Mike Taber co-owns the Micropreneur Academy with Rob Walling. The Micropreneur Academy is a community of bootstrappers around the world.
In this guest post, he describes how they built a community of over 1,000 software entrepreneurs, the challenges they had to overcome, and how Communifire fits their needs better than anything else they could find.
Bootstrappers seeking bootstrappers. We started the Micropreneur Academy because we wanted to talk online to other people who were also running self-funded and bootstrapped startups. Neither of us could find anyone local—Mike lived in Massachusetts and Rob was in California.
Online community, v1.0. The first iteration of our online community was essentially a bunch of people subscribed to our WordPress site. Online communities weren't as prevalent in 2009 as they are today. We heavily optimized our site for SEO and email subscriber acquisition. We talked about the community to people we met in person to get them excited and involved.
Since our community started, nearly 3,000 people have come through the door. We now have about 1,000 active members in the online community.
We got to a point where the number of complaints about the forums made us consider upgrading that plugin. However, the forums used a plugin called Simple:Press and there was no upgrade path from the version we were on to the latest version. Without a viable upgrade path for the forums, we started evaluating our options. It was too tedious to keep all the plugins functioning properly. We decided that we wanted a robust platform that we wouldn't have to maintain on our own.
We looked at quite a few options for online learning communities. I must have typed every keyword into Google: Social CRM, Social Intranet, internal collaboration, online classroom. There were forums on steroids, wikis on steroids. We found all kinds of stuff. But at the end of the day, none of it was very good. Much of it seemed like community software built by people who had never run a community before. Communifire fit our needs better than anything else.
We call our online community FounderCafe. It's a private community where members can collaborate and share ideas.
Not everyone attending MicroConf is a member of the private FounderCafe community. We show them what the private community is like by using Communifire to invite MicroConf attendees in advance of each conference. Here's how we do it:
Advice to other online community founders:
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Tim is a co-founder and president of Axero and the author of his forthcoming book, Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Break Down the Invisible Barriers to Employee Engagement. He's spilt insightful ink on the pages of Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, CNBC, Today, and other top publications.
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