’s finally having its day in the spotlight and everyone is interested in community for their business. And first round published this data, 80% of startups are investing in community and 28% consider to be their moat and critical to their success.

And like seeing stats like this now it’s surreal for me because I’ve kind of been saying that community is a future business for over a decade. And like a little bit of like, well, I really hope this happens, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen. And now that it’s happened, it’s, it’s so cool because it’s like, It’s so validating for all the hard work that my team and I put into, um, codifying this work and this industry and what it means now, seeing it being able to be put into practice at like the biggest companies in the world and all these amazing new startups.

It’s it’s it’s really fulfilling work right now.

Andrew: The book is called the business of belonging. I really like that title too. It’s very much like it communicates the two things that are important, which is like the bit, the fact that it’s a business, it’s a business purpose community. It feels so, uh, hippie-ish to talk community and you’re grounding and in business.

And then belonging, you talk in your book about this, like made up person cam who, as soon as he hears sales hackers, he says, this is me. I am part of this group. That’s why. Oh, she right day you’re right. You intentionally left it as like, without a gender so that everyone could identify with that person who you’re talking about within the community.

All right. I liked the book. Congratulations. I think we would have had an awkward French dupe if, uh, if I didn’t like the book, uh, I would have had an awkward interview instead of interrupting you. I would have just tried to sidestep the whole thing.

David: I’ve always like I’ve listened to your show for, I mean, seriously in like the earliest days of my career and just like, you’d always go. So you dig into things, you don’t let anyone slide by on questions. And like, that’s always stuck with me in my head of like, what would I do if I do actually have to be on Andrew show and talk about community?

Like, can I actually answer the followup question to the follow up question that I know he’s going to? Is that like a little fear coming back on here and be like, Oh no, he’s gonna poke holes and things that like, I couldn’t think of, but, uh, uh, I think I did. Okay.

Andrew: I think, I think you did great. I think when it came to CMX, there was a little bit of a sadness that you couldn’t find the thing, the software that CMX would become to power communities, the database, right? Like, and maybe there there’s, that felt a little bit, maybe I was picking up on pride, mixed in with a little sadness.

Fair. Versus when you’re talking about the book, there is this sense of, ah, there’s depth. There there’s meaning there there’s substance and like completion. There’s not an ounce of you. That goes, uh, I it’s just a good enough book. It’ll get me speaking gigs and nothing else. Right. I feel like you, you feel good about it wholeheartedly.

David: Yeah, I, I put my heart and soul into the book and to Cmax. It’s like, I, I go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up thinking about I, I can’t stop. And so, I mean, yeah, I like split CMX. I mean, everyone, I think a lot of people who start a company are and starting to sell it and they started to build something really long lasting.

And, um, I’ve always seen CMX is like, it’s, it’s kind of bullshit to say it’s like a family, but it’s got a very real emotional place in my life and in my heart and very real relationships and connections from it. It’s a community that I care really deeply about. And, and I, you know, I always, when I built it, I would see it as like there should be an institution that’s around forever for as long as the community industry era is around.

I hope that CMX is a place that the people who do this work can come to find support and, and learn how to do this work better. And so yeah, an ideal deal world, would I have like turned it into this wildly successful business that can just like be self-sustaining forever sure. Yes. That there’s, there’s a level of sadness, maybe the right word for it, of like, that was a path.

Um, but I can also genuinely say that, like that challenge that we saw, we can’t fully have the impact. That’s where we want to have on the path that we’re on. And I believe that teaming up with bevy will align us much better and get it. Those resources turned out to be a hundred percent true because the level of growth and the quality of what we’ve been able to create this industry was 10 X, uh, when we went through that acquisition.

Um, and so like everything else they’re trade offs. Um, but I haven’t had a single regret about that decision. That 100% thing, it was the right choice.

Andrew: All right. The website for anyone who wants to go check it out. It’s C M X Of course, the book we’ve been talking about is the business of belonging. And I want to thank, uh, the two sponsors, one of them. This does not count for them, but I want to thank you HostGator for understanding when I can’t run the ad, when I’m supposed to it’s for anyone who wants to get their website, hosted with them, and rippling the software that both David and I use to make sure that we’re paying our people and that they have a good experience and can move on with their work.

You should go get yourself a demo at Thanks, David.  buy one.

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