🀝 Appsmith - how a super-involved community is helping shape a product developers love

Great success comes with great failures. Abhishek and Arpit Mohan realised very early in their journey, that they were meant to be entrepreneurs. Appsmith happened after multiple hands-on experiences of co-founding startups, learning from their failures for about 10 years and bouncing back stronger at it!
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Pramod Rao
November 30, 2021

"I had about 200-300 guests attending my wedding. Our goal was let's launch the product at my wedding so that we get at least a few hundred downloads." - Abhishek Nayak

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That's just a teaser of how passionate Abhishek Nayak was about shipping out great products!

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🎒 The startup rollercoaster

Great success comes with great failures. Abhishek and Arpit Mohan realised very early in their journey, that they were meant to be entrepreneurs. Appsmith happened after multiple hands-on experiences of co-founding startups, learning from their failures for about 10 years and bouncing back stronger at it! Check out this video of Abhishek, where he talks about his startup journey with 'Backstage with Millionaires'. πŸ‘‡

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Abhishek and Aprit developed a quizzing game app. It skyrocketed in three months with a million downloads and 120K users playing at any point in time. This was being manned just by a team of 4 engineers. As the app scaled they found the need to create multiple internal admin and support dashboards.

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That's when it hit hard - why was it so difficult to build internal tools for managing multiple core functionalities of an organisation? How could they simplify it? And thus Appsmith was born to solve the challenge at hand. They shut down the quizzing game app and focussed completely on Appsmith. Nikhil Nandagopal also joined them as a co-founder in 2019.

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Appsmith is the open-source framework that lets your team build custom internal applications like dashboards, admin panels, CRUD apps faster, and together. You can build an interface for your app easily with pre-made widgets, and move them around to experiment with usability.

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Here's a quick demo video to help you get started with Appsmith, in case you wish to explore the product! πŸ‘‡

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Appsmith was founded in mid-2019 and its open-source software has been downloaded over 5 million times with users at over 1,000 enterprises in 100-plus countries. They recently raised $8M Series A funding. The round was led by Canaan Partners, with participation from Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, OSS Capital and angel investor Prasanna Sankar and Rippling. It follows an earlier seed round from Accel of $2.5m, bringing the total funding to $10.5m.

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Here's another video where Arpit Mohan talks and shares more about his journey towards Appsmith, and what Appsmith is built to solve. πŸ‘‡

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🎯 Community as the core of the product

For a use case like that of Appsmith, it was vital to be engaged with the developers (users of the product) who were using their open-source platform to build internal tools - to get their feedback and learn from them on how they could improvise their product.

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Keeping this intention in mind, they started a Discord server to brainstorm ideas, learn from their users and support them better. Here are 6 things that are helping them run a successful community! πŸ‘‡

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πŸ€— 1. User-support: Being available 24*7

With any new dev tool, the quality of support provided builds trust amongst the users and gets the community going.

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Appsmith's team is active 24*7 across all time zones making sure they're always available for support-related issues raised by users on the Discord channel. The founders themselves are pretty active in the community extending their help wherever possible.

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The founders are pretty active on the Discord server trying to help out users.

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πŸ“ 2. Content initiatives - providing more value to the users

To add more value beyond support, they started with a couple of initiatives that would let users consume more information and ship out great tools. πŸ‘‡

  • Docs - Product Documentation
  • Videos - Easy tutorials on exploring multiple use cases with Appsmith.
  • Blogs - Explore from a variety of topics - building in public with Appsmith, feature updates and more.
  • Templates - Explore templates across multiple functional roles and industries. Fork them to speed up your internal tool creation process.

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πŸ€™ 3. Community Office Hours

Appsmith does a community call with the members every Thursday - this is mainly to understand and solve their issues, feedback about the product and brainstorm over what is next. The calls had traction initially, but slowly the numbers dropped. However, what improved over time through these calls was the quality of feedback and the conversations with the members.

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Appsmith's team created a Miro board for their community and did a live feedback session on a couple of feature updates scheduled in the roadmap. Here's how brilliant the Miro board looked! πŸ‘‡

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Taking community's feedback on features scheduled in the product roadmap. Source.

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Here's a sample of their community call, where they collaborate in a live session, over a Miro board to prioritise which feature could help the member build better tools (1:55). πŸ‘‡

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πŸ”Ž 4. Enabling Community Discovery

The team ensures that they communicate across multiple channels about the community. From the onboarding emails to their chat on Intercom, they route users to their Discord server - a place to seek more support and discover more content. Here's a sample of their onboarding email. πŸ‘‡

Appsmith's onboarding email.

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They also have nudges set up through their Intercom chat to help people reach out to them and engage more with them.

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❓5. Creating a repository of questions

There were multiple use cases for which users would use Appsmith. The support questions that came in were quite varied, however, the team wanted to streamline the efforts of having to answer similar questions multiple times on their Discord serves. This saves time and makes room for them to take up questions from newer users. They created a repository of commonly asked questions on Discourse.

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While Discord enabled synchronous chat, Discourse enabled asynchronous communication. It also allowed them to address queries with detailed answers without having to reiterate them. Here's a link to their forum. πŸ‘‡

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Appsmith's community on Discourse.

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πŸ“ˆ 6. Tracking community metrics

Although the community was engaged at multiple places, they didn't lose visibility on scaling the community and monitoring community engagement. All the multiple efforts they took had helped them scale their community to a decent level! πŸ‘‡ They are now running ~2K members strong on Discord!

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Discord Member Growth. Source.
User Engagement metrics. Source.

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Succeeding on Github and hitting ~8.5K ⭐

Acing the content distribution and community games helped Appsmith garner more stars on Github! The users were spread out across the world - but they unified to engage over the product! πŸ‘‡

The number of users across multiple countries.

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πŸš€ Next steps: Launching the Betasmith community

Double-clicking on the product feedback channel that came from the community, the team laid out a new initiative - the Betasmith community. Here, they welcomed users to engage more with them and help them shape the future of the product.

As a part of the Betasmith community, one could πŸ‘‡

πŸ”„ Give feedback on early design concepts and prototypes.

πŸ—£οΈ Participate in research sessions and workshops. Chat directly with the product designers.

☺️ Get early access to new feature previews and demos.

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This program was a great way to empower the power users of their community!

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Appsmith is built to help multiple teams to build internal tools and set up their admin dashboards. A product like this, which addresses multiple use cases definitely benefits from leading by a community-first approach; it helps them crowdsource ideas to improve the product and prioritise product feature releases basis the need of the community.

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Their Discord server never stops buzzing with all the chatter! πŸ™‚ Here are some tweets to show the love for the Appsmith community! πŸ‘‡

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To Summarize:

🎒 The startup rollercoaster - Abhishek Nayak and Arpit Mohan landed on Appsmith after co-founding multiple startups and learning from their failures.

🎯 Community as the core of the product - Here's how they nailed their community game:

πŸ€— 1. User-support: Being available 24*7

πŸ“ 2. Content initiatives - providing more value to the users

πŸ€™ 3. Community Office Hours

πŸ”Ž 4. Enabling Community Discovery

❓5. Creating a repository of questions

πŸ“ˆ 6. Tracking community metrics

They are available on multiple platforms -

  • ~2K users on Discord
  • 8.5K starts on Github
  • Forum on Discourse

The team launched Betasmith Community to empower power users and to enable them to shape the future of Appsmith.

About Threado:

At Threado, we are building the future of community experience for businesses. Community-led growth is the most sustainable way to build businesses and we want to help drive this shift in the years to come. We are a seed-stage product-led startup building the best-in-class community management platform for community professionals across the globe.

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